Farmers are not moving away from neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds as quickly as the provincial government had hoped.
Back in 2014, the province announced plans to reduce the use of neonics on farms by 80 per cent by 2017. The province says the insecticide kills bees, but ignored at least six other honeybee stressors. The Grain Farmers of Ontario has hotly disputed the province’s position, arguing that studies have shown that neonics are safe for bees and that the province listened to environmentalists and anti-agriculture activists instead of relying on science.
According to provincial numbers, there were almost 4 million acres of neonic-treated seeds planted in 2014, compared to almost 3 million last year, a drop of 25 per cent, or 1-million acres.
Neonic-treated corn seeds dropped from 2.1 million acres in 2014 to 1.6 million acres in 2017, a 22 per cent reduction.
Neonic-treated soybean seeds dropped from 1.8 million acres in 2014 to 1.3 million acres last year, a 27 per cent reduction.
While acreage for corn and soybeans each dropped by about 500,000 acres across the province, only corn growers now have a commercial alternative to neonicotinoids.
Counting all seeds, neonic-treated, organic and conventional, there were 3 million acres of soybeans and 2.1 million acres of corn planted in 2017. That means neonics were used on about 59 per cent of Ontario corn and soybean acreage last year. In 2014, 80 per cent of corn and soybean acres had neonics.
Farmers now need a pest assessment on all fields that use neonics. Some farmers say it takes an hour of paperwork and scouting for every 100 acres of farmland they plant. In most counties, farmers can do the paperwork and scouting themselves, but farmers in Frontenac, Prince Edward, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry counties now need a professional pest advisor to do the work. Other Eastern Ontario counties will need a professional pest advisor starting August 31.