Farmer Focus: The importance of plant protection

I mentioned in my last article about the NFU Cereals development programme that I am lucky enough to have gained a place on.

In between that, and doing some work, I’ve also gained a place on another training scheme, aimed at ‘future farmers’ and you might be surprised at who is behind it.

See also: Patience pays off with blackgrass control

Currently there are two groups of 50, making 100 young farmers, on the Tesco ‘Future Farmer Foundation’ who are receiving training on things such as business planning, and benefiting from a number of visits to different businesses operating within the supply chain.

So far I’ve been to Bayer CropScience and AngliaFarmers and both have been brilliant as they have given an in-depth insight into the business, what it does, how it works and how what it does could benefit or affect my business.

I think that while they might not currently be top of everyone’s Christmas card list, they do deserve some credit for the investment they are putting into the future of the industry, so thank you to Tesco & Promar, and also to all of the businesses that are hosting supply chain visits or helping with the training days.

The other week Countryfile attempted a feature on the loss of plant protection products affecting UK agriculture – and made a pretty awful job of explaining why they are needed.

Throughout the feature it seemed like they had an opinion that all chemicals were bad and all farmers using them or defending them were wrong.

At no point did the presenters talk about the dangers things like mycotoxins pose to human health, and how triazole fungicides are vital to control them, or the way in which similar chemistry is used in products to treat athletes foot, for example.

They paid no attention either to all the operator training, machine testing, technology used and overall quality of UK sprayer operators, or to the fact that farmers use things like stale seedbeds (just like the organic farmer talked about) as part of IPM (integrated crop management) wherever possible to reduce the need to use chemicals.

If Countryfile wants to redeem itself and talk about how responsible and professional sprayer operators are, along with all the extra things we do to ensure safe use of plant protection products on farms, here’s my email:

Matt Redman operates an agricultural contracting business and is the 2014 Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the year. He also helps out on the 210ha family farm at Lower Gravenhurst, Bedfordshire, which grows mainly wheat, oilseed rape and beans.


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