FARMING SYSTEMS must become more eco-efficient if they are to be successful in the future, a recent report by the British Crop Protection Council has concluded.

Eco-efficiency has three main goals, namely: economic efficiency; environmental sustainability and rural viability, explained Barry Thomas, chairman of BCPC.

“The economic context of farming is changing. The single farm payment and associated agri-environment scheme are likely to provide a predictable economic regime until around 2012, but what will happen then?”

No national strategy for agriculture beyond 2012 meant farmers lacked direction and agricultural scientists were confused about their strategic goals, he said.

Any future strategy should be based on agreement between all stakeholders from farmers, government, environmentalists and the public, he said.

The BCPC report highlighted the use of Integrated Farm Management principles, such as attention to crop rotations for pest control or conserving nutrients, as a key way of delivering eco-efficiency.

“The public perception that environmentally-friendly farming simply involves reversing the clock is an illusion, Dr Thomas said.

“The real ‘win win‘ will be to achieve competitiveness at the same time as delivering environmental benefits.

“Only new technology and landscape management techniques can offer the key to achieving this.”

A copy of the BCPC report entitled “Enhancing the Eco-Efficiency of Agriculture” can be downloaded from www.bcpc.org/reports.