IPM champions aim to inspire renewed enthusiasm


IPM champions aim to inspire renewed enthusiasm

Three agronomy experts from across the country are encouraging farmers and the wider industry to take a renewed approach when it comes to tackling Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Antony Wade, John Murrie and Ollie Johnson were recently appointed as Voluntary Initiative (VI) ‘Champions’ - a new network that aims to promote best practice in pesticide use through improved IPM and environmentally sustainable farming.

The colleagues, who work for Agrovista, each have their own specialism within the field of IPM, and hope that by sharing their knowledge, they can encourage farmers to view the subject in a new light.

Herefordshire-based Antony Wade’s interest lies in soil preservation through preventing soil erosion and promoting the creative use of aquatic buffer-zones.

Antony, Agrovista Technical Manager, said: “It has always been important to me that we farm productively and sustainably with our environment. Through preventing soil erosion and associated nutrient loss into watercourses, this reduces our impact on the countryside we live and work in.

“Often the most effective aquatic buffer-zones are more than just a grass margin. A ‘living’ buffer-zone such as a biodiversity seed mix will break the flow of soils and pesticide products into our watercourses.

“They also provide a habitat for wildlife and foster the growth of fauna for pollinators. It’s applying the principals of IPM in creative ways rather than simply ticking boxes, that makes it most effective and beneficial to us and our environment.

“I’m delighted to have been appointed as an IPM Champion, and look forward to networking with other enthusiasts throughout my region.”

The 19 regional VI Champions, a group of innovative farmers, agronomists and water catchment officers, are held in high esteem within the agriculture and water industries for advocating forward-thinking farming practices.

Technical Manager John Murrie from Angus, Scotland, hopes to promote the use of cover crops as part of his role as VI Champion.

John, who has been an agronomist for 27 years and remains involved with his family’s farm, said: “Although still a reasonably new concept in Scotland, cover cropping offers a wide range of benefits, whether that’s increasing organic matter in the soil and improving soil structure, or reducing weed seed germination rates and improving pest management.

“Often growers may be reluctant to use cover crops because of the relatively tight sowing window in Scotland due to the later harvest, but if this can be overcome there are major benefits to be had.

“I hope that as a VI Champion I can help them to understand how best to overcome potential challenges, and demonstrate how cover crops can successfully contribute to IPM and environmentally sustainable farming.”

Aiming to take the message further than ‘best practice’ and ‘safe stewardship’ of pesticide use, the VI strives to drive change across the industry, working towards the visions outlined in the government’s 25-year Environment Plan.

Stratford-on-Avon-based Agronomist, Ollie Johnson, is using his environmental science background to contribute to the VI’s goal.

He said: “I believe having an environmental science background really complements my agronomic knowledge, to help support my role as VI Champion and give a well-rounded perspective.

“One of my key interests is soil health and nutrition because a healthy crop starts with healthy soil. By giving a crop what it needs from the beginning – correct nutrition, good soil structure and rich organic matter, we are giving it the best chance possible to establish.

“A strong, healthy crop can then grow away from potential pest and disease damage more easily, reducing our reliance on chemical interventions – the ethos of IPM.”

For more information on the scheme, visit https://voluntaryinitiative.org.uk/news/2019/vi-champions/

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