Field Bean (Vicia faba) flowering, young crop growing in field, Bacton, Suffolk, England 2012© FLPA/REX/Shutterstock

News that the European Union is to ban the use of plant protection products (PPPs) on protein crops grown in ecological focus areas (EFAs) has been widely condemned by farmers on Twitter.

In order to maximise their basic farm payments, farmers are obliged to keep at least 5% of their claimed areas as EFAs.

See also: MEPs vote to ban pesticides in ecological focus areas

They have a number of options as to what they can do on this land – including leaving it fallow, maintaining buffer strips, growing nitrogen-fixing crops and planting hedges.

Many have elected to grow peas and beans, seeing this as the most commercially viable option, while also fitting in with the arable rotation and helping to improve the soil.

But the commission is keen to see a wider range of environmental options adopted so, as part of a so-called “simplification” package, has sought to ban the use of PPPs on protein crops in EFAs.

The decision is expected to apply for 2018 BPS claims onwards.

Commenting on Twitter, farmer David Hinchcliffe said the move would undermine EU protein crop production, resulting in even more imports from other parts of the world.

Pulse grower Peter Smith and Irish seeds manager Donal Fitzgerald also questioned the sustainability of the new policy on EFAs.

Nuffield scholar Thomas Bradshaw also predicted a fall in the sown area, while Cambridgeshire farmer David Walston said that legumes should be grown on their own merit.

Not everyone was so aggrieved, however, with rural action group Arc welcoming the development