October 10, 2014


Pest infestation destroys UK rapeseed crops



The infestation of cabbage stem flea beetles has damaged rapeseed crops in the UK, an unfortunate development which the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) blames on a recent EU ban on the application of certain anti-pest chemicals.


"There was a derogation for a new product to be used to help out with control, but it's yet to be seen whether that's in time to halt the damage or whether it's too little too late," said Jack Watts, the lead analyst at the AHDB's Home-Grown Cereals Authority.


So far, about 3.2% of winter rapeseed area in England and Scotland, equivalent to 17,000 hectares, may have been affected, with half of the area being replanted, based on an assessment by ADAS agronomists commissioned by the AHDB. The assessment is conducted on 32,000 hectares in 30 counties during September 22-29, 2014.


The most severe damage this season is reported in Hampshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, where more than 40% of winter rapeseed were damaged at levels at or above treatment thresholds. More losses are anticipated as many plants are still at an early growth stage.


The earliest sown fields in mid-August were in better shape, having developed past the most vulnerable growth stage before pest infestation, AHDB added. Other fields planted in the later part of September are spared due to a falling insect populations.


Three neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used in seed treatments for rapeseed, has been banned by the EU after a research revealed harmful effects to bees.


In an emergency move, farmers were granted use of one such product in late September, to combat pest infestation, a decision that came too late, according to the UK National Farmers Union.


The UK has the fourth-largest rapeseed crop in the EU's fourth, behind Germany, France and Poland, according to Oil World. Crop numbers from that region is expected to reach 2.5 million tonnes in the 2014-15 season, up from 2.13 million tonnes in the previous year.

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