Integrated Crop Management (CPA Leaflet)

What does ICM Involve?


ICM embraces virtually everything that happens on the farm or holding, including livestock management, where relevant. ICM will often necessitate changes to existing practices but most of all requires careful attention to detail, planning, monitoring and a commitment to the overall objectives.

ICM requires attention to detail, planning, monitoring and commitment.

...crop rotation
A diverse crop rotation has numerous benefits. It can enhance and maintain soil fertility, for example by inclusion of grass leys. Ensuring green cover in the autumn helps prevent nitrate leaching. A diverse rotation can also reduce the impact of weeds, pests and diseases by interrupting pest and disease life cycles. This can be helped further by choosing suitable resistant varieties.

...soil and cultivation
A fundamental natural resource on the farm is the soil. Maintenance of soil stability, structure and fertility is central to any ICM plan. farm soil mapping and analysis form part of the planning stage.

Erosion caused by wind or water is a particular danger on some soil types and it is important to identify the risks and minimise them. Measures might include establishing permanent grass or planting specific erosion breaks.

Choice of tractor size, tyre pressure, cultivating technique and timing will have a major impact on structure.Non-inversion cultivations require less energy than ploughing and do less damage to the soil fauna. however, these benefits need to be balanced against any resulting changes in the weed spectrum. In general it is best to alternate ploughing and non-inversion techniques in the rotation.

Maintenance of soil stability, structure and fertility are crucial.

...crop nutrition
A planned fertiliser strategy, designed to match inputs of the major nutrients to the demands of the growing crop, is both economically and environmentally sound. Regular soil analysis will determine the levels of nutrients available. Where organic manures are used it is important to accurately determine their nutrient value. All fertilisers must be applied with care, avoiding field boundaries, wildlife habitats and water courses. Timeliness is as important for fertiliser applications as it is for crop protection products.

Fertiliser inputs should match the needs of the growing crop.

...crop protection
An essential aspect of ICM is the effective control of damaging pests. Prevention through cultural measures, rotation and variety choice should be the first line of defence.

However, invasion or infection of weeds, insects or diseases is inevitable in any farming systems and they must be controlled. Much can be done to minimise the impact of pests by prediction and evaluation. This may include weed mapping, disease or pest forecasts, trapping, or use of diagnostic kits.

Where control becomes necessary, all options should be considered. Biological control methods should always be explored although these are usually best suited for glasshouse crops and fruit production. Currently chemical control is often the most appropriate choice.

Most modern crop protection products have been developed with the requirements of ICM in mind: they are target specific so they do not affect beneficial organisms, and they breakdown quickly to harmless substances when the job is done. care in the choice of product, the dose, timing and method of application will minimise impact.

Cultural measures, rotations and varieties are the first line of defence.

...wildlife and landscape
All farms support a diversity of wildlife. It is important that this is encouraged and enhanced. ICM involves planning a programme for the whole farm, including the cropped areas as well as the non-farmed land. Obvious examples include the preservation and management of hedgerows, wooded areas, ponds and streams. Less apparent is the need to manage field margins to prevent weed ingress while providing havens for beneficial insects. In the cropped areas, autumn stubbles and fallows are sources of seeds and insects for birds and mammals in winter, while spring sown crops can provide nesting sites.

ICM also includes caring for the natural features of the landscape and its amenity value. Keeping old buildings in good repair and regular maintenance of footpaths and bridleways with proper signposting all help achieve this.

A wildlife programme for the whole farm - cropped as well as non-farmed.

...energy
It is important that energy consumption, especially fossil fuels, is efficient. To achieve this requires detailed analysis of energy use on the farm - in lighting and heating as well as by vehicles and machinery. Alternative sources of energy, such as solar or wind power, or biofuels need to be explored. Improving the insulation of buildings, changing vehicles and rationalising vehicle movements may all offer opportunities for energy saving.

...pollution and waste
Pollution of water, soil or air is a risk on any farm. Farmyard manure or silage effluent, parlour and dairy washings, or sprayer washings are examples of potential pollutants. Fertiliser or pesticide spillage can contaminate soil, while unpleasant smells from livestock houses, manure heaps or slurry pits can be a real nuisance to the public. There are Codes of  Practice (Water, Air and Soil) dealing with these hazards and full compliance is necessary in an ICM system.

Waste disposal should be planned. Wherever possible farm wastes such as straw, sugar beet tops, green waste from packhouses and farmyard manure should be recycled.

Others, like polythene crop covers, should be reused and the remainder (including pesticide containers and other packaging) should be disposed of in a responsible manner.

Farm wastes should be considered as a resource and reused or recycled.

...organisation, auditing and assessing
A planned approach to ICM is essential in order to focus on the long-term objectives and identify the problem areas. As well as writing specific action plans, this also includes keeping informed and up-to-date about technical developments, training farm staff and involving them in decision making.

Measurement of achievement is vital. Setting targets involves everyone and helps management control. It allows correct targeting of resources and enables progress to be monitored. Most important, it is a visible demonstration to the public of a farming system, that is conducted in a profitable but responsible and environmentally sensitive way.

Measuring performance is vital.

Conclusion

For farmers ICM can bring economic benefits as well as marketing advantages for produce grown in a way considered more acceptable by the consumer. ICM represents the best way forward for farming. Society can see that farmers and caring for the countryside and the environment at the same time as being assured a continuing supply of affordable, high quality food.

ICM represents the best way forward for farming.

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