Clarifying aspects of IPM research and dissemination

The latest C-IPM stakeholder workshop, held in Poland in January, dealt with three important issues with regard to research and implementation of IPM in Europe. The discussions were a precursor to the first, upcoming C-IPM call later in 2015.

IPM research and dissemination were discussed at the latest C-IPM workshop in Poland. Photo: Janne Hansen

The ERA-net C-IPM held a workshop for stakeholders on 13 January 2015 in Poznan, Poland. The aim was to further clarify certain aspects of IPM research and implementation in Europe in order to reach the point at which specific calls can be formulated. At a previous workshop in Berlin it was concluded that:

  • current European IPM research is too specifically crop/pest oriented
  • the scope should be broadened, integrating IPM more fully in resilient, sustainable systems
  • IPM should demonstrate that it is efficient, economically profitable and environmentally friendly
  • demonstration farms play an important role for dissemination

Thirty-five participants from 17 European countries discussed three specific aspects, namely:

  • whether to focus on specific crop/pest interactions or to adopt the holistic approach in IPM research
  • what role infrastructures have on IPM implementation in Europe
  • what influence socio-economic drivers have on IPM implementation in Europe

The results of the discussions are presented in brief as follows:

Towards a more holistic approach

The main conclusions were that a network such as C-IPM should encourage the research community to take holistic approaches and the organisation of IPM research should facilitate such an approach. System experiments should be prioritised as they constitute the basis of a holistic approach. Working on a regional level instead of only at a farm level, and with cropping systems instead of only with specific crop-pest interactions is also necessary.

Extension services can foster holistic approaches and bridge the gap between research and practice. They are becoming increasingly aware about the need of such an approach. Advisors can communicate research results to farmers and practical management problems back to the research community.

Two-track planning can be beneficial with one track focusing on existing problems and one track trying to anticipate potential problems in the future. Existing problems may be solved with specific crop-pest approaches, whereas the holistic approach is essential for long-term sustainable management. In order to anticipate complex problems in the future and address them through IPM strategies, it would be valuable to establish more experimental farms with long-term experiments.

With regard to future research, it is important to realize that holistic, multidisciplinary approaches require long-term planning and implementation in order to generate reliable results as these results are not available immediately.

Infrastructure and IPM implementation

There are several different types of IPM-relevant infrastructural capacities in Europe. One of the most common structures is demonstration farms. These farms are used for several purposes, including validation of IPM tools, farmer meetings and dissemination via videos, booklets and agricultural platforms.

Demonstration farms are valuable for ensuring stable and reliable communication of research results to practical managers of IPM implementation. In this regard, it is important to take advantage of all available dissemination channels to support communication of research results. These channels include the media, websites and smartphone applications.

Because of the dynamic nature of IPM, farmers and advisors rely on effective communication channels from research and advisory services. For this reason, online platforms with information and guidelines for a variety of crop management situations must be readily available.

In addition to the dissemination of research results, demonstration farms can add value to research by establishing actual trials with predetermined protocols. Demonstration farms can thus support as well as disseminate research. There is a large potential for demonstration farms to be innovative and test cutting-edge technologies. However, initial adoption of such technologies can lead to yield losses and these must be subsidised.

There is a large portion of learning by doing in IPM, as it must be adapted to local conditions and the preferred crops in the crop rotation. Several countries have experienced that once farmers begin to see the logic in IPM, their interest increases. This can lead to a snowball effect, which a concerted effort on the part of researchers, farmers’ organisations and extension services must initiate.

Countries differ with regard to how demonstration farms are selected. In some countries, the farms are selected by the advisors, while in other countries farmers apply to participate. Either way, the participants are in all likelihood very knowledgeable and well-educated farmers. They are often known among their colleagues as first movers and can have an immense impact.

Involving more conventional farmers in demonstration projects can also be beneficial. Farmers, who are not used to integrating many different tools in practical pest management, may experience an even greater reduction in pesticide use than farmers already using relatively diverse strategies.

The economics of IPM

There are several economic aspects to be considered with regard to encouraging the spread the adoption of IPM. The following points were discussed at the workshop:

Is IPM more economical in the long run?

  • Are certain measures more economical in the long run?
  • How can certain ecosystem services be taken into account?
  • How can certain values be taken into account?
  • In addition, experience with a pesticide tax in Denmark were presented and discussed.

It can be difficult to ascertain if IPM is more economical as conditions such as choice of crops, weather and pest pressure are dynamic. Farmers are usually quick to adapt to what is most economically beneficial. The use of demonstration or reference farms can be very beneficial in this respect, as they can represent certain regions and farming types and act as role models for other farmers. It is very important that the demonstration farms are real farms and that they can be assured of assistance or insurance if things go wrong in the trial period. Chemical companies have reference farms. These could also provide valuable economic information with regard to IPM. Campaigning to improve the image of IPM farmers could be one way to make IPM attractive to society.

In order to determine if certain measures are more economical in the long run participants in the workshop proposed using long-term data from farms, including demonstration farms, and from research sources, as well as using models.

Ecosystems services are the ways in which ecosystems contribute to the well-being of humans. IPM can provide richer ecosystems and thus improve ecosystem services but there must be something to motivate the farmer. It can be difficult to measure the effects and assign them an economic value. In many countries, the government already subsidises greening policies. In some cases increased tourism may be able to promote the use of IPM by farmers via economic avenues.

An important question with regard to promoting food products in general is "What is the consumer willing to pay?" The same is the case for IPM products. In some European countries supermarkets already use advanced IPM as a marketing device. However, some reports state that consumers are more interested in how a product is produced than in zero residues. Labelling products with "high quality, low input" instead of "zero residues" is worth consideration in order to promote demand for IPM products.

The full report from the workshop can be found on the C-IPM website under "Members only".

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