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Cereals 2017: Three things farmers can do to help save neonics

Growers and the wider arable industry have a window of opportunity to help influence the Government’s position on neonicotinoids ahead of discussions on the future of the seed treatment.


Abby   Kellett

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Speaking at Cereals 2017, experts from Bayer and the NFU announced three things farmers can do to help safeguard the future of neonicotinoid seed treatments, which are currently used on around one million hectares of arable crops throughout the UK.

 

  • Ensure best practice drilling of treated seed

 

  • Write to MPs and MEPs

 

  • Be active on social media

 

Ensure best practice drilling of treated seed

 

According to Bayer, the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments is inevitably going to be under scrutiny this autumn and so growers need to be extra careful in ensuring treated seed does not cause harm to wildlife or the environment.

What is the proposal?

In March this year, the European Commission tabled new proposals that would ban the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam seed treatments in non-bee-attractive crops including wheat, barley, sugarbeet and vegetables.

 

The proposals are due to be discussed at the July meeting of the Standing Committee of Plants Animals, Food and Feed in Brussels.

 

Source: Bayer

Bayer seed treatment campaign manager, Claire Matthewman said: “Firstly, we are asking growers who use seed treatments to continue to be extra careful about how they drill their seed – lets continue to demonstrate to the Government and the regulators how well we can steward the use of these products.”

 

Farmers are advised to wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling treated seed. Bayer’s Alice Johnston says: “Seed treatments are pesticides and should be handled as such.”

 

See also: Neonicotinoids: What an extended ban could mean for UK growers

 

Additionally, farmers should take action to prevent the accidental emission of dust into the atmosphere from seed during loading and drilling and should ensure treated seed is not exposed on the soil surface for birds and wildlife to consume.

Drilling stewardship checklist

Drilling stewardship checklist

In order to prevent this, Bayer has issued a drilling stewardship checklist:

 

  • Don’t broadcast or autocast treated seed
  • Handle bags of seed with care to avoid spilt seed
  • Check that the drill has been properly maintained, calibrated and cultivators set up properly
  • Assess the prepared seed: Does it have stony, cloddy or trashy areas which might limit seed coverage?
  • Do not tip dust into the drill, leave it in the seed bag
  • Keep bags secure and dispose of waste seed bags safely
  • Clean up spills immediately – do not fill drills on grassy areas as spills will be harder to clean up
  • Ensure the drill will not drop seed when transported or when lifting in and out of work
  • Make sure the drill does not vent into the air – if necessary fit an air deflector system

 

Source: Bayer

Write to MP’s and MEP’s and be active on social media

 

“Secondly, we are encouraging farmers, growers, contractors, agronomists and everyone else in the supply chain to consider writing to their local MP and MEP, as well as government ministers to explain why seed treatments are important to them,” said Miss Matthewman.

 

Since 80 per cent of MEPs are active on twitter and/or Facebook, according to Bayer, social media is an important platform to get the message across.

 

Bayer advised farmers to use the hashtag #saveourseedtreatments and to tag Phil Hogan, the commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development (@EU_Commission; @EU_Agri), and Vytenis Andriukatis, the commissioner for Health and Food Safety (@V_Andriukaitis).

 

When doing so, Julian Little of Bayer advised growers not to refer to loss of income. He said: “If we are serious about this, we need to get the public on board and we are not going to do this by telling them that farm incomes are going to go down if we lose neonicotinoids.

 

“Instead, we have to talk about issues that matter to them. For example, if we lose neonicotinoids, metaldehyde use is likely to increase by 60 per cent.”

Things to shout about...

Things to shout about...

Without neonicotinoids...

  • Alternative sprays would use 200 million litres of water per year
  • UK wheat yields would decrease by at least 0.6t/ha (0.24/acre)
  • Up to an extra 1600 tonnes of slug pellets would be used
  • One million hectares (2.5 million acres) of crops would need extra insecticide sprays

and...

 

  • There is no clear compelling evidence that neonicotinoid seed treatments are causing widespread decline in bee populations
  • There is no viable alternative for aphid control in brassicas and lettuce
  • Using more sprays increases the risk of impact on beneficial creatures

Source: Bayer

Equally, farmers are encouraged to ask MPs and MEPs out on farm so they can see first-hand how neonicotinoids benefit farm businesses.

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