Report Synopsis

Increasing the uptake of integrated pest management in UK arable farming

The need for integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to control pests, weeds and diseases in UK arable farming has become more pressing.  Although IPM practices have been used for generations, the recent loss of key active ingredients, new government policies and an increased environmental consciousness have raised the need to adopt a more integrated approach, using all components of IPM, including prevention, monitoring, cultural, physical, biological and chemical controls and evaluation.

The questions I set out to answer on my Nuffield Farming Scholarship included: How best to motivate further widespread adoption of IPM methods?  What techniques and best practice can we learn from diverse countries and different agricultural sectors to apply to UK systems?  Which factors have created an incentive, or are seen as barriers, to increasing the uptake of IPM practices?

From the doors that opened to farms, businesses and organisations around the world, both virtually and in-person, the conversations showed that using all elements of the RESET Mindset Model for behaviour change would lead to IPM uptake.  Successes in motivating change and uptake of practices around the world have come from implementing rules, education, social pressure, economic stimuli and the use of tools.

Through the studies and discussions, effective change can be seen from:

  • Rules - policies, product registration, markets, certification and resistance
  • Education – training, knowledge, capacity building, language, efficacy and risk management
  • Social pressure – lead farmers, communities of practice, extension, trust and consumers
  • Economic stimuli – premiums, markets, systems, a cheaper alternative and business benefits
  • Tools – research, monitoring, time, practices, techniques and future innovations

By implementing the elements from these five areas and ‘pressing all the buttons’ of the RESET mindset model, IPM adoption in the UK arable farming sector would be advanced.  We need to move IPM adoption by individuals, agronomists and the industry from being carried out as a result of compliance with rules – regulatory IPM – towards motivating adoption through knowledge, community support, financial incentives and the resources required – voluntary IPM

Furthermore, as an industry, we need to encourage a step-change in how we view IPM by towards taking a holistic and integrated systems approach.  Aiming for optimum plant health, soil health and a diverse ecosystem will ultimately achieve reductions in pests, weeds and diseases and create a more resilient arable farming sector. Thinking should change from ’what can we kill?’ to ‘what can we introduce?’

As Gwendolyn Ellen from the Oregon IPM Center in the USA said: “To think ecologically is not only a radical act, but imperative.” Working together to implement IPM strategies on a large-scale in our arable farming sector will benefit crops, economics, the environment and human wellbeing.

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