How to stay compliant following systemic insecticide changes

Growers are being advised to familiarise themselves with changes to the conditions of use for key systemic insecticides this spring to avoid falling foul of the rules.

Across various crops, insecticide options have dwindled over recent years. How, where and when they are used are also in a state of flux as regulators update risk assessments on a regular basis.

Acetamiprid, in products such as InSyst, has recently been reapproved by the chemicals regulation division (CRD) of the Health and Safety Executive, and in addition to the new-label crop list including sugar beet, there has inevitably been some additional tweaks to its conditions of use elsewhere.

See also: Why primed OSR seed could help with crop establishment

These tweaks include different application timings in potatoes and oilseed rape, and for all crops there are new instructions designed to protect non-target arthropods (see “In summary – systemic insecticide changes”).

Because there will be stocks of the old-label (Mapp 13414) product in farm and distribution chemical stores, it’s important to ensure that sprayer operators check, record, and use InSyst in accordance with the relevant label.

Pros and cons

Both old and new labels have pros and cons, so manufacturer Certis’ technical specialist, Henry Welham, stresses that growers cannot simply pick and choose the best of both and use one Mapp number in their crop records.

“An example would be in sugar beet, which has recently been granted a full label approval. If a beet grower has old-label stock on farm, it should not be used in the crop.

In potatoes, growers can still apply old-label product to crops before tuber initiation (BBCH 40), but that is not allowed if using product carrying the new label, he says.

“New-label InSyst must also be applied before 31 July, and a 21-day interval between applications must be respected.”

Mr Welham adds that record-keeping also needs to be in order – a Mapp number recorded in software such as Gatekeeper or Muddy Boots must correspond to the product applied.

“It’s not enough to rely on the Mapp numbers displayed on invoices from your supplier, so always check what stock is in the store to avoid costly mistakes.”

Practical implications 

While the practical implications of the label changes are limited in some situations, for potato growers there is a little more focus required, particularly in seed crops when aphids start to fly.

In addition to InSyst label changes, Japanese manufacturer ISK, which owns active ingredient flonicamid, is currently investigating its residue behaviour when applied to potatoes with adjuvant oils and at different timings.

The label on both products already prohibited its use with adjuvant oils in ware crops, as its use has already been linked with maximum residue level (MRL) exceedances in the Netherlands a few years ago.

However, the ongoing investigation will aim to provide data to CRD on setting a future MRL and until that work is complete, ISK and marketing companies Belchim and Syngenta – which sell Teppeki and Afinto, respectively – do not support its use in either seed or ware.

In statements seen by Farmers Weekly, both companies said: “If you choose to apply [flonicamid] to potatoes you do so at your own risk, as ISK and [both marketing companies] reject any and all liability for MRL exceedance. 

So, what does this uncertainty mean for growers? Spud Agronomy adviser John Sarup points out that all flonicamid products are still approved, so technically it is legal to apply them as part of aphid control programmes. 

Selling tops 

The discussion he’s been having with his seed growers is whether they intend to sell tops (oversize seed) on as ware, which is the only market where you will encounter MRL issues.

“For me, that is where the problem lies – you need to ask yourself whether you are a seed or ware grower.

“We are using crop protection programmes on seed crops not permitted on ware crops, so if you are selling tops onto the ware market then you are going to fall foul of the rules anyway. The flonicamid situation only reinforces that point,” he explains.

In Mr Sarup’s mind, there is no risk of using a full systemic aphicide programme, including two InSyst sprays and two flonicamid sprays when aphid activity begins, provided that the crop is grown for seed only.

There is also the option of Movento (spirotetramat), but this can only be applied to flowering varieties at the end of flowering (from BBCH 69).

This leads on to the wider question about how much growers receive for growing seed, with margins tight and producers currently paid by the tonne, instead of replantable hectares like in other crop sectors.

Fair price 

If seed price increased and growers were paid for replantable hectares, it would encourage seed growers to burn down earlier and only market tubers as seed, which would reduce virus risk and eliminate MRL risk. 

“Seed houses need to ask themselves whether they want good-quality, virus-free seed or not, and pay a fair price for it.  

“Otherwise, with commodity prices where they are, it will be much more attractive for growers to plant winter wheat or oilseed rape, as trying to grow clean potato seed won’t be worth the hassle.” 

Mr Sarup adds that insecticide uncertainty reiterates the necessity to look at all integrated pest management options, such as the use of oils and wildflower margins and strips to encourage aphid predators, which is being pioneered by Scottish Agronomy.

In summary – systemic insecticide changes

InSyst new label (Mapp 19873)

Potatoes 

  • Pre-harvest interval (PHI) changed from 14 days to seven days
  • Spray interval for seed potatoes changed from seven days to 21 days
  • InSyst must now be applied between BBCH growth stage 40 and 89 (previously no restriction on first spray)

Oilseed rape 

  • PHI 28 days (previously latest application timing of BBCH 69)
  • InSyst application must be made between BBCH 50 and 80 

Sugar beet (now fully approved on new label)

  • Applications between BBCH 12 and 39
  • PHI of 28 days 
  • If InSyst is applied between BBCH 12 and 19, another application of any acetamiprid product must not be made to the same field until the second spring, regardless of crop grown 

All crops

  • To protect non-target insects/arthropods, an untreated buffer zone of 5m to non-crop land should be respected
  • To protect non-target insects/arthropods, applications must not be made after 31 July

Flonicamid products (like Teppeki and Afinto)

  • Ongoing investigation into residue behaviour when applied to potatoes
  • Use of flonicamid in potatoes is not supported by marketing companies for 2022
  • Any application is done at the grower’s risk

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