The environmental problem targeted
Half of the European Union's land is farmed. This fact alone highlights the importance of farming to the EU's natural environment. Farming and nature exercise a profound influence over each other. Farming also supports a diverse rural community that is not only a fundamental asset of European culture, but also plays an essential role in maintaining the health of the environment.
The links between the richness of the natural environment and farming practices are complex. While many valuable habitats in Europe are supported by farming, and a wide range of wild species rely on farming for their survival, agricultural practices can also have an adverse impact on natural resources. Pollution of soil, water and air, fragmentation of habitats and loss of wildlife can all result from inappropriate agricultural practices and land use. (http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/envir)
The EcoPest Project is being implemented in an intensively cultivated area surrounded by a complex aquatic system. This area, characterized as of Specific Community Interest (SCI, GR2410001) contains Lakes Yliki and Paralimni. It also includes the ancient spring known as the “Sources of the Graces” which is connected to the Viotikos-Kifissos River, itself ultimately running into Lake Yliki. The rest of the surrounding area is part of the basin of the now-drained Kopais Plain, one of the most intensively cultivated areas in the country. Since ancient times, agriculture has played an important role in the development of this area. However, in recent years, increasingly intensive cultivation has given rise to a number of regional concerns. Although the agri-food sector of the area has enjoyed a steady increase in productivity, this has had a mixed effect on the environment.
The challenge faced by this Project is to demonstrate how agriculture can produce sufficient food and other commodities to meet the market’s growing demands, without degrading natural resources (productive soils, unpolluted air, clean and sufficient supplies of water, conserved habitats and biodiversity) and to do so through ways and systems that will be socially and locally acceptable.
The frame of this inventory will be based on a core of existing EU Environmental Directives and Regulations which are considered essential in preventing environmental pollution. Around this general core, a second shell of requirements will be added to include climatic, soil and crop specific conditions. Ultimately, EcoPest will contribute to the conservation of this continuous system of inland waters as an important bird habitat and a vital wetland to be passed on to future generations.
EcoPest aims to apply specifically-designed farming practices that will help to protect this vulnerable environment. Guidelines and protocols have been drawn up to illustrate how agricultural inputs (mainly pesticides, and to a lesser extent fertilisers) can be used safely by applying principles of best crop management practices. These practices focus on the minimization of the use of pesticides, reduction of risk for the environment and humans, management of spray-drift, maintenance and calibration of spraying equipment, management of agri-wastes and training of local stakeholders on the principles of the sustainable/rationalized use of pesticides. As such, these practices go some way beyond the baseline level of "good farming practice" (GFP).