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Importance of Nematicide Stewardship Programme and value to the industry

29 September 2016

Nematicide operators have until the end of January to register for a free place on this winter’s Nematicide Stewardship Programme workshops to ensure they are up to speed with best practice and can fully comply with stewardship.

Operator training is a key part of the Nematicide Stewardship Programme (NSP), a joint industry initiative* to ensure nematicides remain available to use on potatoes and other root crops.

The use of this chemistry remains under considerable scrutiny from regulators. The training scheme, currently funded by approval holders Certis, DuPont and Syngenta, aims to ensure operators are fully able to handle and apply these chemicals in the correct way.

In the two years that the workshops have been running, just over 800 operators have been trained. That leaves 400 more to reach the 1200 target, after which attendees will have to pay to receive this essential training, says Phil Burgess, head of knowledge exchange at AHDB Potatoes.

Best practice

“PCN is potentially the biggest threat the potato industry faces,” he notes. “Nematicides are a key tool to control the pest, but potentially they have environmental and human health implications.

“They are under the close scrutiny of the regulatory authorities, so as an industry we need to show we are taking all possible steps to spread best practice.

“That is a key reason why we are supporting this initiative, getting messages out to levy payers, publicising the workshops and backing up further NSP initiatives, such as PCN sampling protocols and investigation work on variety resistance and tolerance, with evidence-based research.”

The NSP has requested that Red Tractor Assurance incorporates a requirement into its standards specifying that all staff applying nematicides must have completed the course by March 2017, he adds.

“With 90% of potatoes sold off-farm being subject to this scheme, it is vital that all potential operators attend a workshop by planting 2017.”

The course is free of charge for those who register before the end of January 2017 at

Operator benefits

Having attended some courses, Norfolk-based independent agronomist Andy Alexander, who represents the NFU on the NSP management committee, has seen first hand how attendees benefit.

“The programme ensures that all staff are well trained in handling these chemicals so they will be used as efficiently, accurately and as cost-effectively as possible while minimising their environmental effect.”

Growers also stand to gain financially from the workshops, he adds, as nematicides are expensive and the training will help improve levels of control.

“Importantly, the workshops ensure participants understand how nematicides work and why they are applying them. That’s key – it brings a measure of responsibility and credibility to the job.”

Operators are quick to recognise this and respond accordingly, he adds. “I’ve been very impressed by the degree of engagement. Participants get involved from the start, asking questions about their current practice and show real interest when learning how to improve it.”

That’s good news, given that 70% of potato land is infected to some degree with PCN, says Mr Alexander. “We need to retain this chemistry. We have to show as an industry we are proficient at what we are doing. These workshops are a major step forward in delivering that message.”

Impressed with progress

Sharon Hall, chair of the NSP group, says regulators appear to be impressed with progress. “We presented to the Expert Committee on Pesticides in July and they have congratulated us on the excellent work done by the NSP to date. They also welcomed the developments planned within the next three years.”

These plans include e-learning courses. “These are in very early stages but we are working with the ARTIS training platform to explore the potential to provide access to new information to allow operators to keep abreast of changes in regulations and stewardship to maintain their continuing professional development.”

Other work includes the development of an industry standard for soil sampling and providing a better understanding of resistance and tolerance to ensure appropriate varieties are grown. Both areas are funded by AHDB.

“We are getting the message out there and showing regulators that the potato sector is taking stewardship very seriously,” says Dr Hall.

“Progress with the workshops has been fantastic. We teamed up with training initiative ARTIS to deliver the courses from last winter, and over 808 operators have now been trained.

“We have had extremely good feedback so far, with many attendees saying they learned something new. The content and delivery of key messages has been very highly rated.”

The use of nematicides remains critical to many growers, she adds. “The NSP workshops will help ensure that operators are fully compliant in their use and demonstrate to regulators that we take stewardship very seriously.

“We are on track to reach our target of training 1200 operators by March 2017. I would urge all potato growing businesses to take advantage of this training before funding runs out.”


  • Nematicide Stewardship Programme
  • Joint industry approach
  • Set minimum stewardship standards for application of all nematicides
  • Core values
  • Protect the environment
  • Protect the consumer
  • Protect the operator
  • Incorporated into the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme

How to register

The next round of workshops is due to start at end of September, Details are available at

Some venues have already been identified. Those wanting to attend these can register directly. If there is no course in your region, click on the button at the top right (suggest another date or location for this course).

Here you can enter your details and the region where you need a course to be held. Someone from ARTIS will contact you to let you know where and when your nearest course will take place.

* The Nematicide Stewardship Programme is a joint initiative between agrochemical companies Certis, DuPont and Syngenta, together with AHDB, AIC, Fresh Potatoes Suppliers’ Association, NFU, Potato Processors’ Association and Richard Austin Agriculture.

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