Agroscope has developed a scoring system for plant protection in vegetable crops. The system enables the creation of incentives for reducing the use and environmental risks of plant-protection products and promoting preventive and non-chemical measures.
Plant protection in Swiss outdoor vegetable production is challenging, since many vegetable crops are vulnerable to diseases and pests and both commercial and consumer quality standards are high. As a result, significantly more plant-protection products (PPPs) are used in most vegetable crops than in arable crops.
A point-based scoring system similar to the established biodiversity point system of IP-SUISSE could be used to create incentives to reduce the use and environmental risks of PPPs in vegetable crops by using preventive and non-chemical measures to protect crops. As part of a research project and in exchange with IP-SUISSE, the scientific basis for such a point system was created, which could be applied in the future, for example, by IP-SUISSE in vegetable production.
Three-part point system
The point system is designed so that farms collect points in each of the three evaluated areas:
1. Preventive and non-chemical plant-protection measures
2. Environmental risks of plant-protection products
3. Risk-mitigation measures
Measures in the areas of preventive and non-chemical plant protection as well as risk mitigation when using PPPs are rated positively. The more effective a measure is, the more positive points can be earned from implementing it. The use of PPPs and the associated environmental risks are rated negatively. The higher the potential risks of the active substances used, the greater the number of negative points. Point requirements for each area should be clearly defined before any possible implementation of the point system in e.g. an IP-SUISSE quality label.
In the development of the point system, the individual preventive and non-chemical plant-protection measures were evaluated in a multi-stage process. Experts judged 29 measures for 13 vegetable crops, assigning them a score from one to eight depending on their efficacy. Up to two additional points were also awarded for measures that were difficult to implement.
To evaluate the environmental risks of PPPs, negative points were calculated for active substances. For this purpose, the risk scores for surface waters, semi-natural habitats and groundwater which had already been developed by Agroscope for other agricultural policy issues were used. For each of the three environmental compartments, the active substance with the highest risk was rated with 10 negative points, while the other active substances were awarded fewer points. The negative points from the three environmental compartments were then summed for each active substance. Finally, a lower limit of 0.5 negative points was introduced for active substances with the lowest risk potentials. In addition, 20 possible measures for mitigating risks when using PPPs in vegetable crops were compiled. These include general measures (e.g. drift-reducing nozzles) as well as plot-specific measures (e.g. buffer strips in fields next to water bodies). Depending on the efficacy of a measure, 0.5 to three points were awarded for implementation. Likewise, up to two additional points were awarded here for measures that are particularly difficult to implement in vegetable production.
Targeted reduction of environmental risks
The point system was tested by calculating the total points for both chemical and non-chemical plant protection on 22 IP-SUISSE vegetable farms. The results showed that although various preventive and non-chemical methods were already being implemented, there was still potential for promoting such measures in a targeted manner through a point system. Furthermore, lower PPP use and lower environmental risks were not necessarily observed in farms already implementing many preventive and non-chemical measures. Therefore, a point system could contribute here as well to reducing the risks of PPP use in a targeted manner.
In addition to a scientific publication, factsheets for advisory services and farms on the efficacy of preventive and non-chemical measures in vegetable production were also produced (in French and German only).
- The point system serves to create incentives for protecting crops by preventive and non-chemical measures, avoiding the use of particularly high-risk PPPs, and reducing the environmental risk of remaining PPP use through risk-mitigation measures.
- In the point system, farms should collect points through a flexible selection of measures in each of the following three areas: (1) preventive and non-chemical measures; (2) environmental risks of PPPs; (3) risk-mitigation measures.
- A survey of 22 vegetable farms revealed that there is potential for using a point system to promote preventive and non-chemical measures and for targeted risk reduction, even on farms already implementing several non-chemical measures.