By Connor Lynch
GUELPH — Dust kicked up by planters is the main culprit for seed treatments, such as the now heavily-regulated neonicotinoids, escaping into the environment.
That’s according to research by Dr. Art Schaafsma of the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus. “Our goal should be to reduce all residue escapes by 90 per cent,” said Schaafsma.
That’s to avoid having what happened to neonics in Ontario happen to the next seed treatment to come along, he said. “With neonics, the horse is out of the barn.”
Here are Schaafsma’s five steps to reduce seed treatment escape:
• Ensure pesticides stay on the seed by using approved fluency agents and polymers.
• Avoid abrasive seed lubricants.
• Filter and redirect planter exhaust dust into the soil.
• Ensure clean air flows through the vacuum intakes.
• Practice conservation tillage to minimize soil movement.
Installing dust deflectors isn’t enough, said Schaafsma. “The problem with a dust deflector is it puts it (seed treatment) on the soil’s surface,” where it’s very vulnerable to runoff from wind or water, he said. “It makes a difference, but it’s not enough in the eyes of the environmentalists, and that’s the rub.”
He added that prior to the neonicotinoid restrictions, there were very few farmers in Ontario installing dust deflectors, perhaps only as many as 17, he said.
“I don’t think we have a choice. We have to get rid of the dust coming out of those planters.”