The practical future of under sown spring cereals within the Entry Level Stewardship scheme could be at risk with the confirmation that any pesticides used on such crops must be approved for all the crops sown.

“There is a widely held misconception that you can use any fungicide, for example, approved for use on spring barley, on crops with under-sown ryegrass and clover,” explains Malcolm Smith of Masstock. “But you can’t. I have had it confirmed [by the Pesticides Safety Directorate] that the product has to be approved for use in all three crops.” Growers failing to comply could be picked up in any RPA inspection for cross-compliance, he warns.

Crop spraying big

A lot of fungicides approved for use on spring barley don’t have approval for use on clover or ryegrass

Options for growers wanting to treat are severely restricted as a result, he notes. “In the case of spring barley, ryegrass and clover there aren’t any fungicides you could legally use. If it was just under-sown ryegrass you would be able to use propiconazole, which is a good fungicide, but hardly cutting edge.

“If the grass is sown for seed there are more options, because there are a number of SOLAs available.”

Herbicide options are similarly restricted, although phenoxy herbicides, such as MCPA and MCPB can be used. If clover is not sown then Swipe (bromoxynil + ioxynil + mecoprop-P) can be used. No growth regulators are approved for use in spring barley, ryegrass and clover.

Under-sown grass or clover leys are popular in certain parts of the country, such as Hampshire and Wiltshire and in Scotland, as well as being an option in ELS, he notes. “Growers use them so they can get the grass or clover established four to six months ahead of the game. These restrictions do make under sown crops more difficult.”

One farmer, who contacted Farmers Weekly, said the restriction put the future of under-sown spring cereals into doubt, where it was being used to gain Entry Level Stewardship points.