Aid sought to tackle crop bugs

FARMERS ARE bidding to be granted emergency use of insecticides to treat crops facing high risk of damage from flea beetles.

Flea beetle is a major problem for the successful production of oil seed rape. Picture: Simon Hulme

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it has made further applications to the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) - a branch of the Health and Safety Executive - for the of neonicotinoid seed treatments for the areas under the “very highest” threat of flea beetle damage for autumn drilling.

The current applications are much narrower than the NFU’s previous applications, the union said, and it is urging CRD and Defra to make a decision urgently.

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Guy Smith, the union’s vice-president, said: “The CRD’s application process has put us in a position where treatment and distribution of the seed may not make it in time for drilling.

“We realise that the use applied for isn’t as wide as is needed; flea beetle has devastated many crops across the country and we have limited foresight of where the pest will emerge next season. But we hope by making this second round of applications, we can provide relief from the pest for at least some farmers.

“It should demonstrate in field why neonicotinoid seed dressings are so important when it comes to establishing vigorous crops of oilseed rape.”

The threat of flea beetle attack on oilseed rape crops are a widespread problem, said NFU crops board chairman Mike Hambly s.

“Neonicotinoid seed dressing has been an effective and targeted way of protecting crops from this,” he said. “Without this treatment, growing one of the most important crops in the UK sustainably is becoming nearly impossible for many farmers and many are using older products which the pest is increasingly resistant to.”

A timely response to the application was vital for the logistics of seed distribution, he said.