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"UK needs ‘coherent’ long-term plan for IPM"

The UK needs to be part of a ‘coherent’ long-term plan to promote the development and adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) systems, delegates heard at the 2017 AHDB Agronomists’ Conference.

This was a key message from AHDB’s Head of Crop Health & Crop Protection Jon Knight, as he outlined the current status of crop protection, along with the potential direction for UK crop production.

Current status
At the conference, Jon said the industry ‘remains reliant on synthetic chemistry at a time when its profitability, sustainability are under question’.

He said dependence on chemistry continues to drive the evolution of resistance to plant protection products for key insect, weed and disease targets. He also added that far fewer active ingredients now get to the market, driven, in part, by the increased cost of developing new chemistry. ‘It now costs around $300 million to get an active to market,’ Jon added.

Cumulative increase in the number of unique global cases of resistance. Data presented for insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Source: Sparks & Nauen, 2015.

Continuous change to legislation also keeps the industry on its toes and it is ‘very difficult to know when chemistry will hit the buffers’. In relation to Brexit, Jon said the future is hard to predict but there would not be a great deal of change overnight, due to a ‘lift and shift’ of legislation.

The increasing influence of public opinion on the decision-making process was also highlighted. The most recent example being the time it took to approve the use of glyphosate for a further five years in the EU.

Science will continue to play its part in authorisations but Jon emphasised it is important to ‘understand what people believe and to not overlook the power of public opinion’.

Many policy makers are keen for crop production to occur with a ‘green tinge’ but further incentive is required, because the current approach has led to a ‘patchy’ adoption of IPM.

Jon said a new ‘knowledge-intensive’ approach to crop protection is required to drive developments and adoption of IPM in UK crop production systems and this approach must be part of a coherent long-term (minimum of 10 years) plan.

A long-term plan for IPM
The IPM plan, according to Jon, should include:
  • Improved understanding of soils
  • Full use of plant breeding tools to introduce resistance traits into varieties
  • Development of biopesticides and their application
  • Research into IPM approaches
  • Optimised use of synthetic chemistry to maximise and protect efficacy
AHDB will continue to develop IPM tools and work with farmers to improve uptake, work with industry on a risk- and science-based approach to pesticide authorisation and exploit sources of funding.

The government, according to Jon, might wish to consider using farm support to encourage the adoption of IPM, invest in research, enable an effective policy framework for pesticide approvals and prioritise training for farmers and advisors.

Jon concluded by saying an opportunity exists to deliver a new approach to crop protection but the industry needed to work together to make it happen.

Source: AHDB Horticulture
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