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Contacting Marshall Agroecology Limited
Address: 2 Nut Tree Cottages, Barton, Winscombe, BS25 1DU, UK
E-mail: jon.marshall@agroecol.co.uk

Tel and Fax: 0044 (0)1934 844844

Crop Protection Association: Environmental information for agronomists
A study of the needs for environmental information and recommendations on the means of training and information provision, in association with the Farmed Environment Company


Report now available: Environmental information for agronomists 2002: needs and provision

Sponsor: Crop Protection Association and UKASTA

Specification outline:
A report will be submitted to the Crop Protection Association comprising a review of the needs for environmental information for agronomists and recommendations on the means of providing that information, covering current competency levels and future skills required to provide agri-environmental advice on the farm.

Objectives:
To evaluate the current levels of agri-environmental knowledge amongst agronomists from a number of technical and commercial companies
To evaluate the future information needs for sound agri-environmental advice
To outline current and future information, skills and training needs and the means of provision

Report

Environmental information for agronomists 2002:
needs and provision

A report by the Farmed Environment Company
Manor Farm, Eddlethorpe, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 9QT

commissioned by the Crop Protection Association UK Ltd and UKASTA:
CPA, 4 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough PE1 2RP

Prepared by

E J P Marshall
Marshall Agroecology Ltd, 2 Nut Tree Cottages, Barton, Winscombe, Somerset BS25 1DU
Tel/Fax: 01934 844844; jon.marshall@agroecol.co.uk

Executive summary

Under the Crop Protection industry's and Farming industry's Pesticides Voluntary Initiative aimed at avoiding a pesticide tax, improved environmental training and knowledge transfer will be developed. As part of this initiative, the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and UKASTA have commissioned this report on current skills levels and information and training requirements. Information has been collected from two agronomist discussion groups and a questionnaire sent to all CPA and UKASTA member companies. Informal discussions were also held with individuals representing non-CPA members, researchers and FWAG. A total of 113 questionnaire responses were received and analysed. The objectives are 1) to evaluate the current levels of agri-environmental knowledge amongst agronomists from a number of technical and commercial companies and 2) to outline current and future information, skills and training needs and identify the best means of provision.

Conclusions:
· The crop protection industry is already influencing environmental management and biodiversity on the ground with agronomists as trusted advisors
· The variability of understanding of environmental issues amongst agronomists is a key aspect to be faced
· FWAG are the specialists in farm wildlife advice
· Existing information vehicles within the industry are well-developed
· The results indicate that the CPA should develop an environmental training programme supported by a knowledge resource

Recommendations:
1. The environmental skills base of agronomists needs to be raised to a uniform basic level. The BASIS scheme may provide a suitable model. A number of organisations such as the Farmed Environment Company and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group are specialist providers in this area.
2. Training needs to cover:
the BAP and HAP targets and basic species and habitat identification
basic habitat management
relevant agri-environmental support schemes
codes of good agricultural practice for air, soils and water
farm wildlife audit
and should support pesticide selection, cultural control, ICM and precision farming.
3. The formal training scheme should involve face-to-face training, with a strong field-based demonstration element and access to experts.
4. Training needs to be supported by a knowledge/information resource, as well as relevant and timely reminders to agronomists.
A choice of methods to access the knowledge resource (Internet, CD-ROM, hardcopy) is needed, to satisfy all agronomists' learning styles.
5. A web-based resource is likely to be the most important. Websites such as that under development by FWAG for their own advisers may provide such information or at least a model for it.
6. The knowledge resource should also be supported with hardcopy or electronic information packs for a) advisors and b) farmers. Email can be used to provide this information for many but not all advisors.
7. CPA and UKASTA should consider more formal links with FWAG.

For an email copy, contact: jon.marshall@agroecol.co.uk