The challenge Member States face in implementing the European Union’s new Framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides was put under the spotlight at an Italian stakeholders’ conference jointly organised by ENDURE this month.
The event, jointly organised by ENDURE partner Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Research Council) and Giornate Fitopatologiche (Plant Protection Days) in the Italian city of Bologna, brought together key ENDURE members and a broad range of stakeholders from Italy’s agricultural sector.
ENDURE’s assistant coordinator Marco Barzman took the opportunity to share information gathered by the Network’s group on scientific support to policy, comparing the past and current risk reduction programmes in five Member States.
Policies have ranged from high pesticide taxes - Denmark, for example, placed a 54% tax on insecticides and 33% on fungicides and herbicides in 1996 - through to voluntary initiatives, which has been the favoured approach in the UK, where a National Pesticides Strategy was launched in 2006 and schemes such as LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and Assured Produce have gained popularity with farmers and retailers.
These are not the only differences, of course, as some Member States have focused on using the least toxic alternatives and others have placed the emphasis on reduced dosages. In fact, said Marco, there is no one ‘correct’ approach to introduce a risk reduction programme. However, there is one element common to all approaches and that is ensuring all stakeholders are part of the process.
You can download Marco’s presentation, and that of all the speakers, below.
The introduction of the ‘pesticides package’ heralds a fundamental change in European agriculture, with each Member State responsible for introducing a National Action Plan and to place the emphasis on Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
This, explained ENDURE coordinator Pierre Ricci, means there will need to be changes in our agricultural systems. No longer will farmers be able to rely on a single tactic to control a specific problem, but the emphasis will be on creating robust agricultural systems that employ a broad variety of tactics.
This holistic approach is reflected in ENDURE’s focus on system case studies, which are employing a wide range of scientific disciplines to envisage advanced and innovative cropping systems. Focused on arable crops and orchards, these system case studies draw on a range of ENDURE expertise, for example, teams examining innovative technologies, landscape ecology, plant genetic resistance and biocontrols, and will devise scenarios that will be explored using multi-criteria assessment tools.
In the shorter term, ENDURE can offer agricultural advisers, extension services and farmers practical and scientifically sound integrated approaches to crop protection, said ENDURE’s Per Kudsk. Per, leader of the case studies teams, highlighted for example the ready-to-use information for wheat, potato, tomato and maize.
Information specifically tailored for advisers and extension services is being made available through the ENDURE Information Centre, one of the key ENDURE tools presented to delegates by Silke Dachbrodt-Saaydeh. Alongside the Virtual Laboratory and web research platforms such as the Weed Traits Database and EuroWheat, they form a raft of tools that are already publicly available, or will soon be opened to the public.
The final presentation of the morning session came from Paolo Bàrberi, from ENDURE’s other Italian partner, the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna of Pisa, who detailed the Italian contributions to the Network.
Emilia-Romagna sets the pace in Italy
The afternoon session of the conference was devoted to presentations from Italian stakeholders and was launched by Tiziano Galassi, from the Emilia-Romagna Phytosanitary Service, who revealed the major advances the region has made in introducing IPM.
In Emilia-Romagna, one of the country’s best known agricultural areas producing fruit, vegetables and wines in addition to famous foods such as Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, a regional IPM system has been established and is now estimated to be in place on 70% of the area’s horticultural land (the figure for Italy as a whole is around 15%).
This process began in 1996 and the following year a National IPM Committee was formed, comprised of experts from all of Italy’s 19 regions and two autonomous provinces plus representatives of national research organisations and the Italian agricultural ministry. The regions are responsible for supervising the application of IPM Guidelines, supervise and help conduct research and experimentation, offer technical support and finance field technicians and farms.
In Emilia-Romagna progress has been particularly swift in reducing use of the most toxic pesticides and moving away from the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Indeed, said Tiziano, integrated production has now become a pre-requisite for farmers wishing to supply the larger retailers.
Aldo Ferrero, from SIFRI (Italian Weed Research Society), presented the conference with details of public research on IPM in Italy, tracing the development of research that focused on the testing of pesticides and the biology of insects and the biology and epidemiology of diseases and weeds in the 1950s and 60s, through to the present day. He identified the research topics currently underway or to be developed:
However, he noted, financial support was needed, particularly to allow the testing of different integrated production options at the cultural system level, to develop ‘problem-solving’ inter-disciplinary projects on priority issues and to improve the professional skills of farmers.
Marco Rosso, director of AgroFarma, which represents the Italian agrochemical industry, welcomed the opportunity the ‘pesticides package’ offers to “upgrade the farming industry”. He said the industry believed it was necessary to create a body to facilitate exchanges with the scientific community and would be prepared to provide funding for this.
Andrea Sala, chairman of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association Italy, then presented the contribution of biocontrols in Italian agriculture. He emphasised that biocontrols are mostly used in conventional agriculture rather than organic farming, and they play a key role in modern IPM strategies. This role can be expanded, he said, pointing to the case of Almeria, Spain, where 10,000 hectares of crops were converted to biocontrols in 2007, following controversy over the use of illegal pesticide the previous year.
Stefano Lucci of ISPRA (Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, a governmental agency operating under the Italian environmental ministry) closed the presentations with an update of progress on the Italian National Action Plan.
This is the first time Italy has constructed a National Action Plan, and all stakeholders are currently involved in a consultation period which closes in January 2010. Italy is focusing on a two-tier IPM strategy, a compulsory level and a more advanced voluntary level, where there will be more attention paid to the quality of the pesticides used.
You can also read about this event (in Italian) on the Image Line Network website.
|Name and organisation||Presentation|
|Pierre Ricci (ENDURE)||
General presentation of ENDURE [pdf - 104 MB]
|Marco Barzman (ENDURE)||
Comparison of risk reduction programmes [pdf - 40937 kB]
|Per Kudsk (ENDURE)||
Crop case and system case studies in ENDURE [pdf - 111 MB]
|Silke Dachbrodt-Saaydeh (ENDURE)||
ENDURE tools [pdf - 377 MB]
|Paolo Bàrberi (ENDURE)||
Italian contribution to the ENDURE Network of Excellence [pdf - 96613 kB]
|Tiziano Galassi (Servizi Fitosanitari Regionali - Emilia-Romagna)||
IPM implementation in Italy [pdf - 32073 kB]
|Aldo Ferrero (SIRFI)||
Public research on IPM in Italy [pdf - 10136 kB]
|Marco Rosso (AgroFarma)||
The contribution of the agrochemical industry in Italy [pdf - 128 MB]
|Andrea Sala (IBMA Italy)||
The contribution of the biocontrol industry in Italy [pdf - 74932 kB]
|Stefano Lucci (ISPRA)||
Italian National Action Plan [pdf - 34024 kB]