Sustainable crop protection
Pesticides are a vital tool for farmers and growers to enable the production of economic yields of marketable crops which meet the requirements of the supply chain. Legislative developments have resulted in a reduction in the number of pesticide products available for use by the industry. Further restrictions on the maximum residue level of pesticide permitted on foods are also limiting choices available for effective crop protection. Whilst these changes have focussed on consumer safety, the most recent legislative development is concerned with the conditions under which pesticides are used in the field.
This white paper looks at that problems that farmers and growers face, and the various ways they can modify their practices to comply with legislation and, more broadly, to meet the goal of reducing the use and environmental impact of pesticides and improving the sustainability of crop protection practices. Particular examples cover weed control, disease control (using potatoes as an example), the use of beneficial insects, and pesticide application techniques.
The Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) (2009/128/EC ‘Establishing a framework for community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides’) specifies a number of measures which must be adopted by the Member States to reduce the impact of pesticide use on human health and the environment. The main points can be summarised as follows:
- National Action Plan (NAP). Member States must identify objectives, measures, targets and timetables to reduce the risks from and impacts of pesticides. This must encourage the introduction of alternative approaches that reduce the dependency on pesticides, and should include indicators which monitor the use of pesticides of particular concern.
- Training. Professional users, distributors and advisors must have access to appropriate training. Evidence of training must be provided by a system of certification.
- Application Equipment. Application equipment in professional use must be subject to inspection at regular intervals. This is specified as not less than 5 years until 2020 and every 3 years after then. Evidence of inspection must be provided by a certification system.
- Aerial Spraying. This is prohibited unless approval is requested and obtained from the competent authority
- Sales of pesticides. Sale of products authorised for professional use is restricted to persons holding a certificate of competence.
- Protection of drinking water. The aquatic environment must be protected, by giving preference to pesticides classified as less dangerous in this situation, and by the use of mitigation measures to protect waterways, such as buffer zones that will minimise drift and run-off.
- Specific areas. In areas used by the public, such as parks, sports grounds, and school grounds, and in the vicinity of healthcare facilities, pesticide use should be minimised or prohibited.
- Handling of pesticides. Professional operators must not endanger human health or the environment during the following storage, handling, dilution of pesticides, handling of packaging and remnants, disposal of tank mixtures after use, and cleaning of equipment.
- Integrated pest management (IPM). All necessary measures must be taken to promote low pesticide input systems and non chemical methods, including organic farming. Member States should support the necessary conditions for IPM with information, tools and advisory services.
- Indicators. Harmonised risk indicators must be established, and trends and priority items such as active substances, crops and regions identified which require attention.