A new online tool makes it easier to create Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans – and receive payments under the Sustainable Farming Incentive.
The free IPM Planning Tool covers all the main arable and outdoor horticultural crops. It offers easy access to information about proven methods available for controlling relevant pests, weeds, and diseases.
Already tested by more than 100 farmers and agronomists, the tool has been developed by experts ADAS, NFU, SRUC and the Voluntary Initiative (VI) to help growers create crop specific IPM plans.
Project lead and ADAS technical director Neil Paveley said: “Thousands of farmers have created plans for Red Tractor using the VI IPM Plan – and we have worked closely with the NFU and VI to provide this alternative, more crop specific, IPM tool.
“This tool gives those who are completely new to IPM practical support to get started. For the majority of farmers who are already practising IPM to some degree, the tool could open doors to alternative techniques that may be more effective or suit their farm better.”
Farmers who sign up to Defra’s Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme must implement a number of IPM methods. They include creating habitats for natural pest predators, using companion cropping to suppress weeds, reduce diseases and provide protection from pests.
Creating an IPM plan through the tool typically takes an hour. For agronomists, the tool allows IPM plans to be completed and easily updated for multiple farms. Although it was created to support growers applying for the SFI, it can also be used to support Red Tractor requirements.
The tool is based on a combination of research and practical experience. For growers who want to delve deeper into each topic, it includes links to guidance provided by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, the British Beet Research Organisation and other organisations.
Voluntary Initiative chairman Phil Jarvis said: “Providing tools and knowledge allows growers to make informed and important farming decisions. This tool complements existing entry points, such as the VI/NFU IPM Plan, and assists farmers on their IPM journey.
NFU vice-president David Exwood said the tool helped meet the need for support software that could help growers address the ongoing loss of plant protection products and increased levels of pesticide resistance on farm businesses.
“Now, more than ever, we need to explore every tool in the box to ensure farming businesses can be resilient in the months and years ahead. One of those core tools is optimising our use of IPM to maintain effective control of pests, weeds and diseases.”
Positive response for easy-to-use system
Growers have given the thumbs up to the IPM Planning Tool – describing it as easy to use with an easy-to-follow format.
Norfolk farmer Christopher Rutterford is among those who have tested the tool. He said: “I was most impressed with it as a way of formalising our IPM actions and being able to present the results in a recognisable and acceptable way.”
Mr Rutterford, who farms near Swaffham, said the tool made it easier to demonstrate the responsible nature of his crop protection procedures. He added: “I see it as a valuable means to systematise our own actions and to present these actions to others.”
The IPM Planning can be downloaded free at www.bit.ly/IPMtool