Alta. sugar beet growers want neonics to remain

Alberta sugar beet growers are asking the Pest Management Regulatory Agency to retain the use of neonicotinoids as it re-evaluates the use of the pesticides in Canada.

They have prepared a letter for Alberta MPs indicating concern over the PMRA’s consideration of a complete ban on neonics that are said to harm bees and aquatic insects.

Sugar beet growers use a seed treatment called Cruiser, a neonic that controls wireworm and root maggot. Its active ingredient is thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid among those under review.

“That’s the only control method we have for wireworm and root maggot in sugar beet,” said Alberta Sugar Beet Growers President Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen.

“I think there’s roughly 30 or 40 percent of our crop is treated with a seed treatment with neonics, so if that option isn’t available to us, there’s some pretty severe impact on yields, or can be.”

He said the insects can decimate sugar beet crops and proof of that was seen in at least one field during the 2018 growing season.

“We saw that this year in one area where, in a field that was not treated, the root maggots actually reduced the stand and had a very dramatic effect on the yield of that field. So they are there.”

Bergen-Henengouwen said pesticides previously used to combat wireworms and root maggots, now deregistered, were far less friendly that neonics.

In the letter, which Bergen-Henengouwen said the grower group fully supports, the potential effect of neonics on bee populations is acknowledged.

“Bees play a crucial role in my farming operation and we want to do all we can to protect them and keep them viable. Since our use of the neonic is in the form of a seed treatment, the threat to the bee is virtually non-existent,” the letter reads.

It also says Alberta government research indicates neonic concentrations at levels observed in the province do not harm aquatic insect life, which is a concern previously considered by the PMRA.

Information presented by agri-environment specialist Shaun Cook of Alberta Agriculture has indicated neonics are “very infrequently” found in Alberta water bodies and do not indicate a high level of risk to aquatic invertebrates.

Signatories to the letter ask MPs “to ensure the PMRA does not make a decision that will impact my family based on flawed science and scenarios that may be occurring in other areas of the country that utilize different application and agronomic practices.”

The PMRA plans to announce its decision on neonicotinoid use in December after delaying it one year for further review.

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