By Tom Collins
GUELPH — Dust deflectors on planters and lubricants on seeds are not doing a good enough job stopping neonicotinoid-treated seed dust from being spread through the air, says a University of Guelph researcher.
Two years ago, Health Canada tried to lower bee deaths by ordering farmers to use dust deflectors on planters and to add lubricants to seeds. However, that fluency agent is only about 50 to 60 per cent effective, says University of Guelph researcher Art Schaafsma, and dust deflectors leave dust on the top of the ground, allowing the wind to blow the neonic dust elsewhere.
“The bottom line is whatever is on the seed needs to stay on the seed, and whatever goes through the planter, any exhaust has to be put in the ground, not on the ground,” he says.
As well, highly-concentrated residues of neonic dust are coming out of the vacuum planter exhaust. There are several ways of preventing this, such as making sure clean air is coming into the intake so dirty air isn’t scouring the seeds and creating the neonic exhaust.
Schaafsma and a university technician have been able to modify an eight-row planter so there is little dust when planting. As each seed is planted, any dust in the machine also gets buried into the ground.
Filters on the dust deflectors also help as they ensure that air that does go into the intake is clean.
It’s up to each individual farmer to push for changes on his own planter as equipment manufacturers haven’t addressed the issue since it’s not a issue outside of Ontario, says Schaafsma.