12 December 1997

Danes face prospect of further curbs on inputs

1997 Novartis/FW Farm

Sprayer Operator of the Year,

Ben Gilg, visited Denmark as

part of his prize. Reduced

rate spraying and early

drilling were key themes.

John Allan reports

1997 Novartis/FW Farm

Sprayer Operator of the Year,

Ben Gilg, visited Denmark as

part of his prize. Reduced

rate spraying and early

drilling were key themes.

John Allan reports

LEGISLATION cutting total pesticide and fertiliser use is a key issue for Danish arable farmers.

The original drive for a 50% cut by tonnage was quite easily achieved by using low spray rates and more concentrated products. More recently the target was adjusted, requiring the 1981-1985 average of 2.7 full pesticide doses to be cut to the equivalent of 1.4 full doses by 1997.

That has not been achieved, raising fears that additional pesticide taxes and further restrictions will be demanded by parliament, says Vagn Lundsten, plant production manager for HG Handelscenter, a £10m turnover privately owned agrisupply business based at Venslev. Indeed, a wholesale switch to organic farming has even been suggested, he notes. Coping with such arbitrary rulings on crop inputs is a challenge for all involved with Danish arable farming.

Spraying at 90-120 litres/ha is now standard for many products in Denmark. Dose rates are often 20-30% of label recommendations and repeated every three weeks. That has helped farmers meet legislative demands for a cut in overall pesticide use. But other problems are more challenging.

A prime example is weed control in oilseed rape. Product choice has been limited to trifluralin or clopyralid. As a result trials are under way to achieve weed control by the use of wide drilling, coupled with mechanical weed control.

The withdrawal of MCPA for all crops, combined with low dose rates of other products, led to a resurgence of thistles. But a limited reinstatement has allowed MCPA to be used at 100g of active ingredient late in the season. The thinking is that the chemical is trapped in the crop canopy so cannot get down to the soil and leach into water supplies.

Along with controls on pesticide use, fertiliser rates are also limited. A large monitoring operation is backed up by big efforts to ensure compliance, says Mr Lundsten. Any over-use can lead to fines.

One of the few inputs being used more is sulphur. That started 7-8 years ago and every crop now receives sulphur according to need.

Vagn Lundsteen (right) explains the popularity of Lurmarks Lo-Drift nozzles in Denmark to Ben Gilg, UK Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year for 1997.

DANISH FARMING

&#8226 Many farmers have part-time jobs, often in related industries.

&#8226 Low drift, low volume spraying common.

&#8226 Chemical and fertiliser reduction policies.