A BASIS Intro­duc­tion to LEAF Mar­que and IFM

Equip­ping farm­ers with the right skills and know-how to farm more sus­tain­ably is a big part of what LEAF does. This April, farm­ers and advis­ers will be head­ing to our two-day LEAF BASIS Intro­duc­tion to IFM’ and LEAF Mar­que train­ing course to get the lat­est think­ing around IFM and an insight into the nuts and bolts of LEAF Mar­que cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Emma Hamer, Senior Plant Health Advis­er at the NFU, attend­ed the course last year and tells us more about how its feed­ing into the cur­rent review of the Vol­un­tary Ini­tia­tives IPM Plan.

Equipping farmers with the right skills and know-how to farm more sustainably is a big part of what LEAF does. This April, farmers and advisers will be heading to our two-day LEAF BASIS ‘Introduction to IFM’ and LEAF Marque training course to get the latest thinking around IFM and an insight into the nuts and bolts of LEAF Marque certification. Emma Hamer, Senior Plant Health Adviser at the NFU, attended the course last year and tells us more about how its feeding into the current review of the Voluntary Initiatives IPM Plan.

Last year, I attended LEAF’s two-day training course on Integrated Farm Management (IFM). I went largely because IFM, and specifically IPM (Integrated Pest Management), is rising up the agenda as a means to control pests, weeds and diseases. There is also a political element to this; Government, and others, sometimes suggest farmers are not doing enough in terms of IPM. Also, I wanted to get an update from LEAF on how their members engage with IPM and find out if we, the NFU, could be doing more in this area. We already manage the Voluntary Initiative’s IPM Plan which helps operators demonstrate how they consider the principles of IPM before using professional pesticides.

The Sustainable Use Directive (Directive 2009/128/EC) aims to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides in the EU by reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment by promoting the use of IPM and alternative approaches or techniques, such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides.

LEAF Demonstration Farms are working, commercial farms practising IFM. LEAF Demonstration Farmers (several are NFU members) communicate, discuss and demonstrate IFM best practice amongst other farmers and also play a critical role in promoting sustainable farming to wider groups such as politicians, industry and students.

Sustainable Farming through Integrated Farm Management

The course gave a great insight into each of the nine sections of IFM, what practices are involved in each element and how they link to LEAF Marque certification. As well as farmers keen to know how IFM drives business efficiencies, advisors and auditors were able to boost their knowledge of the LEAF Marque Standard and its aims and requirements.

Delivering cost savings

Instead of completing an IPM plan, LEAF members carry out a self-assessment by completing the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review. This whole farm management tool identifies strengths and weaknesses and helps farmers set targets for action. Rather than being a box ticking exercise, the farmer “takes ownership” of IFM/IPM and decides how and where he wants to make improvements to his business. This approach can lead to cost savings across the whole business.

LEAF also runs the LEAF Marque assurance scheme, whereby farm businesses have to meet rigorous standards of sustainable farming practice. All LEAF Marque certified businesses are independently verified against the LEAF Marque Standard.

In an independent study carried out in 2017 by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) 36% of businesses surveyed reported extra income as a result of being LEAF Marque certified; 97% secured access to new market opportunities and 23% reported receiving premiums for their products. Improvements were seen across the whole business because of the holistic approach of IFM. Soil and water management are considered, as well as energy efficiency and conservation. The LEAF Marque standard, which is underpinned by IFM, also extends to community engagement, something we must all consider in order to improve our outreach to consumers.

Business Benefits

Looking at the VI IPM plan, it could be improved by adopting some of the principles embedded within LEAF. Over the last few months we have been reviewing the VI IPM plan and by showing tangible benefits to farm businesses, we hope we will encourage uptake and engagement, which would demonstrate how embracing all the principles of IPM can result in numerous benefits for NFU members.

For more details on the next LEAF BASIS Introduction to IFM and LEAF Marque Training Course click here.