How nature-friendly farming can help reduce pesticide use

For many years, we’ve relied on pesticides and fertilisers to help produce our food – bad news for wildlife and the environment. But there is another way. One that works for nature and farmers.

A Corn Bunting perched on top of a wooden post holding insects in their beak.

Our reliance on pesticides and fertilisers has allowed us to farm more intensively and productively, but at a huge cost to our wildlife and the health of the environment. 

We want to see agri-environment schemes that reward nature-friendly farming practices such as flower-rich margins and herbal leys that are proven to enable farmers to produce good food whilst supporting reductions in the use of pesticides and fertilisers. 

Many farmers and land managers across the country are already adopting practices like these, moving towards a nature-friendly approach that is helping nature to recover, producing healthy food and profits, and contributing to climate change action. 

In agriculture, more and more farmers are turning to non-chemical solutions. Nature is at the heart of many of these solutions, like providing habitats for pest predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds. Martin Lines – an arable farmer from Cambridgeshire – has not used insecticides since 2013 and has noticed that crop yields are 5-20% greater next to the wildflower habitat strips that he has created.   

We know that nature-friendly farming needs to become the norm. To make this possible, UK governments must support farmers in reducing pesticide use and adopting nature-friendly principles, while also improving testing and understanding of exactly what chemicals are being used on the land. 

Creating habitat for pest predators, alongside ensuring diversity of crops and monitoring pest thresholds, are important parts of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to managing pests and diseases – where chemical pesticides are only used as a last resort.

A bee feeding on ivy flowers.


In England, the government has committed to paying farmers for IPM in the new Sustainable Farming Incentive, and it is vital that this is ambitious and really helps to drive a reduction in reliance on pesticides.   

The UK government also needs to invest in more research into non-chemical alternatives and set an ambitious pesticide reduction target which will clearly set the direction of travel and drive innovation.  

And we must make sure that when pesticides are approved and must be used, the real-world impacts are better understood and managed, to better protect people and wildlife. 

What can I do? 

Outside of agriculture, people can make their own contribution by gardening organically and asking their local councils to go pesticide-free in towns and cities. For more information on what you can do head to Pesticide Action Network UK.

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