PJ Phelan: We need to get smarter to deal with new pesticide regulations

Consumers see pesticides as affecting food quality; Farmers, on the other hand, see them as insurance and essential for the crops they grow.

Last month, the European Commission published a proposal to tighten rules on the use of plant protection products.

Implementation of these proposals will impact all farmers using pesticides and further limit the range of products available.

The demands on farmers have been realigned in recent years. Not only do we need to produce safe, sustainable and affordable food, we also need to be “climate conscious” and protect biodiversity.

The objectives of the proposed regulation are:

■ Reducing the use of chemical pesticides through improved application of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and introduction of less hazardous non-chemical controls;

■ Increased use of monitoring;

■ increased enforcement;

■ Increased use of precision farming techniques.

Records of pesticide use are mandatory.

Farmers must seek advice from independent advisors at least once a year.

Biological pesticides are promoted.

Particular attention is paid to training to improve health and safety in the workplace.

Farmers should be encouraged to switch to gentle agricultural methods and organic farming.

Reducing the use of chemical pesticides aims to reduce health and safety risks for farmers.

An assessment of the current Sustainable Use Policy found it to be only moderately effective.

The main weaknesses identified were the implementation and enforcement of Integrated Pest Management and the effectiveness of each Member State’s National Action Plans (NAPs).

It is recognized that a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use by 2030 under the Farm to Fork strategy will result in an increase in production costs due to:

■ Stricter and more detailed reporting requirements

■ Yield reduction due to reduced use of pesticides

■ Additional costs for farmers who do not normally employ an adviser.

It is proposed to cover these costs through additional CAP payments.

Member States are required to prepare NAPs that include timetables and indicators to reduce the negative impact of pesticide use in conjunction with annual reporting.

Farmers are not allowed to use chemicals until all other non-chemical methods have been exhausted.

Many of the requirements of the proposal are already implemented in this country, but this will lead to a higher level of recording and enforcement.

It will be used as the main tool to reach the goal of reducing pesticide use by 50 percent.

Ireland is where most pesticide developers test new products, showing how a reduction in pesticide use will affect us more than most other European countries.

The emphasis on using biological agents to reduce chemical dependency sounds good, but we have little independent research to base such recommendations on.

Increased use of precision dispensing equipment will help, but at a high cost for the small to average operator.

The disease resistance of many of our varieties needs to be significantly improved before the use of pesticides is reduced.

Improved plant nutrition also plays a role; Trace element soil results from the Department’s pilot soil testing program, which will provide a significant body of new data.

Farming will thrive without our current levels of pesticide use, but we all need to get smarter about what we do.

PJ Phelan is a tillage consultant in Tipperary; he is a member of the ACA and the ITCA

https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/pj-phelan-we-will-have-to-get-smarter-to-cope-with-new-pesticide-rules-41876073.html PJ Phelan: We need to get smarter to deal with new pesticide regulations

Fry Electronics Team

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