Farmers need support to make a transition towards a pesticide-free approach, at scale. No transition happens overnight. Currently, in the UK, the majority of farmers don’t have access to the advice, research or financial support they need to significantly reduce, let alone end, their use of pesticides.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to managing pests, diseases or unwanted plants under which chemical pesticides are used only as a last resort, if at all. IPM tackles pests and diseases through the use of a combination of different control methods, with an emphasis on the growth of a healthy crop, the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encouragement of natural pest control mechanisms. IPM strategies based on sound agroecological science, that use methods selected for the local context, can help prevent pest organisms from reaching levels where they start to cause economic damage to the farmer.
The UK Government has committed to “putting Integrated Pest Management at the heart of a holistic approach”. It now needs to develop, support and progress a system of crop protection that better protects people, wildlife and farmers. This should bring together agricultural, environmental, health, resistance management and economic policies.
Some of the measures to achieve this include (but are not limited to):
- Stronger commitment for and detail on how farmers will be supported via land management schemes to undertake IPM
- Creation of an independent advice and research facility for farmers and agronomists, to include an increase in funding for research into agroecological farming systems (including organic farming), to provide farmers with an alternative and reduce the reliance on chemicals.
- Development and adoption of a clear definition of what constitutes IPM and what practices cannot be counted as IPM.
Ultimately, a move to agroecology, which works with healthy functioning ecosystems and less external inputs, would protect the soils and lead to a more sustainable future for British farming.