22 December 2000

Moves afoot to ensure SOLA work continues

TALKS are under way to make sure research backing specific off-label approvals (SOLAs) for pesticides does not dry up when the current source of information closes in the spring.

SOLAs give growers of so-called minor crops, like field vegetable, access to products which would not otherwise be supported by manufacturers.

Under a cost-saving exercise the HRI site at Stockbridge House, Yorks, which manages the SOLA residue testing programme is due to shut on Mar 31, 2001, says Martin Beckenham, chief executive of the Horticultural Development Council.

"All funding for the SOLA work comes from HDC," he says. Last year spending was about £300,000.

HRI and HDC met recently, and it is hoped that ways to ensure SOLA work continues will be agreed before Christmas, says Mr Beckenham.

"Continuity is the main thing we are trying to preserve." There are three main options, he explains. HRI, as contractor, could continue to do the work elsewhere, for example at its Kirton, Lincs site. HDC could take it over employing the current SOLA staff. "Or we could look for another contractor."

Whatever the decision it is vital that the work is maintained, says NFU pesticides specialist Chris Wise. "It is pivotal to the success of the British industry. HDC has spent £2m in the past few years on SOLAs and the programme is the showpiece MRL operation in Europe." &#42

SOLARESCUEPLAN

&#8226 Key residue trials centre to close.

&#8226 HDC/HRI negotiations under way.

&#8226 £300,000/year testing programme.

&#8226 Work "pivotal" according to NFU.