Scottish Voluntary Initiative here to help

For those who use any Plant Protection Product (PPP), the Voluntary Initiative is here to help according to Amy Geddes, Wester Braikie Farms in Angus, a member of NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Committee who has recently taken over as chair of the Scottish Voluntary Initiative (VI). 

“The work with the VI to promote responsible usage of PPPs as part of a wider integrated pest and crop management plan is key to ensuring a broad range of tools remain available to farmers and their advisors. 

“A holistic approach will ultimately enhance sustainability by preventing resistance build up and reducing environmental impact while maintaining food production,” she adds.

“Through this work, the VI aims to show continued leadership in the principal of industry self-regulation, thereby allowing plant protection products to be kept available provided they are used sustainably, with water courses and the environment in mind.

“Without work from the VI and other industry bodies, the list of sprays available for farmers would be contracting quicker than the current rate. All the members of the VI in Scotland are volunteers who represent different sectors in the agricultural industry covering all those handling and using plant protection products, which includes grassland farmers. 

“The Scottish VI aims to reduce the risk of PPP pollution and works with farmers to protect and increase habitats for pollinators including bees and farmland birds, and continues to promote best practice and the responsible use of PPPs through different accreditation schemes, training, and practical tools to protect the wider environment. NRoSO (the National Register of Sprayer Operators) is run on behalf of the VI by BASiS, a key accreditation scheme many will be familiar with.

Amy is keen to raise the profile of the organisation in Scotland. She explained: “We are looking to get out and speak to farmers more. We plan to attend a number of shows and have had representatives on the NFU Scotland stand at the Highland Show in the past. I am keen to get the message out on what we do and how farmers can use our resources to help their business.

“Part of this is to promote the VI’s work through our regional champions who demonstrate best practice and are on hand to talk to farmers on the practicalities of integrated pest and crop management. Details of the current Champions can be found on the VI website 

“Following Brexit all the authorisation for plant protection products moved from Brussels to the devolved administrations of the UK. Here in Scotland these decisions are made by the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater who has the final say under the guidance of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

“So far, most of the decisions made in one part of the UK have been replicated in others. However there has been divergence on the application of the herbicide Asulox which is permitted in England whilst banned in Scotland. Whether this is a sign of things to come, remains to be seen. 

“Recent water quality updates indicate a number of herbicides are being detected in surface water across the UK. This includes Propyzamide which is used to spray oilseed rape (OSR). It can be found in products like Amino-Pro, AstroKerb, Barclay Proyz, Clayton Propel, Dymid and Glactic Prio as well as some soft fruit sprays. Meanwhile OSR products with the active ingredients Quinmerac and Clopyralid are being closely watched as they are difficult to clean out of water supplies. The other OSR active being monitored is Metazachlor.

“For wheat growers, it is the two active ingredients flufenacet and triallate which are being watched. The grassland herbicide MCPA and the broad leaf herbicide used in peas, beans and potatoes, Bentazone are also being monitored.

“These products are on the radar of HSE who are monitoring the situation and may move to restrict use. The list of active ingredients is a changing picture with products coming and going, but the trend is looking like fewer chemical tools in the farmer’s armoury in the future.”

  • Chair of the Scottish VI, Amy Geddes was writing in the Scottish Farmer magazine this week. (1 September 2023).

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