The future for Weeds, Pest & Disease Management?

The continued loss of chemical options poses real challenges to the sector when it comes to weed, pest and disease management.

We have seen the withdrawal of chlorpyrifos and, more recently, announcements about the loss of carbendazim. None of us would wish to support chemicals which pose health and safety risks but it is vital that such decisions are based upon proper science and evidence and not excessive pressure from active lobby groups. The process of approval and renewal of actives is extremely rigorous and we need to advise all, not least the public, of that fact. There are many hazardous substances bought over the counter as bleaching agents and the like which certainly do not have such a rigorous process of approval and maintenance; just look in most kitchen cupboards. 

Better Together

However there is equally an onus on all who work in the sector to ensure they operate professionally and to required standards. The Amenity Forum has on its website, the Ten Golden Rules, and it is important that all operate to these. Those involved all need to commit to best practice and take a truly holistic approach to weed, pest and disease management. We must take an integrated approach and make best and proper use of all the techniques available to us, both chemical and non-chemical.

If we all demonstrate that, and work together, we have our best chance of ensuring as much of what is available to us now remains. I know that some will say, “Well he would say that”, but it is really important that everyone gets behind the Amenity Forum as the voluntary initiative for the sector; a strong voice and evidence of real commitment to best practice is even more important than ever in these changing times.

Why are pesticides under pressure?

Pesticide use in amenity is under pressure for a variety of reasons. A number of actives in the amenity market are old and additional data has to be generated to keep the authorisation and, in such circumstances, cost can outstrip the return. Data production is extensive and time consuming both in seeking authorisation of product and re-approval and can be very expensive. As standards set within Europe have changed and developed, some products can no longer pass toxicity and environment models. We are often reliant on an extension of use from agricultural use and some of those are disappearing. There is also the issue of European politics and media headlines, not always based on science and evidence.

To counter that, the sector must all work together and promote the important and essential nature of the operations and why, without the tools currently available to us, we would not produce safe, healthy and fit for purpose areas and certainly not at the current cost.

The importance of communication

In October last year, we launched our GetMoving campaign. This seeks to increase awareness of the nature of weed, pest and disease management and how it impacts upon every UK citizen. The three key target audiences for GetMoving are most importantly the public but also key stakeholders involved with amenity and indeed all involved operationally. The campaign comprises infographic and edugraphic documents and posters as well as short video clips looking at specific areas across the diverse sector that is amenity. In terms of the public campaign especially, the issue of weed, pest and disease management is seen through the eyes of the Colins family, Jim, Lynne and their two children. They have their own twitter page and email address and a website has been developed to focus on GetMoving.  The material and video can be accessed from this developing site or from the main Amenity Forum site at www.amenityforum.co.uk  The campaign also seeks to give more prominence to the role of those who maintain and enhance amenity areas and to seek to ensure debate is on the facts and not just headline grabbing opinions.

The campaign is important but there is also a key role for everyone involved. We need your help to take out the message and help distribute the materials available and to speak with pride on the important tasks undertaken; to emphasise the commitment to best practice and the true professionalism of those involved. We need to stress that the approach to weed, pest and disease management is a holistic one looking at all the options available and deploying these in an appropriate and planned manner. The National Action Plan, arising from implementation of the Sustainable Use Directive in the UK, imposes requirements upon us all. Some are legal such as the need for sprayer testing, some are not legal needs as yet but are expected, and progress needs to be seen to be taking place. One of the key areas requires us all to develop and implement integrated pest management plans (IPM). We need to show the public and key stakeholders that we are serious about this.

Concluding Thoughts

We have launched our GetMoving campaign because it is needed but also because the coming year ahead is likely to be crucial to us all. We need to continue to inform our key stakeholders, not least the government, of the importance of our work. BREXIT negotiations are ongoing and whatever your view on the direction taken, we need to see this as an opportunity. Whilst it is true that much of what already applies will continue, there is real scope to influence and make a difference. The Amenity Forum will be at the heart of those discussions.

We believe our sector is vitally important. We fully advocate integrated approaches but equally believe that chemical approaches remain key both in terms of their effectiveness both in action and cost. However everyone in our sector needs to ensure that approved chemicals are used properly and following best practice and that they are safe. We must look to use them as part of an integrated approach to weed, pest & disease control. We must ensure trained operatives & specifiers with optimum delivery to Amenity Assured standards. We must address specific situations with appropriate methods and above all work in a unified way – better together.

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