The Professional Gardeners' Guild (PGG) Historic Houses Under Threat seminar was held at the historic houses, buildings, parks and gardens event in conjunction with the Historic Houses Association. Delegates discussed the likely impacts of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive 2009 on historic parks and gardens.
Though the impact of the sustainable use directive has been widely discussed by councils and contractors, its impact on historic parks and gardens has been largely overlooked because they use relatively small amounts of chemicals.
PGG chairman John Humphris voiced the feelings of many of the head gardeners listening to the presentation.
"We have had the short straw by being classified in with the other land-based industries," he claimed. "It seems totally unfair to me that we are suffering because of them. But there is nothing we can do about that. There will come a time when we will have to manage without chemicals and do things differently. We have to tread a middle road to appease the public and manage without the resources we have traditionally had."
BALI technical director Neil Huck warned the audience that they must take the legislation seriously because failure to comply fully could lead to more stringent measures in future.
"We need to give priority to non-chemical methods and the directive says we must have this in place by 2014," he pointed out. "If we don't get our acts together as a whole land-based industry then it will come back very, very strongly. It is an easy win for the environmental lobby."
The PGG delegates were most concerned by Huck's prediction that glyphosate could fall foul of the Water Framework Directive.
He said environmental quality standards, which set limits on the concentrations of specific substances in water, have not tested for glyphosate in the past.
France has put a two-year ban on the chemical after finding high levels in its water supply. Huck warned that this could be an indication of things to come. The use of glyphosate has skyrocketed following the withdrawal of other chemicals.
Huck acknowledged Humphris. "I agree that there have been some appalling practices in grounds maintenance and that is why we need proper training for operators to get them thinking environmentally," he explained.