Challenges in 2015
Well another year has gone and it has certainly been one with no shortage of challenges and issues for all involved in weed, pest and disease control in the amenity sector. Legislation change and the requirements of Directives such as Sustainable Use and the Water Framework are all having impact, as are the needs for integrated management planning, the declining number of pesticide actives, the need for the sector to communicate its value even wider and further to a diverse range of audiences, and there's more! Never has there been a time for the sector as a whole to stand together, keep abreast of developments and demonstrate that through it voluntary action, it is committed to best practice and continuing to drive up standards.
There have also been a number of news stories affecting the sector of late. These include reports of a possible carcinogenic link to glyphosate and later a similar story about eating bacon. Our pleas would be that such reports are based upon proper science and evidence and not just reviews of a wide range of work on the topic with no weighting given to whether it is good or bad research. All it does is create alarm. Nobody involved in weed, pest and disease control would wish to use something that is dangerous to health but we need to deal with facts and proper process. Ending up with unsafe and unhealthy amenity areas because of a lack of ways to control could pose much greater risks to human health. Readers will also no doubt be aware of the withdrawal of chlorpyrifos for amenity use although not agriculture as yet. Those involved in managing amenity turf will know the challenge here of how, without the right aids, you can control pests and continue to provide the required standard of golf greens and the like.
The Role of the Forum
The Amenity Forum is very pro-active in responding to such matters. We cannot always make things right but we can seek to influence and lobby and ensure matters are addressed fairly and properly. Always we try give straight answers based on the best available science and evidence and focus on getting this across to those with influence on policy. We do not go out to grab the headlines - we think this can be counterproductive but believe our approach is right and has been successful.
The Amenity Forum is the sector's voluntary initiative and voice on all matters concerning weed, pest and disease control. We have substantially increased our membership and support over recent years but more is to be done. There are areas of activity under-represented which weakens our case when seeking to influence. In the Forum, all pay the same membership fee and all have an equal voice. If you are involved in any aspect of weed, pest and disease control, do consider joining and supporting. The next few years are set to be challenging and we need to ensure that, wherever we can, we stay in control.
Looking to the future
In recent months, the Forum had adopted its new strategic plan for the next four years. This seeks to build on our success but also develop it further. We are a lean and mean organisation determined to keep our costs as low as we can and maximise the benefits. We rely on voluntary input in many areas but we making a real difference. In the next twelve months we are embarking upon a communications project set to make a step change in our activity. We have sought additional voluntary contributions from members to make this happen.
I firmly believe in the work of our Forum and our sector. Everyone should take pride in what they do and achieve. Together we can face the changes and control them as much as possible; divided we cannot do so. Our conference in October, and the debates at SALTEX and elsewhere recently, demonstrate the support and value. 2016 is set to be just as challenging as 2015 but hopefully provide opportunity.
As in 2015, we are holding a series of free updating events across the UK in 2016. These run from January through to April and are summarised below. For further information and to book your free place, just email Alan.Spedding@amenityforum.co.uk
Free Updating Events 2016
|Sutton Coldfield||February 4th|
|Barton Fields Centre, Derby||March 17th|
|Location in South East||TBC|
|Location in South West||TBC|
|Edinburgh, Scotland||April 12th|
|Greenmount College, NI||TBC|
|Swansea, Wales||February 18th|
Thoughts for the year
I believe 2016 will be a year
• For all involved in weed, pest and disease control to stand up and be proud of what they do in creating safe, fit for purpose and sustainable amenity areas in all their forms. It will be a core theme for the Forum in 2016.
• To celebrate another year of producing high quality playing surfaces whether it be a championship golf course, a school playing field or wherever.
• For more and more of those involved in specifying contracts to seek out the Amenity Assured standard and not to simply focus on the economics. Amenity Assured indicates the operator or contractor has fully embraced best practice and all it entails
• For all to fully embrace the need to take an integrated approach to weed control, selecting the most appropriate and effective approach of chemical and non-chemical to suit different situations.
• For a further increase in organisations joining the Amenity Forum and participating in its activities, an expression of their commitment to best practice, doing things correctly and demonstrating the quality of our sector.
2016 will see
• Further pressures on the number of chemical options available for weed, pest and disease control. It will be important to ensure these debates are based upon proper evidence and science and fully include all involved
• Greater awareness of doing the right thing at the right time and ensuring all methods of control are fully considered and applied
• A great increase in the number of sprayers engaged in amenity to be properly tested under the National Sprayer Test Scheme - a legal requirement from November 2016.
• A need for increased vigilance to prevent the use of counterfeit products and to ensure on line methods of purchase fully recognise the new regulations now in force with a legal obligation for purchasers to ensure chemicals are used by fully trained operators.
My key hope is that more and more people will recognise the real importance of amenity horticulture in our lives, and its impact, whether it be our parks, playing fields, transport networks, retail parks or wherever.