Crop assurance is on track
Crop assurance and more
cost effective weed control
were key issues at the
second roadshow meeting of
the British Beet Research
Organisation in Ipswich last
week. Charles Abel reports
EFFORTS to ensure sugar users get the food safety assurances they want are on track.
But further refinements are likely to be needed to protect sugar beets share of the UK sugar market.
"The last thing we want is for a bad story about sugar from sugar beet, because markets will be snapped up by artificial sweetener suppliers," said British Sugars tech-nical services manager, Simon Fisher. Tighter controls on the use of industrial by-products, farm-yard manure and pesticides are all possible and crop rejections could become more common.
The firms audit of the 590 randomly selected fields in the national survey is helping. "Customers are satisfied with the audit trail," said operations support manager, Robin Limb. "We will continue with the audit for 2000 on the same basis, but we are always considering how to improve it for the future."
Merging with other assurance schemes was not ruled out, but considered unlikely. "The ultimate would be a full BS audit of every grower," Mr Fisher noted. But BS is keen not to burden growers with extra paperwork, stressed Mr Limb.
Meanwhile, advice is being refined to enhance the crops assurance status. Inappropriate pesticide use or contamination is a key concern, which is now being detected through both audit and residue monitoring.
Last year 10 cases were identified and referred to the Pesticides Safety Directorate for review, said Mr Fisher. One involving unapproved zeta-cypermethrin was deemed no risk, so the crop was accepted.
In all other cases crops were so badly damaged there was none to deliver. So far no outright rejections have been necessary, Mr Fisher said.
Confusion caused by similar looking pesticide containers should reduce this year with Dow Shield (clopyralid) in white bottles, rather than brown, which had been confused with Starane (fluroxypyr), he said.
He also urged growers to enter correct field areas in records, to prevent illegal application rates being calculated by computer programs.
Industrial by-products are another concern, new laws controlling their disposal making re-use on farmland more likely. But applications are less regulated than sewage sludge, Mr Fisher noted.
British Sugar wants growers to stop using septic tank waste and to advise area managers before applying any other by-products.
Pressure is also growing for tighter controls on farmyard manures. "Use on growing arable crops is certainly seen as a potential problem, because there is a perceivable path of transfer for pathogens," said Mr Fisher.
If a matrix for the safe use of farmyard manure came out, like the one for sewage sludge, British Sugar would follow it, he added.
• Buyers want assurance.
• BS audit working well.
• Close tabs on pesticides, GM crops, sewage sludge and industrial by-products.
• FYM use under pressure.
Sugar users demand assurances and growers need to provide them to protect market share, says British Sugar.