The NFU has today announced that it has applied for emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments to alleviate insect pest pressure on a proportion of the English oilseed rape crop.
The NFU, for the third year running, has committed to bringing forward evidence explaining the case for a limited number of farmers to have access to the insecticide in a controlled way. This will be put to the Chemicals Regulation Division and a recommendation from the Expert Committee on Pesticides to Defra will follow to inform a final decision from them.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “With the numbers of flea beetles rapidly increasing and this pest pressure continuing to be a costly problem, farmers are changing their farming practices by adapting rotations to help them deal with the situation. Some farmers have abandoned the crop altogether.
“Neonicotinoid seed treatments work well when used as part of an integrated pest management approach, with other tools in the toolbox like crop rotations, drilling dates and pyrethroid sprays.
“This application recognises that, because of the neonicotinoid restrictions, pest numbers have increased in recent years to such an extent that there are now areas of the country where these seed treatments are less likely to be of benefit – areas where the pest pressure is so high that the risk of losing oilseed rape is too great and control with pyrethroids is compromised by increased pesticide resistance. Overreliance on pyrethroids, caused by the neonicotinoid restrictions, is exacerbating this resistance problem.
“But there are areas where the pest pressure has not reached these levels yet, and where resistance hasn’t been an issue, where we believe highly targeted, highly controlled use of neonicotinoid seed treatment would help deliver significant benefits in controlling flea beetles and allowing crops to establish and thrive. It is these areas, equating to 11% of the national crop, which we have targeted with this application.
“With the absence of neonicotinoids causing farmers to stop growing oilseed rape, bees and beekeepers also stand to lose out from restrictions as the area of this valuable food source for all bee declines. There is still no clear evidence showing that neonicotinoids, on crops like winter oilseed rape, cause widespread impacts on bee populations.”