21 May 1999

Pesticide tax:Lobby as hard as you can – BAA

By Andrew Blake

HEFTY pesticide taxation remains a threat – to avoid it farmers need to argue harder and explain more widely why they need crop protection products, says the British Agrochemicals Association.

"The BAA has fought vigorously against what it regards as a potentially damaging tax for over a year, says director general, Anne Buckenham. "We are frustrated because it has taken resources away from other activities, such as stewardship."

But although the March budget contained no reference to a tax on crop protection, a similar move to extract cash from the quarrying industry through an aggregates tax shows the risk remains, says BAA government relations manager, Martin Savage. "It is very clear that the government wants to press ahead with a pesticides tax.

"Our industry has lobbied hard against it. But there is a view that we would say that wouldnt we? Now it is obvious that the way ahead is for farmers to lobby directly."

Targeting the apparent split on policy between environment minister Michael Meacher and agriculture minister, Nick Brown, could pay, he suggests. Individual letters from growers outlining how a tax would hit their businesses need sending to both.

Constructive dialogue with the government to seek alternatives, which might include a levy, would be welcome, he stresses. But as the banding proposals stand, products deemed most harmful could suffer a tax of over 100%.

Farmers need pesticides and must be prepared to explain their benefits to a broad non-farming audience, agrees colleague Richard Trow-Smith. To help them a new BAA leaflet, The Facts about Crop Protection, is being widely distributed. "Farmers feel they are the most misunderstood people on the planet."

The leaflet, which opens up to form a poster, highlights how, in BAAs view, everyone benefits. "It contains lots of simple messages to help tell the story. For example one female aphid can lead to 600bn in one year – the weight of 10,000 men. And in 1940 it took five people to produce your food. Now it takes only two."

Six new titles are being added to the BAAs series of free stewardship leaflets:

&#8226 Agrochemical Storage

&#8226 Emergency procedures

&#8226 Pesticides & Conservation

&#8226 Pesticide Training

&#8226 Protective Clothing

&#8226 Record Keeping.

Produced after consultation with MAFF, PSD, HSE, EA, FWAG and the NFU, they join six earlier titles in a series which has proved the most popular the association has ever produced, says Mr Trow-Smith.

They are said to be particularly useful for growers involved in crop assurance schemes, keeping them abreast of changes in regulations.

Ag-chem sales

Wet weather in 1998 had a dramatic effect on the UK pesticide market last year, says Mr Savage. Herbicides sales were down at least 7.1%, and fungicides up 7.9% largely reflecting demand for potato blight products. But the sodden autumn encouraging slugs saw 168% more molluscicides sold than in 1997.

Spray operators can make sure they stay within the law with this Swedish wind speed meter, says agent Silva (UK). The £68 hand-held plastic programmable Windwatch measures current, peak and average speeds as well as temperatures from -20C to 55C (-4F to 131F), including windchill. Its 3v battery is said to last four years and it floats!

Protect cereals…

CEREAL disease pressure is severe, so even if crops appear healthy robust flag leaf protection is justified.

Yellow rust is set to spread rapidly from unprotected crops and latent Septoria is almost certain to be present on the flag leaf by now, says John Peck business development manager for BASF.

"The problem with yellow rust is it bypasses the lower leaves and comes straight into the top of the canopy."

Wheat risks

Wheats awaiting a flag leaf spray are at particular risk. "The key to yellow rust control is getting the spray on before the disease becomes apparent and making sure the gap between T1 and T2 is not too long," he stresses.

T2 sprays should be applied within about 30 days of T1. "Five weeks is too long, even following a robust conventional programme or a strobilurin."

After recent rains latent Septoria is almost certain to be present on flag leaves, adds trials manager Stuart Godding. That means a reasonable rate of a good triazole is essential to eradicate the disease. "Growers need optimum kickback. A three quarter rate is a minimum."

Yellow rust

Brigadier, Savannah and Cockpit are all showing yellow rust infections even where treated at the companys trial site in Cambs, he notes.

In Bedfordshire Profarmas Craig Morgan reports widespread yellow rust in trials. Out of 35 varieties only Malacca, Shamrock, Consort, Charger and Claire are unaffected where untreated. "Disease pressure is very high. The flag leaf is just emerging – yellow rust needs treating now."

Prevent blight getting on top of you with Zenecas Shirlan Program Blight Tracker internet service. Blight on early crops in the south west, combined with high incidence last year, a mild winter and an early spring, could threaten main ware growing regions, warns ADAS blight expert Nick Bradshaw. If weather conditions remain conducive a reservoir of disease on volunteers and dumps could explode, he warns. Local information is available at Zenecas web site (http://www.zeneca-crop.co.uk).

Spring barley tips

GROWERS of Chariot and Derkado should be on the alert for mildew this season, despite the resistance rating of nine for both varieties, warns CSC Crop Cares Keith Dawson.

A breakdown in the resistance from the MLo gene is feared, after increased levels of mildew were seen in both varieties last season.

In the past week mildew has also increased rapidly in more susceptible varieties Prisma and Optic in Scotland. Dr Dawson advises protecting Chariot and Derkado with a third rate of quinoxyfen (Fortress) plus adjuvant Arma now. If mildew is already established then spiroxamine (Torch) may be more appropriate, he adds.

"The Mlo gene is the only major resistance to mildew we have in spring barley, so it makes sense to try to protect it.

A little investment now could keep costs down in the medium term."

Lodging tank-mix

PREVENT linseed lodging now with a dose of New 5C Cycocel before flower buds become visible. Tank mixing the pgr with fungicide tebuconazole brought significant benefits in Semundo trials last year, it adds. "The combined effect of the two products made the difference between standing and lodging," explains Semundos Jeremy Taylor. "As a result we are specifying its use on all our seed crops this year."