Field crop stakeholders across the province are expressing a desire to be proactive in protecting pollinators from the risks associated with neonicotinoid seed insecticides.
Assessments to date point to fugitive dust (drift of neonicotinoid contaminated dust from vacuum planters) as the likely cause of spring bee deaths. Fortunately, there are significant advancements being made in this area: “fluency” powder to replace talc, planter modifications, etc. But there is no one solution yet.
Growers will need to implement a range of best management practices to reduce the risk of exposure to bees. This includes using seed treated only with fungicide. Immediate action needs to be taken when it comes to ordering this seed for 2014. While all seed companies have committed to provide fungicide only seed treatment options, orders must be made as early as mid-October (check with your seed supplier for actual date).
Heavy insect pressure can result in total crop loss, but many fields have very little insect pressure. So how do you decide if insecticide treated seed is required on your farm or not? The following list should help you decide where you need insecticide treated seed, where your risk is low and where fungicide only treated seed could be an effective strategy on your farm to protect pollinators.
- Fields with a history of wireworm, cutworm, European chafer or other white grubs need to use insecticide treated seed. Scouting is an option for these insects: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/pub811/13general.htm#soilpests
- Sandy soils, fields with a history of chickweed, or fields within two years after sod (hay) are at higher risk and insecticides are warranted.
- Soybean fields with a history of seed corn maggot or early season bean leaf beetle issues should use insecticide treated seed.
- Growers with no history of stand issues prior to 2004 (before neonicotinoids were registered) could be considered at low risk of insect problems. Fungicide only seed is an option.
- Growers planting second year corn should use genetic rootworm control, not high rates of neonicotinoid seed treatments.
- A bee yard beside your field? Fungicide only seed is the best option.
- Remember, growers with air planters (vacuum metering) are at risk of causing acute poisoning from fugitive dust. Finger style planters are at very low risk of this.
- Visit www.ontario.ca/bihl for Best Management Practices, and for more information to minimize the potential risk to bees.
This list is far from all encompassing, but gives key points for growers around seed decisions this fall. Further research will give new answers and strengthen our understanding of this important issue. Meanwhile, everyone needs to take steps to keep bees safe while growing excellent crops.