Keep on top of pest control spray rule changes

New requirements for growers to follow integrated pest management principles came in on 1 January 2014 as part of an EU-wide drive to reduce reliance on pesticides. Paul Spackman discovers what growers must do in order to comply with the new rules

What is IPM?

Integrated pest management (IPM) is all about managing pests and diseases in an environmentally sensitive manner to avoid over-reliance on chemical control and minimise risks to health and wildlife.

It promotes a range of natural pest control practices that should be used either instead of, or in support of, chemical methods to ensure pesticide use is kept at levels that can be “economically and ecologically justified”.

Examples include using crop rotation, varietal tolerance or cultivation techniques to prevent or suppress harmful organisms, pest monitoring, anti-resistance strategies and using other biological, physical or non-chemical pest control methods.

Much of this is common sense and most UK growers will be doing it already to a greater or lesser extent.

What’s changing, why and when?

While most farmers may already be employing IPM in one form or another, the situation is not the same across some other parts of Europe, which is why it has been included as one of the key requirements in the EU-wide sustainable use directive (SUD).

This means that from the start of this year the UK government must be able to demonstrate that all farmers using pesticides are following the general principles of IPM.

While the onus may initially be on the government, not individual farmers, to prove this SUD requirement is being met, experts agree it is down to the industry to take the lead to show compliance in order to avoid more onerous legislation or regulation being introduced in the future.

Every member state has developed its own National Action Plan to outline how SUD requirements will be met and these will be reviewed every five years.

How do farmers show IPM compliance

Some farmers, such as those completing the LEAF audit, will already be following and recording their use of IPM in enough detail to meet the new requirements and in such cases there will be no need for extra paperwork to be completed.

IPM already features in many of the farm assurance schemes. However, because the level of recording varies across different schemes, it is likely additional evidence will be required.

The NFU is developing a new IPM plan (IPMP) for the Voluntary Initiative, which will allow all farmers to show they are following the basic principles of IPM.

The IPMP should be available by the end of February and will replace the existing crop protection management plan (CPMP). It is likely to be incorporated into farm assurance schemes in some form in the future.

IPMPs will be farm-specific and example questions include:

  • What resistance issues do you have on your farm?
  • How do you manage these issues?
  • What environmental features need protecting?
  • Are there any risks to water in your catchment area?
  • How do you manage these risks?
  • Where possible, are you using varieties that offer some disease resistance?

Farmers that need to complete a CPMP as part of an agri-environment scheme before the end of February should continue to do so and will not have to complete an IPMP straight away.

It is hoped to get as many farmers as possible to complete an IPMP by the end of the year.

How often will IPMPs need to be updated?

This has not been confirmed yet. There is likely to be a period of adjustment as EU member states implement their own ways of meeting the new requirements, but it is envisaged that IPMPs may need to be reviewed annually to check that details are up-to-date and accurate.

Plans may also need to be updated in the event of a significant change in farm strategy.

What happens if I don’t comply?

While there is no single legal IPM requirement, failure to comply with the IPM principles set out in the SUD could theoretically lead to prosecution and may incur future Single Farm Payment penalties.

This is because additional IPM principles are likely to be included in a revised code of practice for using plant protection products, which is referenced in cross-compliance SMR 9 as the basis of good crop protection. Therefore, complying with IPM principles will effectively be part of demonstrating general cross-compliance in the future.

However, it is still something of a grey area and the code has not yet been revised. It is unclear when this will happen.

The process is likely to be subject to a public consultation sometime in 2014, but it may be some time before a new code is published.

The NFU understands the SUD will not be included in general cross-compliance until all EU member states have implemented the legislation, although it is again unclear when that will be.

SUD rules will apply to those in agri-environment schemes from 2014, so the IPMP will help those farmers demonstrate overall compliance.

With thanks to the NFU’s Don Pendergrast and the Voluntary Initiative’s Patrick Goldsworthy for their help in compiling these questions and answers

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