By Aoife O’Rourke, Conservation Officer (SW England)
I know that many of you have been following the neonicotinoid pesticide debate with much interest and concern. You may have noticed in the past two weeks alone a number of strong, compelling research papers have been published, which add to the ever growing pool of evidence proving that pesticides negatively impact bees and other pollinators.Dr Dara Stanley and her colleagues at Royal Holloway, University of London, published two complimentary papers on the 16th and 18th of November. The first demonstrated that bumblebee learning and memory is impaired by chronic exposure to a neonicotinoid pesticide, while the second established that not only does neonicotinoid pesticide exposure impair learning and memory in bumblebees, it also impairs the crop pollination service bumblebees provide.
This potentially has large implications for both crop yields and wild flower reproduction.
A week later Dr Gilburn and colleagues published a paper illustrating that there is a negative correlation between farmland butterflies and neonicotinoid usage.
The question is where do we go from here? If farmers and growers can no longer use neonicotinoid pesticides, what options do they have for crop protection?
Thankfully there are a range of other options out there for farmers and growers. These options fall under the umbrella term ‘Integrated Pest Management (IPM)’. IPM is a holistic approach to pest and pathogen control, whereby non-chemical methods are used to manage weeds, pests and diseases. This approach helps minimise the cost and environmental damage caused by chemical inputs. IPM can be used everywhere from gardens to agricultural land and even natural areas. The word ‘integrated’ hints at the most important aspect of IPM; instead of using one approach to tackle pests a combination of approaches are used, this is a more sustainable long-term way to manage pests.more...