INTEGRATED Pest Management (IPM) will play an increasing role in UK crop production post-Brexit.

The Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) conference, held near Towcester, heard NFU president Minette Batters warn that 42 per cent of farm businesses will be loss-making if direct payments are lost after the UK leaves the EU.

She said farm output will need to increase by ten per cent to counter the effect, but Environment Secretary Michael Gove's focus on a 'Green Brexit', with less emphasis on crop production, could restrict the arable sector's ability to do so.

Mrs Batters said whatever the final details of the future agricultural policy are, increasing output will have to be done in an environmentally sensitive way with IPM playing an integral part.

IPM is based on prevention, monitoring and control of damaging organisms using a range of cultural and biological methods – using plant protection products only when absolutely necessary.

She said influencing outside views on their use would be important, putting safe and responsible use at the forefront of public perception.

Mrs Batters said: "I have been very keen that the cropping sector looks at what the livestock sector has done with RUMA, which has been about responsible use of medicines and antibiotics.

"This isn't about using less inputs, this is about us as an industry being transparent and having an evidence base for use, and I think that will become more and more important."

Sean Sparling, AICC chairman and Lincolnshire agronomist, agreed but warned against a shift to relying too heavily on non-chemical approaches, with the current 'hybrid' system allowing the production of safe, plentiful and affordable food.

He said modern plant protection products have passed a decade of regulatory scrutiny before being approved for farm use and are recommended by highly qualified advisers, including AICC members.

"We use them because the natural and cultural answers need more help today than ever before as the problems we face in the field are evolving more rapidly than ever before, not helped by climate change." said Mr Sparling. "Neither systems are stand-alone solutions but putting together those cultural methods, IPM practices and pesticides produces the key to our food security.

"We are all about using every tool at our disposal and IPM will play a bigger and bigger part in the future of plant protection. To our members IPM isn't just the latest fad, it's a crucial area of expertise in our armoury and is firmly behind every single decision we make."