Jean-Charles Bocquet, director general of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), said studies showed farm point sources accounted for approximately 50% of surface water contamination from plant protection products (PPP).
He told Milling & Grains significant improvements could only be achieved with better farm management.
“There has already been a heavy emphasis on improving the characteristics of the substances themselves through ever more stringent testing and authorisation requirements.
“But there is now an increasing recognition of the fact that no significant further improvements are likely to be achieved unless the way that pesticides are used is given equal attention.”
Compulsory measures specified in the EU directive define limitations on fertilizer application (both mineral and organic) in member states.
Chemical objectives are supported by a set of specific Environmental Quality Standards (EQSs) established at EU level for 45 substances and groups of substances and levels are monitored on a regular basis to ensure compliance.
However Bocquet suggested farmers were not making enough progress to reduce point source contamination in line with these EU targets.
“Innovative approaches to minimising losses of different substances from farm level (including pesticides) to water are needed, or the objectives are unlikely to be consistently met.”
Keeping pesticides out
The ECPA has launched a knowledge-based strategy – the Train Operator and Promote Best Practices and Sustainability (TOPPS) Project – to accelerate compliance by disseminating best practice on water protection to farmers throughout Europe.
“We are well aware that change is not always easy, and so TOPPS keeps things simple, providing solutions, which are easy to implement, effective and adaptable to each farming situation,” explained Bocquet.
Guidance would be given on the key stages of pesticide use, he said, as well as tips and techniques for transportation, storage, preparation, use and disposal of products and their containers. “Adherence to simple practices at each of these key stages can dramatically reduce the potential for water contamination,” hesaid.
“In addition, and when necessary, the management of landscape features such as buffer zones, tillage practices and crop rotation can also play an important role in keeping pesticides out of water,” he added.
Safeguarding the environment
The project aims to train up to 10,000 farmers in 11 EU countries over the next three years – in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Greece.
“By contributing to sustainable management practices that take social, environmental and economic factors into account, farmers and land managers invest in the long term success of their farming activities and make an important contribution to safeguarding the environment,” Bocquet said.