IPM a key component as new grassland pesticide course is launched

A new course has been launched by Teagasc – in association with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – which is designed for advisors involved in giving pesticide advice to grassland farmers.

This course is in response to the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD), under which there is a requirement for all advisors who deliver pesticide advice to farmers to be appropriately trained and registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

This new programme focuses specifically on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and the use of pesticides in grassland situations, to minimise environmental impact and promote sustainable grassland management practices.

All farm advisors receive basic crop production training as part of their primary degree. However, through completing the new course, their existing knowledge will be complemented with further specific Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and pesticide training, in addition to on-the-job mentoring, Teagasc has announced.

There is more comprehensive training available for aspiring general pesticide advisors (PA), by way of the UCD/Teagasc Professional Diploma in Integrated Pest Management and Sustainable Use of Pesticides, but this targets the broad range of tillage, horticultural and grassland crops, rather than the specific grassland crops.

This grassland course is offered to students as a “blended learning experience“, according to Teagasc, where a proportion of the course is delivered online. In addition, there are two days of face-to-face lectures and hands-on experience with experts – where different grassland situations at different locations are visited.

Sheila Macken, from the Department of Agriculture Pesticide Control Division commented on the launch, noting: “The course now offers industry advisors and independent advisors an opportunity to access the latest information on grassland weed control, focusing on the IPM aspects of grassland management, while offering them the facility to study at a place which suits them.

“The feed-back from the pilot course which was run earlier this year has been very positive,” Macken added.

Participants felt that the teaching methods enabled them to assess their progress through the year and the practical elements focused on real situations.

Michael Hennessy, head of Crops Knowledge Transfer, Teagasc, co-ordinated the development of the course with the help of grassland and course development specialists.

Commenting on it, he said: “Focusing on the IPM aspects of grassland management in this course demonstrates to participants that there are many ways by which weeds and pests can be controlled rather than total reliance on pesticides.

“The use of pesticides must be considered carefully from an environmental point of view and where the use can be minimised, it should be minimised.”

Joe Hanlon, of Treagasc’s Curriculum Development Department, was heavily involved with developing the course from the blended learning concept – where the online Moodle platform is used – to make sure that the examination of the course content is done through practical application.

Hanlon explained: “The Moodle online platform allows students to study different topics each week and examine themselves on the material using the online tools.

It also allows a richer experience for the student as videos, book chapters, online discussion and other communications are used through the study period.

Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture are targeting commercial advisors for this course in 2018, particularly advisors who are working in areas vulnerable to pesticide loss to water.

Two courses will be run next year with start dates in mid-April and early June. For those interested, further details will soon be available on the Teagasc website here.