Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Neonic dust is the bee-killing culprit

Dr. Art Schaafsma  says it’s the dust from seeds treated with neonicitinoids that is responsible for most seed-treatment chemical escapes into the environment.

His research was done from the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph.

“After three years of research studying multiple pathways and movement of dust from air/vacuum planters, our goal should be to reduce all residue escapes by 90 per cent,” says Dr. Schaafsma. 

Based on the research, Schaafsma identified five recommendations to farmers:

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, and;

Practice conservation tillage to minimize soil movement.

The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement (OSCIA) was a partner in this research with funding from the federal-provincial governments via the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

“We are encouraging farmers to work proactively to manage planter dust, seek out solutions that fit their operations and avoid any off-site impacts”, says Gord Green, president of the OSCIA.

 “We want to ensure the continued use of our tried and proven tools, such as seed treatment, otherwise we may be faced with alternatives that are not as environmentally friendly”.  

The province has been restricting neonicitinoid use to fields that farmers can prove, via certified crop advisors, are infested with bugs that require seed-treatment control.

Dr. Paul Sibley, scientist and toxicologist at the University of Guelph, agrees with Green.

The federal government’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency recently released a proposed re-evaluation decision, which would see Imidacloprid phased out in three to five years.

Sibley said “intermediate solutions and options must be considered to allow the industry to adjust and adapt to new technology”.

Schaafsma said new developments are coming with planter filters, cyclones to filter and stabilize dust, as well as polymers to more firmly attach pesticide product to the seed.

He is also encouraging farmers to collaborate with industry to work on restricting dust movement.

Grain Farmers of Ontario took the province to court over the neonicitinoid restrictions, arguing there was not enough scientific evidence to warrant the restrictions. It lost.