Integrated pest management
The over-use of pesticides can cause chemical resistance in weeds, pests and diseases, leading to yet greater use of pesticides as higher strengths are needed, which can lead to the eventual long-term loss of an active ingredient through regulations.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a way of managing crops to minimise the cost and environmental impacts of chemical inputs by incorporating non-chemical solutions to managing weeds, pests and diseases.
Over-dependence on pesticides leads to contamination of watercourses, soils and impacts directly on wildlife. Pesticides including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides can all kill native wildlife and can disrupt natural processes such as pest control, pollination and nutrient cycling in soil. Pesticides can reduce pollinator numbers and the ability of insect predators to control pest species on crops.
IPM involves using more stringent decision-making on pesticide use, and incorporating crop rotations and cultural methods to address weed, pest and disease issues. The best practice principles of IPM are:
- Create wide buffer strips around fields to protect environmental features such as watercourses, hedgerows, ponds and woodland from spray drift.
- Plan weed, pest and disease control based on historic problems and seasonal conditions.
- Monitor weed, pest and disease levels regularly to inform applications: economic thresholds exist to inform levels at which many weeds, pests and diseases are economically worth controlling, and forecasting is available from agronomists on issues that are likely to be an issue dependent on seasonal conditions.
- Ensuring crop rotations take into account pest, weed and disease pressures by leaving longer intervals between growing the same crop in the same field: each crop has a recommended ‘cropping interval’ (see below)
- Adopt cultivation techniques to maximise the potential to reduce weed, pest and disease carryover between crops, including stale seedbeds to control weeds or direct drilling to avoid bringing fresh weed seeds to the surface.
- Choose crop varieties that have resistance to pests and diseases that are likely to be an issue.
- Alter sowing dates and seed rates to reduce risk periods.
- Cleanse machinery and equipment to prevent spread of diseases or applying inappropriate pesticides.
- Environmental harm can be reduced by using the chemical most specific to the target pest as possible and avoid killing beneficial insects.
- Be aware of chemicals that are detected in local water catchments and consider alternatives to prevent levels exceeding legal limits.
- When pesticides are used, consider the timing, weather conditions and speed of sprayer to make the application as effective as possible and make use of technologies to minimise spray drift (e.g. low-drift nozzles).
All of the following sites have useful information on Integrated Pest Management, why it's important and the things to consider when creating a suitable plan for your own farm:
EU Sustainable use of pesticides
Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board
Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF)
The Association of Applied Biologists: Biological Control and IPM Group
Here are some useful case studies and articles about how farmers are putting Farm Wildlife into practice on their farms
Case Study: Carabid beetles for natural-enemy pest control
Author: Kelly Jowett: If there was an agent acting within your crops that could reduce eggs and first instar larvae of the cabbage root fly by up to 90%; reduce emerging wheat blossom midge by 81%; and reduce seed stock of crop weeds in the range of 65-90%, then I’m sure you’d want to keep…Read More
Case study: Insecticide-free arable farming
Author: Martin Lines Farm: Papley Grove Farm, Cambridgeshire: 160 ha farmed in-house plus 360 ha contract farmed Aims: In 2013, my agronomist recommended that I spray for black bean aphid, but conditions were too wet and windy for a period of ten days, after which aphid numbers had dropped and ladybirds were eating them, so…Read More