The proposal, on health and safety grounds, to ban all plant protection products from use in public amenity areas will have a considerable impact on golf courses and other sports turfs.
Although pesticides are used only as a last resort, a complete ban on their use would remove the vital flexibility of the industry to take appropriate action in certain circumstances in order to preserve the playing quality of the golf course when other methods have failed.
Several golfing organisations are making European level submissions but there are only a few days left before the European Parliament makes its decision. The Amenity Forum, which has representatives from the GTC, BIGGA and the STRI, is very pro-active with the Pesticide Safety Directorate, the Government body which represents the UK within the European Parliament.
Golf Environment Europe, the European Golf Association, the R&A and the Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Associations are all making their submissions. The European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA) has written a particularly well-argued letter in favour of retaining flexibility and the present arrangements for voluntary control.
On behalf of nine national golf course owners associations, representing over 600 golf courses in Europe, EGCOA states that any proposal towards a ban on the use of pesticides on golf courses will have a serious negative effect on the golf industry in Europe.
It argues that the golf industry is approaching the issue of environmental sustainability very seriously and has taken important steps in reducing pesticide consumption in recent years.
Much is being achieved through the promotion of an integrated approach to pest and disease management (IPM), but even with plant protection products being used judiciously as a last resort, golf courses across Europe do occasionally require to undertake targeted chemical treatments to ensure reasonable turf quality for the successful undertaking of the sport and the long term financial sustainability of the business.
EGCOA has proposed amendments to the Proposed Framework Directive that will enable flexibility across member states as to how the use of pesticides on golf courses is regulated, arguing that this is the only way to implement a sustainable approach to pesticide use in golf – where regulation is informed by the specific issues relating to golf course management in different climates and specific locations.
Golf and sustainability
Lodewijk Klootwijk, director EGCOA, said, “The EGCOA has sustainability high on the agenda. We are closely involved with the independent Golf Environment Europe initiative. As the representative of the decision makers on golf courses our vision is to guarantee a more sustainable golf industry in Europe, which maximises its integrated economic, social and environmental contribution.
“This includes to reduce the impacts of pesticides on human health and the environment and, more generally, to achieve a more sustainable use of pesticides. Public concern over pesticide use is already well appreciated by the sector and we accept that new regulation could help improve pesticide handling, storage, application, recording and monitoring.
“Studies carried out in different European regions shows that pesticides are regularly applied to only 4% of the golf course estate; the average golf course is approximately 70 hectares. For each golf course, only 2.5 ha of land on average have pesticide applied regularly. Research and new knowledge, and implementation of known best practice in turf management will reduce the need for pesticide use even more.
New Pesticide regulation for the golf sector
“The EGCOA supports the need for ongoing improvements in regulation over pesticide use in Europe – with an aim for gradual reduction. Through research and development, the golf industry wants to provide the regulatory authorities with the necessary knowledge-base to improve the pesticide regulation. The EGCOA is looking forward to co-operating with EC through Golf Environment Europe concerning developing good and economic sustainable alternatives to chemical pesticides and to communicating research results and new knowledge related to integrated pest management and minimizing chemical pesticides with in the golf sector.
“We hope that the European Parliament Environment Committee will consider this perspective during the process of ongoing refinements in regulation over pesticide and take this into account if considering the prohibition of pesticide use in the amenity and public spaces, and in sports and recreations grounds in particular.”
European Golf Course Owners Association www.egcoa.eu