Neonic ban causes widespread concern

Concern about losing neonicotinoid pesticides spreads much further than the canola industry as farmers coast to coast fret over how they could be affected by the threatened ban.

“We have to be doing something every year,” Prince Edward Island potato grower Ray Keenan said about insect control on his farm.

Wireworms can be a serious problem for potato growers, and some of the best control products contain neonics.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency has proposed banning all neonics in order to protect aquatic insects. The final decision will be made in 2019, and a public comment period is underway.

Soybean growers are also concerned about the proposed ban with wireworm damage a threat in many years. In Ontario the risk is high.

In Manitoba, with booming soybean acreage, the worry is less intense right now.

“We do not need to use a lot of the neonics for soybean in Manitoba at the moment,” said Francois Labelle, executive director of the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers Association.

“It’s probably only on a very small percentage of the land (that wireworms are active upon) at this time.”

However, he’s still worried.

“You never know when you’re going to have an issue,” he said, noting the ability of insects to evolve and adapt to new environments, just as soybeans have been adapted to suit new territories.

Pea growers in Alberta sometimes have to fight a weevil with neonics, so there are already pulse pests on the Prairies that are being countered with a neonic.

“We want to make sure we have access to the tools if we need them,” said Labelle.

“It’s good to have the tools in the toolbox.”

Keenan doesn’t know how much his insect control relies upon neonics and how much relies upon other chemistries. Some products come in cocktails, so differentiating the impact isn’t easy.

However, he knows one thing for sure: he can’t do without effective insect control.

“It would put us out of business,” he said about losing effective control.

“It would be devastating for the potato industry to lose these products.”

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