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June 2015

“One year after NNi restrictions”

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Negative economic effects, less sufficient solutions for many pests, and losses in yield. Farmers in Europe are feeling the impact of the neonicotinoid restrictions that were imposed by the European Commission. An interview with Martin Gruss, Global Head SeedGrowth at Bayer CropScience, on this important issue.
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Martin Gruss

Julia Schulte: “What are the effects of the neonicotinoids (NNi) restrictions for European growers?”

Martin Gruss: “Farmers have been highly exposed to the flee beetle and turnip root fly in oilseed rape, for instance. They have no alternative but to spray, while at the same time resistance problems are occurring. After the EU restricted the use of three NNi insecticides with final effect as of December 2013, farmers in the UK reported losses of 20–50 percent in their next-season oilseed rape crops caused by cabbage stem flea beetles. It’s a real pity since long-term practices have shown that the use of these products is safe when used responsibly and according to the label instructions. And in Germany the situation is no better: the oilseed rape acreage is expected to decline by 10 percent in 2015.”

Julia Schulte: “That means there are no other adequate products on which farmers can fall back?”

Martin Gruss: “Currently, there is no seed treatment product available to control the flea beetle in oil seed rape, for instance. And the effects are certainly being felt: five percent of farming land in the UK is heavily affected, acres have had to be resown, and farmers are missing a crop in their crop rotation. The loss of NNi’s force farmers to rely on older, less beneficial and effective products, with multiple applications which results in reduced crop yield and quality, to mention just a few problems that occur from the restrictions. In corn we are able to offer Sonido™ which is used against wireworms. It’s one of the few products that can be used to control them. But Sonido™ doesn’t offer the same protection as the restricted seed treatments.”

Julia Schulte: “How does Bayer CropScience tackle the ongoing NNi restrictions?”

Martin Gruss: “The potential risks of seed-applied products have already been even further reduced through constant improvements in abrasion-reducing coatings, application, and handling, through quality assurance measures, such as the ESTA certification for instance, and modifications to machinery such as deflector for pneumatic sowing machines, and through the use of better fluency agents at seeding. So seed-applied technologies play an important role for sustainable agriculture and bring benefits for farmers such as high yields. Concerning the restricted NNi usage, we are continuously working on providing new data and hope that the European Commission will reconsider the usage restrictions to give growers the possibility to rely on these important tools again.”




The study of the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture (HFFA) in 2013 demonstrated the economic benefits of seed-applied NNi in the EU:

  • Neonicotinoid seed treatments contributed more than € 2 billion annually to EU commodity crop revenues
  • The benefits of NNi include yield improvements of up to 20 percent in winter wheat, sunflowers, and oilseed rape, and higher growers’ margins ranging from +39 €/ha in oilseed to +71 €/ ha in winter wheat.
  • The value of neonicotinoid treated seed to growers versus not using pesticides at all exceeds € 4 billion per year.
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