Managing pest and disease pressures in a farming system does not always mean reaching for the (ag-chem) can as a first resort. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles offer a holistic approach of prevention, detection, and control measures.
At this ATW23 event, farmers and agronomists were given a taste of what IPM implementation could look like and what support tools are available from ADAS to put it into practice.
IPM in action: stories from farm managers on IPM and biodiversity conservation
We heard from individuals of their experiences of IPM in action. RSBP Farm Manager Georgie Bray and research agronomist Andrew Christie shared their respective knowledge of promoting IPM good practice and enhancing natural pest control.
Andrew explained how, in Scotland, the James Hutton Institute (JHI) is helping farmers to reduce their inputs while still maintaining outputs. Through a local IPM Hub and his role as Hub coach, Andrew brings together farmers trialling alternative methods of disease control in arable crops, and who are keen to learn from each other. This IPM hub is part of an EU-wide network of farms demonstrating and promoting cost-effective IPM strategies as part of IPMWorks.
One successful example of JHI’s IPM Hub in Scotland, has been in companion cropping trials using oilseed rape to control cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) – an emerging threat in Scotland. While the trial took place in a low-pressure year for CSFB, the companion cropping treatment still showed improved crop establishment, no yield penalty was observed and the farm achieved a cost saving of £155/ha.
In Cambridgeshire, the ethos at RSPB’s Hope Farm is to produce food and maintain a thriving wildlife population while turning a profit at the same time, emphasised Georgie. The farm follows the principles and key actions of the Farm Wildlife approach, which aims primarily, to improve wildlife on the farm, but has extended benefits such as enhanced pest control.
Flower margins pack a punch in a small area, though they do require careful management. This starts with identifying the right areas to provide connected habitats – think linear passageways rather than pockets of isolated margins. Then comes suitable seed mixes. Here, it’s worth considering which pollinator species you want to encourage as this will guide decisions on the best shapes, sizes and flowering period of the mix. Hard management in the first couple of years is important to ensure flower margins establish well and aren’t taken over by grasses and weeds.
By integrating flower margins and other key actions from Farm Wildlife – such as biodiverse boundaries and wet features – Hope Farm has been able to increase and maintain population numbers of birds and pollinators well over the national index baseline.
Supporting farmers and agronomists implementing IPM
Georgie and Andrew’s experiences show that managing pests on the farm can take very different facets. So how do you decide what to put in place and how to integrate it?
To build a strategy, you first need the tools. With so many projects, systems and tools available out there, it can be very difficult to identify what is relevant for your farm. Phil Walker and Mark Ramsden provided some examples of the support tools that ADAS has been involved in developing, to help farmers and agronomists build IPM strategies relevant for their farm.
IPMWorks and IPMDecisions both aim to bring all these isolated solutions with a useful ‘one-stop shop’ dashboard that can easily be tailored. IPMWorks focuses on non-chemical control methods whereas IPMDecisions provides tools with a focus on reducing pesticide use.
The IPM Planning Tool helps farmers create an IPM action plan by providing an integrated overview of control measures that they can tailor to the crops they grow and the pests, diseases or weeds that they want to tackle. This tool was developed as part of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, a mechanism for farmers to get paid for public goods.
Weeding innovations and accessibility: tools, challenges, and partnerships
Weeds require an integrated approach to keep them under control. Farmers now have a range of tools available to them in the weed management toolbox.
From robotic, electric or mechanical weeding, to living mulches and targeted herbicide use, the science and technology has moved on considerably through the R&D and commercial pipeline. When it comes to take-up however, a survey showed that, while the interest in new weeding technologies has increased, they remain too expensive and hard to access.
To address these barriers, ADAS is partnering in Oper8, an EU-wide project aiming to increase accessibility and encourage the uptake of alternative weeding methods. The project is building a network of demonstration sites, easily accessible training material and videos.
Now a familiar concept to many, IPM continues to evolve with emerging tools and technologies providing much needed solutions to help farmers and agronomists implement these key principles on farm.