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  1. The Metaldehyde Stewardship Group has launched an enhanced campaign for 2017 to ensure maximum protection of the environment, and in particular birds, small mammals, and water.

    Speaking at the launch event, Simon McMunn, spokesman for the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG), explained why the campaign has evolved, and what this means for UK agriculture.  

    MSG Simon McMunn, MSG spokesman

    “It’s important to note that water stewardship remains vital and is still very much at the heart of the campaign,” he explained.

    “However, an issue that’s distinct from the water quality is that metaldehyde products are undergoing re-registration. And the regulatory risk assessment, which forms part of this process, has revealed a requirement for increased protection of birds and small mammals,
    “Because of this, stewardship is now a CRD-agreed condition of metaldehyde product availability and regulators will be monitoring the campaign success closely.

    “This means it’s more important than ever for the industry to pull together and follow stewardship advice, to help preserve the future of the active ingredient, which remains a key tool in fighting slug control,” explained Simon.

    The MSG highlighted four stewardship steps that should be implemented.
    “Firstly, there is a new guideline for 2017 which states that no pellets should be allowed to fall within a minimum of 10 metres of any field boundary or watercourse,” explained Simon.

    “The buffer was previously six metres and it only applied to watercourses. However, increasing it to 10 metres of all field boundaries will help protect birds and small mammals, and provide additional protection to water.

    “Secondly, with the view of helping to minimise slug infestations and reduce the need for treatment, metaldehyde slug pellets must only be used as part of a wider Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme.

    “Factors such as soil and stubble management, planting methods, weather, trapping and monitoring should all be considered as part of slug control programmes. And, if treatment is necessary, it’s imperative to refer to the full set of MSG guidelines,” he added.

    “A field’s soil type, topography and proximity to a water course are key to whether metaldehyde applications could be a risk that will subsequently impact drinking water quality, and should always be considered.

    “And, last but not least, we want people to stop and think ‘B.I.R.D’ before applying. This stands for Buffer, I’m legal, Records, and Dose.

    “These steps are all easy to implement but will have significant impacts on the future of metaldehyde availability. I’d really encourage everyone one to get involved and apply pellets responsibly.”

    Speaking at the event, David Ellerton of Hutchinsons endorsed the role of stewardship.  
    “I firmly believe that stewardship is one of the core reasons that metaldehyde is still available to farmers and it’s a credit to the work of the MSG and the agricultural industry over the past nine years.

    MSG David Ellerton, Hutchinsons

    “In common with all the agronomy organisations, Hutchinsons is fully behind the enhanced campaign and I will be personally spreading the best practise messages in my role as the firms Stewardship Champion.

    “We need to keep this momentum going forwards and I’d therefore encourage the agricultural industry to get engaged with the enhanced stewardship and implement the necessary steps required to protect metaldehyde.” ~

    Label recommendation

    The MSG has clarified that labels on packs of slug pellets remain unchanged for 2017. However, the group is clear that the highlighted steps should be implemented with immediate effect.

    More information on the enhanced stewardship can be found at www.getpelletwise.co.uk

    MSG Get Pelletwise logo

  2. A welcome recovery in prices, combined with an exciting choice of competitive varieties, has strengthened the case for including oilseed rape in rotations.

    Several seasons of cabbage stem flea beetle damage, falling margins and establishment issues have hit the area grown in many southern and eastern areas, but Hutchinsons National Seeds Manager David Bouch is confident the crop will bounce back.

    “Around 40,000ha was lost last year due to a combination of flea beetle damage and drought in some south-eastern areas, but I’ve no doubt that at current prices of around £350/t there is a strong place for oilseed rape in 2018. Indeed, we’ve already seen the area rise in other areas, particularly further north and west,” he says.

    “Add in the potential oil premium worth 1.5% for every 1% of oil content above 40% and you could soon add another £26-27/t. As a rule of thumb, if oilseed rape prices are approaching two-and-a-half times the price of wheat, it should stack up well in most rotations.”

    Furthermore, oilseed rape provides a timely entry for wheat and offers a number of other rotational benefits, as illustrated in the infographic opposite.

    Infographic

    Rapid Establishment Vital
    Mr Bouch acknowledges oilseed rape can be challenging to grow, especially without neonicotinoid seed treatments, and insists that early sowing and quick establishment are essential for success.

    He advises growers select two to three different varieties to suit different field characteristics and spread risk. Opting for those with strong, early growth characteristics enables young crops to extract water and nutrients better and outgrow any potential damage caused by CSFB, pigeons, or slugs.

    The built-in vigour of hybrids makes them an obvious choice, especially if drilling is delayed into September, Mr Bouch continues, although conventional open-pollinated types still have a place on many farms, particularly when sown early in the drilling window around 15-20 August

    A number of varieties are available through Hutchinsons that will be of interest for 2017/18, as summarised below:

    Variety: DK Exalte
    Type: Hybrid    
    Region: North    
    Comments: Not on AHDB Recommended List, but consistent performer with good agronomic traits. Vigorous growth habit in autumn and spring

    Variety: Campus
    Type: Conventional    
    Region: UK    
    Comments: Open pollinated variety featuring good autumn vigour. Performed well last year with increased gross output.

    Variety: Architect
    Type: Hybrid    
    Region: UK    
    Comment: First restored hybrid with Turnip Yellows Virus resistance. AHDB candidate variety.

    Variety: Anastasia
    Type: Conventional    
    Region: North    
    Comment: Strong agronomics, including rapid autumn development and good gross output.

    Variety: Arrow    
    Type: Hybrid    
    Region: UK    
    Comment: Candidate for RL 2017/18 with the highest agronomic merit score. Good oil and high yielding with pod shatter resistance. Rated 7 for LLS and 8 for Stem Canker resistance.

    Boost Early Growth
    Mr Bouch says sowing certified seed helps ensure good establishment and he also recommends including a seed treatment to protect against early disease and aid establishment.

    “The main fungicide option is based on prochloraz + thiram, which is effective against soil-borne damping off diseases, seed-borne phoma and alternaria.”

    There is also an array of nitrite and micronutrient-based treatments to stimulate root development and improve crop establishment, he says.

    “It’s not a particularly expensive addition and given what’s happening with CSFB, anything that gives the crop a boost must be welcomed.”

    Keeping seed rates down will be another key to success, as it encourages plants to branch out more and intercept light more efficiently than dense crops, Mr Bouch notes.
    “Seed rates for oilseed rape have dropped significantly over the last few years. If you’ve typically sown a conventional variety at 5.5kg/ha in the past, you’ll be nearer 3.5kg/ha now.”

    “Many growers will sow crops at 40 seeds/m2, but given the lack of seed treatment for flea beetle, those in high-risk areas may still nudge rates closer to 50 seeds/m2, as insurance.”

  3. There is a real danger of some very positive agricultural practices being undermined, if key active ingredients, such as glyphosate, continue to be lost due to a hazard based regulatory system responding to political pressure, says Stuart Hill, Hutchinsons Head of Technology and Innovation.

    “Available chemistry has fallen by around two thirds since the review of plant protection product regulations began back in 1991, under EC Directive 91/414 (since replaced by Regulation 1107/2009),” he says.

    “However, whenever there is a challenge, innovation comes to the fore. Our R & D crop protection partners have responded to the regulatory challenge, although there have been major cost increases.”

    Stuart_HillJan17

    There have been two rounds of industry rationalisation since the late 1990s, aimed at gaining market share through mergers and acquisitions. Part of the objective has been to mitigate against the £250 million cost of developing a new active ingredient. More significantly, the manufacturers have diversified, investing significant R & D budget in other critical areas such as genetics, nutritional products, biologicals and more recently precision farming and data.

    This has all coincided with the realisation that farm output has been challenged, as yields have plateaued, fixed costs have increased, resistance has developed in all areas of chemistry and our soils have been struggling with a loss of organic matter, associated structure and biology, says Mr Hill.

    “At Hutchinsons we are investing more in broad but relevant long term research and development projects such as the Brampton black grass centre of excellence and satellite sites, to actively deliver management of black grass and soils culturally, whilst optimising machinery systems. The development of our precision farming and data management service, Omnia, is enabling more detailed analysis of the benefits of linking different agricultural practices.”

    Future Developments
    “During this period, it has felt quiet on the new active ingredient front. However, investment in conventional chemistry by many R & Ds has increased and we have been experiencing development time lag. We are now, arguably, about to see the most significant period of active ingredient development in 3 decades.”

    Mr Hill poses the question - will new chemistry and technology resolve all our problems? He believes not and that a combination of factors will continue to cause significant challenge.

     “With the loss of so much chemistry, then the pressure multiplies exponentially on the narrowing options left. The vegetable, fruit, herb and pulse sectors especially are struggling with very few options and resistance management becomes highly restrictive.”

    “The emergence of biological control is proving a success in protected crop situations and to an extent in fruit, but in broad acre cropping significant development is required to prove efficacy.”

    “Suppliers are ultimately businesses and have to justify their investment. This is very challenging when an analysis of area and return is calculated in some of these smaller crop sectors and investment is then directed into other cropping, or other parts of the world.”

    Threat to Soils
    Additionally, in some instances the options are down to a single active ingredient. This is the case with glyphosate. It is a key component in the agronomic farming systems described, in practices such as rotation change, reduced tillage and direct drilling that have transformed black grass control and over time will benefit soil health, says Mr Hill.
    “Diquat is also under regulatory review pressure. If both of these are lost, then there are no options and the positive path we have started will be lost with a return to a more mechanised approach putting more pressure on our soils and environment.”

    “Glyphosate has been classified by the RAC (Risk Assessment Committee) of ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) as ‘non carcinogenic’. This is good news but only the first step. The decision now has to be ratified by the Commission by the end of the year to allow re approval of glyphosate products.”

    The message is clear, complacency is not an option and lobbying must continue to ensure the right outcome - to maintain positive, long term sustainable farming.

    How Can You Help?
    We are asking growers to write to their MP and local MEPs to request support in the re-registration of Glyphosate. A campaign highlighting the benefits of glyphosate to the farming industry is needed and to assist this Hutchinsons have prepared supporting information and a draft template letter to MPs/MEPs, for growers to individualise to reflect the needs of their own farming business.

    Please contact us for a copy of our recent letter and supporting materials: [email protected]

    Key Actives Under Review
    Over 100 different products are up for re-approval in the next two years, including:

    Glyphosate    
    Re-authorised temporarily until end of 2017 – decision on future due before then

    Diquat    
    Stricter Max Residue Limit introduced 2016/17. Decision on future due by summer 2017

    Endocrine disruptors (includes key azoles)    
    Still no EC agreement on what will be included – work on-going, with decision due this year.

    Metaldehyde    
    Water companies report progress of stewardship measures in March 2017 – Defra consultation on usage options autumn 2017. Awaiting re-registration outcome

    Pendimethalin    
    Awaiting EU re-authorisation