Neonicotinoids are banned

A vote to extend the ban on the use of certain insecticides – neonicotinoids or neonics – has been passed by the Standing Committee for Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) today. AgriLand understands that the use of the products will only be allowed in greenhouses.

Ahead of the vote, Mairead McGuinness, MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament, stated: “Since 2013, there has been a moratorium on the use of three neonics – imidacloprid, clothianadin and thiamethoxam – on flowering plants that are attractive to bees, such as maize and oilseed rape.

“These neonicotinoids are currently used as seed dressings on winter cereals in Ireland. However, a study published by the European Food Safety Authority has led the commission to consider the potential risk to wild pollinators and honey bees when they are on non-flowering crops.”

The vote was to extend the ban to all outdoor production crops, including: cereals; fodder beet; sugar beet; or maize.

In light of the vote, the commission will propose legislation to restrict the use of these three insecticides to controlled conditions inside greenhouses, McGuinness explained.

“As evidence evolves and a threat to bees is confirmed then action must follow. This will pose a challenge to cereal growers who depend on treated seed to prevent and control diseases and pests and will require that alternative tools are found for growers,” McGuinness added.

Impact on the Irish tillage sector

Speaking to AgriLand last December, Louise McNamara, an entomologist with Teagasc, outlined the effect that a ban on neonicotinoids would have on the Irish tillage sector; particularly on the cereals sector – which has seen increasing levels of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in recent years.

The product that Irish farmers will be most familiar with is Redigo Deter – a seed treatment which contains clothianidin. This seed treatment protects winter cereals against aphids for six-to-eight weeks after sowing. Aphids spread BYDV.

McNamara stated: “If it does go, it will have a huge impact on winter cereals in Ireland – particularly in coastal areas like Co. Cork.

The advantage of the seed treatment is that you’re not dependent on optimum weather conditions for spraying.

“The seed treatment gives you protection, so that you’re not as open to the effects of weather variability on spraying conditions – particularly in areas that are most at risk.”

Image source: Shane Casey

Trial Results

BYDV has shown to be a more serious problem on the coast where temperatures are higher.

The table below shows the level of BYDV infection on a winter barley trial site in Co. Carlow and a site in Co. Cork.

There are two treatments displayed – a crop sown with a seed dressing and a crop sown without a seed dressing. The level of infection is much higher in Co. Cork – most likely due to milder weather.

Source: Teagasc

BYDV has become a serious problem on tillage farms in Ireland in the past number of years. Aphids have become resistant to some of the pyrethroid-based products currently used for aphid control.

“We don’t know the level of resistant aphids in a field. Teagasc work by Michael Gaffney and Lael Walsh has shown that resistant aphids are widespread,” said McNamara.

“This work has been monitoring aphids in all of the major tillage regions in Ireland and testing these aphids for resistance. We will have that data next year.

We have recorded aphid numbers every two weeks on our sites (Co. Carlow and Co. Cork) and we can test those aphids for resistance levels right throughout the season.

The effects of the virus were notably different depending on area. McNamara stated that stunting was observed in plants in Co. Cork, but not in the trial site in Co. Carlow. Teagasc has tested leaf samples of plants for different strains of BYDV.

It should be noted that a new aphicide came on the market this year – Isoclast from Dow AgroSciences; but its use is not cleared for application to winter cereals at the early stages of crop development.