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Integrated Pest Management – Guest Blog - 23 January 2020

The Voluntary Initiative (VI), an industry led initiative to promote responsible use of pesticides supported by NFU Scotland amongst others, has named a team of ambassadors throughout the UK to champion their schemes, tools and messages. John Murrie is the VI’s Scottish Champion on the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan

The VI has introduced a new initiative throughout the UK. Taking the message further than “best practice” and “safe stewardship” of pesticide use, the VI is moving to a message of integrated pest and crop management to drive change across the industry, working towards the visions encapsulated in the 25 year Environment Plan. The VI message of an IPM-based approach to sustainable farming requires close interaction with on-farm decision makers.    

A team of VI Champions are being rolled out across the UK, made up of innovative farmers, agronomists and water catchment officers who are held in high esteem within the Ag and Water industries for advocating forward-thinking farming practices with an excellent knowledge of the problems affecting the UK farming and water industries. Each has a good understanding of VI core values with regard to safe and responsible use of pesticides and has also received media training.

The VI Champions are advocates of the need to move to environmentally sustainable farming through the adoption of an IPM-based approach. VI Champions will deliver VI IPM-focused presentations and messages, to lead active dialogue to challenge current practice and drive through a commitment to farming in an environmentally sustainable way.

John Murrie, the VI Champion for Scotland who is based centrally near Forfar, wrote: “I’m delighted to be the first VI Champion for Scotland. Having been involved in agriculture both through the family farm and having worked as an Agronomist for 27 years; I am able to offer a wealth of information to the VI Champions programme. I am now also the Scottish Technical Manager for Agrovista.


“On the family farm we are currently part way through the third five-year environmental scheme. In addition, Agrovista are very well established at the forefront of ‘cover and companion cropping’, as well as doing research on innovative non-pesticide solutions to cropping issues.  

“Though I see challenges getting cover crops established after spring barley in Scotland, I feel the environmental and soil health benefits are massive and can also be clearly seen in companion cropping. I look forward to using my practical and enthusiastic approach to the role to further promote IPM.

Currently, there are 19 VI Champions across the UK, from Cornwall, over to Kent and up to Northern Ireland and, of course, John in Scotland. John is available free of charge to speak to and with farmers, spray operators and members of the general public at any event or meeting covering or associated with agriculture or the water sector.

NFU Scotland also runs the Scottish Voluntary Initiative to ensure industry collaboration and discussion on key issues impacting the Scottish agriculture industry. NFUS Policy Manager Jenny Brunton added “Scottish farmers recognise the importance of professional and responsible use of products but should be able to utilise all options as part of an IPM system. Glyphosate and other plant protection products play a key role in effective crop protection which is essential to food production. Glyphosate reduces the need to use other herbicides, helps to protect soil and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for ploughing. It also enables Scottish farmers to grow crops that help produce safe, affordable and high quality food.”

“Science must come first, last and always in deciding the safety and effectiveness of plant protection products (PPPs). Regulators must fully commit to a science-based policy and allow farmers access to the full range of safe technologies and tools needed in order for them to meet the challenge of producing more food.”

More details about the VI Champions initiative can be found on the VI website at: https://voluntaryinitiative.org.uk/schemes/vi-champions/

John can be seen speaking about his passion for agriculture and how he is proud to be a VI Champion: https://youtu.be/mZI7hnOlGO0

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