The future of oilseed rape production in the UK is in serious danger from the combined threats of the ongoing pesticides approvals update and the Water Framework Directive, James Clarke of ADAS told a packed HGCA agronomist conference in Northampton.

A revised estimate by ADAS of the impact of the agreed common position between the European Commission and EU agricultural ministers on the proposed pesticides approvals legislation suggested that there would be fewer options for disease control, and less control of diseases like phoma and light leaf spot, he explained.

The likely impact would be a cut in production of 5-10% where phoma was a problem and 3-8% from light leaf spot, a provisional estimate suggested.

Mr Clarke also warned that Water Framework Directive legislation could seriously hamper weed control in the crop.

The directive aimed to maintain good chemical and ecological status of surface and ground waters, he explained. Environmental objectives will be set in 2009 for each body of water, with a programme of measures to meet those objectives being carried out through to 2015 initially.

Individual pesticides are likely to be required to be below 0.1ppb, which put products used at high rates or on large areas at risk.

According to Mr Clarke’s own assessment, that included several key oilseed rape herbicides, such as propyzamide, carbetamide and metazachlor, as well as the slug killer metaldehyde.

The loss of those weed-killers would make weed control, especially blackgrass, in oilseed rape very difficult, with yield losses of up to 20%, he said.

“If we can’t use those products it could be curtains for oilseed rape. We’ve got find ways of keeping them out of water, and do it better than we do now,” he warned.

Key actives for other crops, including chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos and mecoprop, might be at risk from exceeding the environmental quality standard that would be used to judge ecological status in the directive, he said.

“The Water Framework Directive is probably even more important than the revision of 91/414 [the EU pesticides approval legislation],” he concluded.

Pesticide proposals might cost wheat growers over £150m

James-Clarke-1

Losses in wheat production resulting from lack of control of blackgrass or septoria could cost growers more than £150m a year, the provisional estimates from ADAS suggest.
Blackgrass control, in particular, could become a serious problem for growers under the common position agreed, Mr Clarke (pictured) said. “We would likely lose pendimethalin, on top of already losing trifluralin and IPU, and resistance is developing, or has developed, to all other highly effective actives.
“In addition, if we lose key oilseed rape herbicides because of the water framework directive we lose that crop as a cleaning crop and one where we can use actives where there is no resistance.
“The future looks good if you’re a blackgrass plant.”
Production losses could amount to about 8% under the approvals plans, ADAS estimates suggest, rising to 12% under both directives. “That might be an underestimate because of the increased burden in wheat without the control in oilseed rape.”
Septoria, too, could cause production losses of up to 8%, if more severe proposals remove some or even all triazole fungicide options, the study predicts. Even so, Mr Clarke said reasonable disease control should still be possible through the use of chlorothalonil and carboximides, such as boscalid.