What is

Agroecology is the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems and practices

Oxford Dictionary

A Lighter Touch seeks to use the best technology available to shift the focus of crop protection, and integrate biological and ecological processes into food production – to achieve a lighter touch on the environment and meet consumer demands.

Understanding and better management of aspects of agricultural ecosystems that directly or indirectly lead to increased levels of pests and diseases is at the heart of the programme. Reducing the opportunities for pests and diseases to thrive reduces the requirement for crop protection interventions.

Although it comes with numerous additional challenges, we should be adaptively managing agroecosystems…not attempting to control one or a few organisms within these systems1

1. Peterson, R.K.D, Higley, L.G, Pedigo, L.P 2018. Whatever happened to integrated pest management, American Entomologist 64:3 pp 146–150. https://doi.org/10.1093/ae/tmy049

In New Zealand, there are additional challenges to producing crops efficiently, economically and meeting importing country biosecurity requirements.

Working out where to start is the challenge. The size and range of obstacles is large, too large for individual sectors alone. Capacity upscaling is needed to develop and implement new technologies to show that agroecological crop protection can work and is an appropriate long-term strategy.

The horticulture, arable and wine sectors have joined with the Ministry for Primary Industries in a long-term collaborative research and extension programme to overcome these obstacles and collectively address the challenge of meeting consumer demands and the transition to agroecological crop protection programmes.