Ireland may not have to reduce pesticide use by 50%

The implementation of the Farm to Fork Strategy in this country is still to be decided on. However, it is unlikely that a blanket approach will be taken to reduce the levels of pesticide and fertiliser use across the entire EU.

For example, Ireland uses a relatively low amount of pesticides compared to other EU countries and so may not be required to reduce pesticide use by the 50% outlined in the document.

This was one message coming from Dale Crammond of the Department of Agriculture’s Climate Change Division who was speaking at the Teagasc Crops Forum on Thursday (September 17).

To put this into context, from 2011 to 2018 Ireland had the second largest reduction in pesticide sales overall when measured against 14 other states with complete data. Pesticide use in Ireland was reduced by 28% in that period, according to data from Eurostat.

Dale noted that when compared with other EU member states “Ireland as a country would use relatively small amounts of pesticides”. As a result, he stated that “they [the commission] may not look for a 50% reduction in pesticide use in Ireland”.

However, reduction of pesticide use will still be required and more efficient use and improvements in integrated pest management strategies will have to be made.

On fertiliser reductions, Dale stated: “The tillage sector is the most efficient user of nutrients. It’s much more efficient in the nitrogen and phosphorus that we apply than the livestock sector is. That’s a positive for the tillage sector when it comes to Farm to Fork.”

The department official explained that things will become clearer towards the end of the year and noted that 2023 is likely to be the implementation date at present.

“Later this year or early next year we’ll have a greater sense of the commissions thinking around some of these high-level targets and obviously we would have to take account of those recommendations as we develop our CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] strategic plan.”

Eco Scheme

Speaking on the Eco Scheme that will be implemented under the new CAP, Dale commented that traditionally tillage farmers have not taken up environmental schemes in great numbers and that this needs to be looked at.

He suggested that measures in these schemes may need to be developed to suit more tillage farms.

Objectives of the Farm to Fork

Dale gave a quick reminder of the main targets set out under the Farm to Fork strategy by the EU Commission.

They are:
  • To reduce the overall use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and to reduce the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50%;
  • Reduce nutrient losses by at least 50% while ensuring no deterioration in soil fertility; to reduce the use of fertilisers by at least 20%;
  • Reduce sales of anti-microbials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 50%;
  • Increase the level of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming to at least 25%.

He also outlined some of the actions that will be taken to implement the Farm to Fork strategy.

Actions to ensure sustainable food production:
  • A revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive and enhancement of IPM (2022);
  • A revision of regulations to facilitate plant protection products containing biological active substances (2021);
  • Action plan for the organic sector for 2021-2026 to stimulate supply and demand for organic products (2020);
  • Action plan for integrated nutrient management to reduce the pollution from fertilisers (2021).