Pesticide rules being introduced by the European Union must be used to protect the UK’s farmland bird population, according to the RSPB.

Speaking at the start of a public consultation on how the EU pesticide directive should be brought in, the RSPB said the rules should benefit birds such as corn buntings and yellowhammers, which had suffered from pesticide use.

The RSPB said under the directive all pesticide users should receive compulsory training, which statutory “MOTs” for pesticides spraying equipment must be carried out regularly.

The organisation also called for mandatory buffer strips between sprayed fields and water courses.

Jim Densham, RSPB agriculture policy officer, said the UK already had strong rules on environmentally-friendly pesticide use compared with other European countries.

“We need to continue to lead the way in this area,” he said. “The vast majority of farmers use pesticides responsibly, but a small minority do not and they are putting wildlife at risk.

“We want to see a professional standard of pesticide use in our countryside so that farmland birds and other wildlife do not suffer and our waterways stay clean and healthy.

“Farmers who use these chemicals need to be trained and hold a certificate of competence as well as having their equipment regularly tested, preferably annually.”

The consultation, which was launched on Tuesday (9 February), will remain open for 12 weeks.