The Amenity Forum Conference 2015
The Amenity Forum Conference 2015 - held at the Power Stadoim in Leicester. Introduction: A record number attended this year’s Amenity Forum conference held at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. It was billed as a premier event at a premier location and certainly the high quality speakers excellently addressed the key issues and challenges facing the sector in terms of all aspects of weed, pest and disease control. There was a wide range and high number of member organisations with exhibition stands demonstrating their products, services and innovation, The amenity sector is complex and diverse but highly important and, at the conclusion of the event, everyone was urged to have pride in what they do and the essential role they undertake in producing high quality sports surfaces, safe and clean streets and transport infrastructure and so much more. Awards: Also at the event, winners of the inaugural amenity sprayer operator of the year awards were announced and more information is provided at the end of this conference report. The awards are sponsored by Everris ICL and Syngenta and the winners received a Pro Nero camera and a £250 training voucher as well as BASIS Registration offering them free one year enrolment on the Amenity Training Register. Policy & Message: The conference began with presentations from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate and the Environment Agency. These reported on very good progress in amenity in meeting the changes arising from the Sustainable Use Directive and promoting best practice through its voluntary initiative, the Amenity Forum. However it was stressed that there remains more to do in engaging everyone in amenity within the Forum objectives and in particular increasing numbers engaged in continuing professional development, adopting integrated approaches to weed control and ensuring everyone understands the new legal obligations for sprayer testing and in relation to selling pesticides. Standards of water quality and the legal requirements were also presented stressing the importance of ensuring a targeted approach to pesticide use, avoiding run off and taking particular care close to water courses ensuring all methods of non-chemical control are considered. Darren Brown, chairman of the CPA Amenity Group, then spoke to the title of ‘Getting our message across’. He saw it as vital that everyone involved in the sector at whatever level stands together and ensures we are pro-active in communicating the essential role undertaken and ensuring debate is based upon facts and evidence. He referred to the importance of the new initiative being led by the Amenity Forum in this regard, funded by its members, and how important it was for all to fully get behind it. Integration in Practice: There then followed a number of presentations including a Panel debate on integrated approaches and what they meant and required. Andy Evans from SRUC ably introduced matters by defining what the approach meant to him and the many ways in which we can control weeds, pests and diseases. He referred specifically to football pitches and that well planned integrated approaches can produce required outcomes involving chemical, non chemical, cultural and other means. He also made reference to current discussions in Europe on endocrine disruptors, another reason for the sector to respond positively and stand together in demonstrating best practice. The panel session, ably chaired by Ruth Mann from STRI, included the views of a manufacturer, a contractor and a local authority. The issue of tenders especially by local authorities was raised. Whilst the financial pressures on such bodies were recognised, authorities needed to recognise the new legal obligations. Continuing on a path of least cost results in limited control options and higher costs in the longer term. There was felt to be a need for better guidance to those specifying weed and pest control programmes. This debate prompted a questioner to refer to the reducing number of actives available to amenity and the differing approaches to approval that seemed to apply to amenity compared to other sectors. For example an active ingredient used for pest control on golf greens has been withdrawn, yet it can still be used on turf in an agricultural context. This issue is being actively pursued on behalf of the sector by the Amenity Forum. Case Studies & Research: In the afternoon, a series of speakers addressed specific areas of amenity. Al Mason, from Languard, described the challenges and requirements in delivering contracts in urban areas. Neil Strong from Network rail gave his presentation on keeping the trains running and this was followed in this particular sequence by Andrew Heald from Confor, talking about pests and diseases affecting trees. He commented on the developing closer working of forestry with the Amenity Forum. The key message of all three presentations was to plan correctly and treat individual areas and situations according to needs, whether using chemicals or not. Professor Alan Gange spoke to the title of ‘Keeping amenity grass at high class standards – a research perspective’. He recorded the recent upsurge in interest in cultural methods and soil biology. Alan has a particular interest in using the soil microbial community to improve disease resistance in amenity grasses. Alan also referred to plans for a Turf Research Foundation initiated at a conference some 18 months ago and he hoped could be made to happen with Amenity Forum support. Pride in our sector: The author of this report concluded proceedings. He reported on how the influence and participation of the sector in best practice had substantially increased in recent years but that there remained much more to be done. It was vital that everyone in the sector at whatever level got involved and supported the objectives of the Amenity Forum. He referred to new guidance material launched at the conference on IPM planning and available on the Forum website, www.amenityforum.co.uk He also re-emphasised the importance of the new communication project being backed by members of the Forum and seeking to strengthen the voice of the sector. There were many issues facing everyone involved but with the right unified approach and clear communication of our vital role, these can be turned into opportunities. He also reported on free updating events being held across the UK in early 2016 and that information on these would soon be available on the website. He concluded by once again urging the sector to be proud of its achievements in producing high quality amenity areas fit for purpose and as safe and sustainable environments. He thanked everyone involved including sponsors and speakers in making the conference such a great success. Sprayer of the Year Award winners: Winner of the amenity turf boom sprayer category, Andrew Kerr from West Malling Golf Course in Kent, was praised by the judges for incorporating new technology into his spraying operation to ensure accurate application. The whole course has been GPS mapped, coupled to GPS equipment on the sprayer to ensure only the targeted areas are sprayed, to minimise use and waste. Fitting new Syngenta XC Nozzle technology has minimised risk of drift losses and achieve better application on the target. Already a highly experienced sprayer operator, Andrew was also praised for his ongoing commitment to education and training, including gaining BASIS Foundation Award and BIGGA Master Greenkeeper qualifications. The judges were particularly impressed by his skills in practical application techniques and his innovation to design and modify the filling site and wash-bay optimised for safety, speed and ease of working. In the category for hard and porous surface application, winner Adam Bell, of Yorkshire-based JSD R&D Ltd, was commended for his exceptional approach to detail and utilising innovative treatment techniques. Sprayers have been fitted with the capability to adjust the boom to avoid drift, with a flow meter for chemical injection into a clean water line, and sensors for spot weed treatment. Daniel Clarke, of the DTMS Group and winner of the application using hand held equipment award, was exemplified for the Yorkshire-company’s safe dealing with chemical washings and containers, to eliminate risk of spillages, along with excellent chemical store management. Both DTMS and JSD R&D are members of the Amenity Assured scheme.