OSR in flower

Agrochemical companies are expected to apply for emergency permission so farmers can use banned neonicotinoid treatments this year.

NFU policy director Andrew Clark said the union was encouraging agchem firms to apply for emergency authorisation so growers could use neonicotinoid seed treatments when planting oilseed rape from this summer onwards.

The union had already held talks with agchem companies on the issue, he told 400 delegates at the Norfolk Farming Conference on Thursday (12 February).

See also: Doubts raised over neonics ban as bee scientists clash

“It is absolutely clear that neonicotinoids are going to be critical this summer and into the autumn,” Dr Clark told Farmers Weekly. Growers had seen rape crops devastated by cabbage stem flea beetle in 2014 and it was important that the situation did not repeat itself.

Neonicotinoid seed treatments have been banned by Brussels for two years over fears that the chemicals damage bee populations, which are vital for pollination. But the NFU continues to argue that the findings are based on unsound science.

The union had hoped agchem firms would secure special authorisation for neonicotinoid seed treatments to be used last year. But the process took longer than expected – prompting Syngenta to withdraw an authorisation request for its Cruiser seed treatment last July.

At the time, Syngenta said it needed government approval by the end of June so it had enough time to supply treated seed to growers before the new season. The NFU has started lobbying earlier this year in the hope that any approval is granted in good time.

Whether there was an outbreak of flea beetle would depend on a range of issues, including the weather, said Dr Clark. But he added: “The fact that we weren’t able to get good control last autumn probably means there is a greater potential burden this autumn.”