The Voluntary Initiative has met most of the targets set for it five years ago, according to the latest progress report.
The annual report of the VI steering group published on Monday (11 Sept) highlights key successes in its first few years of operation.
Since its launch the VI has seen £45.75m invested by farmers and the crop protection industry in over 40 projects to improve pesticide use and protect the environment.
Latest data collated by the NFU has shown a dramatic upturn in the area covered by Crop Protection Management Plans, as the Entry Level Scheme has been taken up.
At least 2.4m ha – double the 2006 VI target – will now be covered by CPMPs
In addition, by March 31 2006, more than 76% of the sprayed area in the UK was treated with machines tested under the National Sprayer Testing Scheme
Membership of the National Register of Sprayer Operators also covers more than 80% the UK arable area.
VI chairman Professor Barry Dent said: “After five years it is now good to see the VI moving beyond being a tax prevention package to be a guide on good practice that helps protect the environment and farmers’ incomes.
“We’re delighted to have met most of the targets agreed at the beginning of this five year process and to have met or exceeded all of the operational targets by March this year.
“Government has now agreed the VI should continue on a two-year rolling basis allowing us to build on the major schemes we’ve already set up. The VI will evolve into a dynamic and progressive programme of measures which works to help farmers and government deliver a sustainable countryside.”