OMAF and MRA and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) have worked together to develop new Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Pollinator Protection and Responsible Use of Insecticide Treated Seed for the 2014 season. The new BMPs can be found here: 2014 BMPs for Pollinator Protection and will also available on both of the pollinator protection webpages of PMRA and OMAF.
Three key components of the BMPs that need to be pointed out are:
1. New Lubricant Requirement: For 2014, the Fluency Agent by Bayer CropScience is the only lubricant that can be used for seed flow purposes in corn and soybean planters that are planting neonicotinoid treated seed (eg Poncho, Cruiser, Stress Shield etc). Talc and graphite are no longer permitted for this purpose.
What does this mean? If a grower needs a lubricant for seed flow in his corn or soybean planter, they must use the Fluency Agent. Talc and talc/graphite blends are not allowed to be used for this purpose. If a grower requires graphite to lubricate the planting mechanism (eg. finger pick-up units for corn or for mechanical metering units for soybeans) this is still acceptable.
If a grower hasn’t used a lubricant in their planter in the past, then they don’t have to start using the Fluency Agent now. This is strictly to replace the past usage of talc and graphite for planters that needed it to help move the seed through the system.
The rate is the same for both corn and soybeans at 1/8 of a cup per unit of seed (80,000 kernels of corn or 140,000 soybean seeds). DO NOT use more than the recommended rate or you risk producing more contaminated dust from the exhaust manifolds.
2. Reduce Dust Drift: Multiple measures, in combination, will be needed to reduce pollinator exposure from contaminated dust coming from vacuum planters. This includes using the Fluency Agent as well as using deflector equipment, where appropriate to direct exhaust to the ground level and avoid planter dust drifting onto flowering trees and weeds. Another recommendation is to clean the fan housing and hoppers of vacuum planters regularly between planting fields to reduce the accumulation of contaminated dust within the exhaust manifolds and hoppers.
A study conducted in 2013 by Baute (OMAF), Schaafsma (UGRC) and Scott Dupree (UG SES) found that there is no doubt that a significant amount of contaminated dust is exhausted from negative vacuum planters and that the Bayer Fluency Agent can reduce the quantity of neonic active ingredient in the dust emitted by 28%. Our study also found that flowering trees (esp. maples, willows, hawthorn, apples and dogwood) around/near field perimeters are a major foraging resource for bees during corn planting and that contaminated dust likely reaches these trees during planting, posing a significant exposure risk. A combination of measures need to be taken to reduce both the quantity of dust being emitted from the planters as well as the drifting of this dust onto the flowering trees and weeds along the fields boundaries.
Information on deflector equipment will be made available later this week and will be posted on this site. Stay tuned.
3. Follow IPM and Use Fungicide Only Seed: It is time to start using these insecticide seed treatments only when necessary. Not every acre in the province needs protection from wireworm and grubs. Only 10 to 20% of the acres are at risk of these two pests, particularly those fields with sandy or silty soils. It is time to re-assess which fields are at high risk. Growers in low pest risk situations should consider planting fungicide only seed. Growers with fields near bee yards or those with significant foraging resources around their fields (flowering trees and weeds like willows, maples, hawthorns etc, dandelions) should consider planting those fields to fungicide only seed unless they are at high risk of pest issues. If these types of fields must be planted with a neonic seed treatment, then the grower needs to take the extra measures to reduce the dust drift described above under #2.
Current information on high risk factors and scouting techniques for early season pests can be found here: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/pub811/13general.htm OMAF and MRA is also working on an IPM/Soil Insect Scouting booklet which will be made available for this planting season to help growers and reps with their decision making.
These three components above are not the only important recommendations for 2014. I encourage you to take the time to read the 2014 BMPs for Pollinator Protection document and implement as many measures as possible to reduce pollinator risk.
We all have a role to play in reducing the risk to pollinators this spring. If we want to still have access to neonicotinoid insecticide treated seed for crop protection when needed, we need to take extra measures this year in particular to keep the dust from leaving these fields. We need to see fewer bee kill incidents at planting time if we have any hope of showing a balance can be met, where neonic insecticide seed treatments can be used where needed without placing pollinators at risk.