Sharing farmer knowledge across the farming sector on ways to work with nature to reduce pesticide use

20 October 2021

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) case study project

PROJECT BACKGROUND

Farming with fewer chemicals leads to a more resilient form of food production that maintains essential ecosystem services, as well as protecting nature and reducing risk to people. Crucially, many farmers are already doing this. But for many others, cutting the use of chemical inputs requires a significant change in mind-set, along with advice, knowledge and support. Government policy is moving towards paying farmers public money for public goods, and enabling a more resilient and sustainable farming industry in the future. Reducing the use of pesticides by increasing uptake of IPM is one of the ambitions in Defra’s Agricultural Transition, and in the National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP). Therefore, farmers and land managers will require the support and knowledge to adapt at pace. This project aims to contribute towards this knowledge sharing, with a specific focus on nature-friendly IPM techniques - in other words, working with nature on a whole farm scale to lead to a reduced need for chemical inputs.

AIMS & APPROACH

The project will:

  • Bring together the great nature-friendly IPM and pesticide reduction work that has already happened by innovative farmers, and share this with other farmers.
  • Help decision-makers to understand what people currently understand by IPM, and what the motivations and barriers are to implementing it, and therefore what support they need.
  • Focus on the practical things that farmers can do, and the benefits that these changes bring to farm businesses

PROJECT OUTPUTS

The project outputs will be:

  • A collection of 5-6 case studies for a farming audience across a variety of farm and crop types, to showcase alternatives to chemical inputs. There will be accompanying videos on social media/YouTube to illustrate these case studies. These will be entirely from the farmers’ perspectives, including why they chose to go down this route, and what benefits they are now seeing for their farm businesses.
  • A series of IPM webinars aimed at a farmer audience, but that decision makers and the public can also access. The series will cover topics that farmers have told us would be most useful to help them transition away from current levels of pesticide use. They can be joined live, or people can watch the recordings afterwards.
  • A podcast episode from CoFarm Foundation.
  • Anonymised survey results from two surveys (one at the start and one at the end of the project) to demonstrate where along the IPM journey people feel they are, which IPM actions people undertake and why, and what obstacles people face to implementing more nature-friendly IPM.

PROJECT PARTNERS

Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN): the Network now has more than 1800 farmers. NFFN is led by farmers across the UK with a passion for sustainable farming and nature. They seek to unite farmers across the UK who have a sustainable outlook, and to secure positive changes in policy, including how farming is supported by the public.

Soil Association, through its Producer Support team of agricultural advisors, works with farmers (organic and non-organic) to develop innovative solutions to the problems they face whilst supporting the adoption of agroecological farming systems including organic. Soil Association charity has a core network of over 2,500 farmers and through its Innovative Farmers programme they have the experience of running robust co-production and knowledge exchange activities.

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK has more than thirty years’ experience working to reduce pesticide-related harms both in the UK and globally. PAN have an in-house IPM expert and in-house toxicologist, who will be invaluable for ensuring that the content of the webinars is useful, accurate and scientifically robust.

RSPB is a nature conservation organisation with over 1.2 million members. As well as science and policy expertise, RSPB staff also have on-the-ground farming experience at Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire and other reserves around the UK (e.g. RSPB Haweswater, Lake Vyrnwy) and experience in delivering nature-friendly farm advice across the UK.

CoFarm Foundation currently have one pilot site (CoFarm Cambridge) but are looking to scale nationally. CoFarm is a community farm, whose ambition is to empower local people to be involved in safe, sustainable and accessible food production. The team are very experienced in how to implement successful IPM. The involvement of CoFarm in this project also means we can provide a site for a case study related to community farms which might provide an innovative model for diversifying farmers and/or new entrants to farming on peri-urban land.

The project is kindly funded by Farming the Future


Header image courtesy of Bethany Ballantyne. All Rights Reserved

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