Proposals for an Efficient Integrated Pest Management Eco-Scheme in the Next CAP
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
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European institutions are still negotiating the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In this context, the European Commission introduced its proposals for monetary payments to incentivise environmental practices in farming . These incentives are called Eco-schemes, and they involve an annual commitment from farmers, thus making them flexible yet attractive tools to advance the EU's Green Deal goals within the CAP.
Eco-schemes present a unique opportunity for the Member States to promote and reward farmers' efforts beyond the new requirements in enhanced conditionality. The importance of eco-schemes is not negligible since they represent 30% of the CAP's direct payments in the 1st pillar. However, some of the Commission's proposals lack ambition and will only provide weak improvements, if any.
Among a series of other eco-schemes (organic farming, agroecology, agroforestry, etc.), a limited proposal by the Commission that should be further strengthened is the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Eco-scheme. In its current state, the IPM Eco-scheme will be available to farmers who apply IPM practices as defined in Sustainable Use Directive and including:
buffer strips, with management practices without pesticides;
mechanical weed control;
Increased use of resilient, pest-resistant crop varieties and species;
Land lying fallow with species composition for biodiversity purpose.
Some of these proposals, however, are not only inefficient but even problematic. Buffer strips, land laying fallows, catch crops and cover crops favour the exposure of pollinators to pesticides due to drift from treated fields to these landscape features, where pollinators forage.
In response to the Commission's IPM eco-scheme proposal, BeeLife advises including other measures in this eco-scheme to ensure that it has an adequate impact to improve environmental conditions. Considering the importance of IPM for the future of sustainability and the long-term effects of persistent pesticides on wildlife and honeybees, we propose boosting the eco-scheme with the following measures:
3 practice segments:
1. Pesticide register and limited use.
Keeping a treatment register compiling pest monitoring results, monitoring methods (e. g. pictures, trapping, etc.) and decision criteria for establishing treatment need.
Seed/soil treatments reduced by 95% in 3 years compared to the first year of engagement (33% reduction/year).
Spray treatments reduced by 50% in 3 years compared to the first year of engagement (17% reduction/year).
2. If pesticide needs to be used, favour a non-persistent one.
3. Pesticide application after sundown.
The previous agricultural practices supplement a critical deficiency in the current IPM Eco-scheme proposal. They introduce a long-term logic that stresses the risks and persistent effects of synthetic plant protection products on the environment. Once a persistent pesticide is used, its adverse effects remain visible for years, with a much more significant impact than its original purpose against targeted species. Furthermore, it contains a mix of best practices in applying pesticides while reducing their use dramatically through proper reporting and monitoring. The goal is to finally incentivise dismissing unsustainable practices such as the preventive and prophylactic use of pesticides, especially when it is not required.
BeeLife proposes that payments of 50 euros per hectare are ensured for each of the practice segments. We also suggest that authorities agree to 150 euros per hectare payments if the farmer meets all three practice segments. Indeed, these general guidelines would need to be tailored and adopted at the national and regional levels.
A strong IPM eco-scheme is not only a good opportunity, but it can become a required tool to boost sustainability in the EU. Moreover, it is a public investment, and authorities need to ensure that it is a good one. A too modest IPM Eco-scheme might provide some practical measures, but they are still insufficient to reach the objectives of the Green Deal. Hence, we propose a stronger IPM Eco-scheme that justifies both the public investment and that amounts to good results with a long-term perspective.
 European Commission. 2021. List of potential AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES that ECO-SCHEMES could support. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/food-farming-fisheries/key_policies/documents/factsheet-agri-practices-under-ecoscheme_en.pdf