Yesterday a European commission vote passed a ban on neonicotinoid pesticide use. One of the major arguments against implementing this ban was farmers’ worries about a loss in income. British farmers have been spraying pesticide “insurance” treatments to prevent crop loss and damage, for over a decade. It is unlikely that treatment is necessary for all crop pests on such a regular basis.
Now that the EU has banned this class of harmful pesticides it is time for UK farmers to begin rethinking their approaches to pest management, and build new techniques in order to maintain healthy habitats for our wildlife.
There are plenty of options for farmers, include planting wildlife strips, using trap cropping, and choosing different crop varieties. Wildlife farming may play a key part in sustaining pollinators, keeping crops pest free while still keeping farmers and consumers happy.
The sowing of floral strips – mini wildlife strips that border a crop – can be extremely beneficial. When planted with native wildflower species the benefits are innumerable. Wildflowers maintain biological diversity by acting as a refuge for many wild species such as bees, hoverflies, and butterflies. Many of these are pollinators which provide economic benefits to the farmers’ crops. Floral strips are also home to the larvae of hoverflies, which play a part as natural pest control, as they feed on aphids.
Other options exist, such as trap cropping, for example using turnip rape which attract the pests away from the main crop to the companion crop. Reducing field plot sizes also improves biological control. Crop rotations can be diversified: a narrow rotation of wheat – wheat – oilseed rape can be replaced by rotations that include peas before oilseed rape, and growing sunflowers between wheat years. Farmers can also take advantage of the appropriate crop varieties, choosing those that are tolerant or resistant to diseases transferred by key pests.
More information can also be found in this fact sheet by the Pesticide Action Network UK.
Claire is a member the Primrose marketing team, working on online marketing.
She trained as a Botanist and has an MSc in Plant Diversity where she specialised in Plant and Bumblebee ecology.
She writes our ecology themed articles.