Friday November 28, 2014

Diligence needed for all farmers


We sometimes seem to lose track of the diverse field which is agriculture.

It is rather easy to get so tightly focused in field crops such as canola and wheat, and major livestock such as beef cattle, that we forget the many other facets of agriculture which contribute to the sector.

Since there is such diversity, from u-pick fruit growers, to large scale orchards, to flowers, niche spice crops, and small sector livestock such as goats, it is often easy to forget what might be deemed a good thing for one sector, may actually be detrimental to another.

It is a situation which occasionally pops up, and when it does, it is often a case of simply not taking into consideration the diversity of the industry at the farm level.

We have seen instances where what a farmer sprays a crop with can be an issue for a neighbor if there is application drift and an adjacent crop is susceptible to the chemical applied.

It can be a similar situation when organic and traditional farmers have neighbouring issues.

But, it can also happen on a larger scale. Situations can pop up as a result of new products hitting the market, which are suddenly questioned in regards to their effects on a farming sector.

Such a situation is garnering media attention in Ontario at present.

At present it appears Ontario could become the first jurisdiction in North America to limit neonicotinoid seed treatment use.

“Our intention is to move away from the widespread, indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides,” Jeff Leal Ontario’s Agriculture Minister was recently quoted as saying.

“It is my intention that we will consult and develop practical solutions between now and the 2015 planting season. Any decisions related to implementation would not be made until this first process is complete and to allow time for industry to appropriately plan and transition.”

Mark Cripps with Leal’s office said a forum to discuss possible options is likely to take place this fall. While Ontario cannot ban pesticides — that’s the purview of the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency — legislative measures can be taken to limit them, he said in a Western Producer story.

The issue relates to the perceived problems the treatment may be causing beekeepers.

“The Ontario Beekeeper’s Association applauded Leal’s plan to restrict the seed treatment insecticides. The organization cites studies, including the controversial study by Dr. Alex Lu at the Harvard School of Public Health that connects the chemicals to colony collapse disorder, showing they harm pollinators,” said the Producer piece.

“There were also numerous bee kills reported around the time corn was planted in Ontario in 2012 and 2013. The PMRA cites the seed treatments as the likely cause.”

The seed treatment of course has a benefit for a massive corn sector as Tracey Baute, a field crop entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, said in the story; neonicotinoid seed treatment benefits vary depending on the crop and insect pests. With corn, anywhere from 10 to 30 per cent of the acreage faces the risk of grub and wireworm damage if no insecticide is used.

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticide in North America. Close to 100 per cent of corn, soybean and canola seed is treated and the chemicals are a common management tool for many horticultural crops.

However, there are obviously concerns from the beekeeping sector, which need addressed through added research.

It simply does not work to make a stride in one sector, if it is going to negatively affect what a neighbour is doing to make a living farming.

Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.



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