The Future of Weed Management in the UK
Change was so palpable it could almost be sniffed upon the air at this years Amenity Forum Conference.
Commitment to Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
At previous events, I have sometimes heard the claim – by pro-pesticide members of the forum – that the majority of Groundcare professionals in the UK are already using Integrated Pest Management. I find it hard to hold my toungue when I hear this, as it is apparent to me that most conventional groundcare in the UK continues to rely on pesticides as its first and often just about only line of defence against weeds.
The argument seems to stem from what I believe is an incomplete understanding of IMP; seeing IPM as a decision about selecting the best individual tool or perhaps cocktail of tools to kill a weed. At a surface level analysis this might seem fine, but this sees the weed itself as the whole problem, rather than a symptom of a deeper problem with the surface. Selecting the best tools to manage a surface leads to very different choices in approach than selecting the best tools to treat a symptom of poor surface management - The weeds.
It was encouraging therefore; that there was such a big buzz around Integrated Pest Management at the conference last week, with the topic being the central theme of several talks; from Anna Morgan at DEFRA, to Christian Spring from STRI. It was clear that the majority of speakers were on the same page regarding what Integrated weed management in Amenity should look like; with a great emphasis on prevention first and foremost in the approach and chemical use as a last resort.
Photo of Christian Spring from STRI Group giving a presentation on Integrated Pest Management.
Training and information on Integrated Pest Management
It seems like the new National Action Plan for the sustainable use of Pesticides is still a few months away, but what did seem clear from DEFRA is that there was a need for better information and training on Integrated Pest Management that is specific to different areas of amenity. My previous discussions with training providers about introducing training on IPM has often produced a luke warm reception. However, after this conference, there was a definite interest from training providers in the need to develop this training.
It seemed plausible that there might be different qualifications in IPM, with Continuing Professional Development becoming more important to the industry. I think most members of the forum were pleased at this, as they generally use their qualifications and knowledge to differentiate themselves from other outfits offering grounds maintenance. Lantra has already worked with us and others to develop an Awareness of Integrated Weed Management course and Basis seem to be very keen to put together courses too.
European Policy on Weed Management in Amenity
The EU Position on Pesticides was another big topic of the confrence, although we are now not bound by EU Law, it will likely influence our position. The EU seems to be starting along a path to ban the application of pesticidesa in sensitive areas. There was some debate at the conference about what might be meant by "sensitive areas". Timmermans told reporters in Brussels "By 2030 half of chemical pesticides should be replaced by alternatives, with practices like crop rotation and technologies like precision farming," "We also propose to prohibit all pesticide use in sensitive areas like schools, hospitals, parks and playgrounds." Whether it applies to golf courses and sports pitches is a little less clear.
The direction of travel is probably the most interesting thing. It is a clear move towards IPM as the strategy for managing weeds. The same direction the UK government is also going. The only question really is - how fast will we be going down this road? My hope is that the policy will be ambitious enough to drive the change, whilst being careful enough to allow the best practices and training to be implemented so that the approach is taken up in a way that maximises it's efficacy.
For more information on IPM (otherwise known as Integrated Weed Management) check out our Integrated Weed Management for Amenity page.