15 December 1995

TIBRE to put new technology sharply in focus

CONVENTIONAL intensive arable growers not convinced of the merits of organic and integrated farming systems are being wooed with a new approach – Targeted Inputs for a Better Rural Environment or TIBRE.

The brainchild of Scottish National Heritage, its main aim is to improve the environmental sustainibility of farming by encouraging growers to make greater use of new technology. It will also seek to influence government policies and push firms to develop such techniques faster.

SNH deputy R&D director Prof Joyce Tait says the perceived erosion of premiums as the organic movement expands is discouraging many from pursuing that option.

Integrated farming systems are seen by many as only "a halfway house". The costs of extra management and losses through mistakes never seem to be taken into account, she adds.

Environmental bodies rarely focus on new technology, she claims. But plenty of techniques can be used to reduce the environmental impact of intensive appro-aches on productive areas and to minimise it on non-farmed wildlife haunts.

"Were more concerned with protecting surrounding areas than with seeing the farmed area as a wildlife habitat in its own right."

Started two years ago, TIBRE has had a "generally favourable response" from a wide range of industry bodies. The intention is to use SAC and similar advisers to promote such options.

In theory TIBRE paves the path towards a system similar to that in Germany where growers are paid for adopting various packages from an environmental "menu". However, the SNH has only a limited budget, so needs government to provide any necessary financial incentives, says Prof Tait. &#42