By Tom Collins
With the province’s phased-in ban on neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds, farmers wanting to use the neonic pesticide in Lambton, Middlesex and Wellington counties will now need professional pest advisors to do the pest assessments. But those advisors are encouraging farmers to go with another seed product.
Farmers in the three counties can avoid paying for a pest advisor and still use neonic seeds for the 2018 planting season if they buy their seeds within one year of conducting their own pest assessment. All other counties will be phased into the neonic ban over the next two years.
New provincial regulations require farmers to get a pest assessment before being allowed to use neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds. The regulations were brought in as a result of a high number of bee deaths over the 2013-14 winter even though studies have been far from conclusive on whether neonics cause bee deaths, argues the Grain Farmers of Ontario, saying the decision was political to appease environmentalists. The GFO says there are at least six other bee stressors.
Ryan Benjamins, a certified crop advisor at Wyoming in Lambton County, is willing to conduct pest assessments, but only for current clients. He’s been steering farmers towards other alternatives, but has had about 10 farmers call him since July looking for crop assessments.
“It’s a pile of time,” he said. “That’s the whole challenge with the regulations. Sometimes we get what we want. Sometimes we don’t find it. Then we wonder, are we doing it right? Is it the wrong time of year? Is it too dry? It does take a lot of work.”
Donald Lunn, a certified crop advisor at Alvinston in Lambton County, is willing to conduct pest assessments, but only for a few customers. He said it would take about two-and-a-half days to do pest assessments and paperwork for 1,000 acres, but he hasn’t fielded any calls.
“So far, it sounds like most guys are going to opt out of neonics,” Lunn said.
Many crop advisors won’t conduct the assessments because they’re too time-consuming. Maizex director of business management, Steve Denys, said it was by government design that there would be problems getting crop advisors to do assessments. A certified crop advisor has to be present when the samples are taken, which is a lot of extra work for already-busy crop advisors.
“The regulations were written to make it problematic,” said the Chatham farmer. “That’s why most people are refusing to do it. The government wrote the law in such a way that it (job of getting neonic approval) is not meant to work.”
For corn growers, the alternative to neonics are DuPont Pioneer’s Lumivia and Syngenta’s Fortenza and they would probably be cheaper than getting fields tested coupled with buying neonics. But the two alternative seed products aren’t as effective when it comes to controlling aphids and bean leaf beetle, Denys said. There are no neonic alternatives for soybeans but Syngenta and DuPont could have registrations for alternative seeds in time for the 2018 spring planting, although it is more likely they won’t be available until 2019.
Tanja Checkley, a crop advisor with Cargill Ag Horizons at Harriston in Wellington County, told Farmers Forum that farmers have already moved on from neonics.
“For the 2017 crop, I did not sell a single bag of corn that had the neonic treatment on it,” she said. “There’s a lot of sour feelings in the farming community on how (regulations have) been forced upon the farmers. The farming community has decided that, ‘you know what, if there’s an alternative, I don’t want to give all this information to the government on what I’m growing where and all of the paperwork that has to go with it.’ ”