by BETTER FARMING STAFF
As the Ontario government moves towards its goal of reducing neonicotinoid seed treatments on corn and soybean crops by 2017, preliminary findings from a massive Ontario study are revealing how little is known about the insects the pesticide has been used to control.
The four-year study, spearheaded in 2014 by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, the University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs shows, for example, that the relationship between wireworms and soil type is not as clear cut as researchers initially thought.
photo: Allan Mol
Such knowledge gaps demonstrate why it’s important to get cracking on the research, said Allan Mol, Ontario Soil and Crop’s outgoing president, on Tuesday.
“None of these things have really been studied in the past,” Mol said. “Somehow the government came up with an 80 per cent reduction requirement over the next three years. But right now (with the knowledge gaps), how do we choose that as the number we should be shooting for? That’s why there is a need for this kind of study and more study.”
Mol credited University of Guelph plant agriculture professor Art Schaafsma for motivating the association to undertake the study.
Launched last spring, the study collected data from corn plots across the province with one of the goals being to better understand the insects neonicotinoid seed treatments are used to control in order to develop high risk maps. These include grubs such as European Chafer, June beetle and Japanese beetle as well as other insects such as wireworms, seed corn maggot, corn rootworm, black cutworm, bean leaf beetle and soybean aphids.
Another study goal is to determine how the decision to use or abstain from the seed treatments affects a crop’s outcome and, ultimately, the farmer’s economic bottom line.
Each trial had to contain six plots, half of which used seed treated only with a fungicide and the other half using seed treated with both a fungicide and neonicotinoid, said Jocelyn Smith, a University of Guelph research associate, field crop pest management, who is coordinating the project.
There were 99 locations, 77 of which were located on commercial farms and 22 at Ontario Corn Committee trial sites. Of these, the researchers now have workable data from 63 of the farmer sites. Harvest data has not yet been reported from the OCC performance trial sites, Smith said.
While it’s far too early on to discuss yield results, Smith said assessment of the sites and their soils — researchers visited the sites five times in the growing cycle — revealed that 32 per cent of the locations had wireworms and 25 per cent had grubs. Both were found at 13 per cent of the sites and either one or both were found at 44 per cent of the sites.
The most abundant wireworm species of the seven found was the eastern field wireworm, which made up 58 per cent of the different types of wireworms.
“We’re finding these wireworms all over the place, and the soil type isn’t as clear cut as we thought it would be,” Smith said. There may be a relationship between wireworm species and soil type, she added.
She noted that all the species found were documented economic pests of cereals and corn as well as many other crops. There is some old data from the U.S. cornbelt and Michigan about the different species, but not a lot of literature or research has been conducted into which soil types each of the species prefers.
There are also gaps in knowledge about the life cycles of a number of the wireworm species, she added. Smith said while they were once a concern, over time their numbers decreased and “people stopped caring about them.”
Some U.S. researchers speculate that the introduction of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT controlled the populations and caused the decline.
It’s also being hypothesized that the pesticides stayed in the soil for a long time and have only recently begun to break down. As they disappear, wireworm populations are “making a bit of a comeback,” she said.
“So that’s why we’re concerned about wireworms.”
Smith said researchers would like to introduce plots with soybeans this year using the same approach as had been done with corn, and also to follow the crop rotation in the same fields studied last year. As well, researchers hope to recruit more growers.
Tracey Baute, OMAFRA field crop entomologist, who is also involved in the study, said she can’t stress how important it is to pursue the research: “This is our best way in better strengthening our understanding of these pests so that those growers who do need it (neonicotinoid seed treatment) still have access to the product and we fully understand where they’re going to be and the risks involved so that you don’t deal with yield loss and crop loss.”
The provincial agriculture ministry in partnership with Grain Farmers of Ontario and the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus recently published a Guide to Early Season Field Crop Pests.
Smith noted that participants in the study would receive reports on the performance of the plots on their own land by the end of the month.
Of 14 local chapter resolutions that were addressed during the association’s meeting, six dealt with the province’s proposed neonicotinoid seed treatment regulation. All were passed.
The resolutions ranged from ensuring the association continues and expands the trials to calling on the federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency to fast track alternatives for pest control.
One resolution from the Middlesex chapter called for the association to ask provincial officials to consider the environmental and economic long term consequences of the strategy, introduce a similar ban on non-field crop uses of the pesticides, including on pet flea collars, and to “fully compensate growers for all crop losses that are verified by an independent third party and are a direct result of the mandatory reduction in use of neonicotinoid seed treatments.”
The number of resolutions tackling the neonic issue shows “it’s right on the front burner with a lot of farmers,” Mol said. BF
It seems the science proves the myth or in this case the Ontario Gov and the Sierra Club are wrong . Also looks as though some one has had a change in their tune ?!! One thing was that when ever there was some thing said it was alway referred to as "may" . Example ... cover crops may increase insect pressure .
The one thing that was never said was that there is NO rescue treatment !
This article doesn’t address the hazards of these toxins to beneficial insects and the environment, so the Ontario government is wrong about what?
So in your mind the only place that harm happens is in corn and soybean fields , and the only place that insects live is in corn and soybean fields , and the only place neonics are used are in corn and soybean fields and the bees are only affected by neonics . Your wanting to claim Gov is not wrong is not ignorance on your part ! You maybe need to think again . Listening to the science is having an open mind and not ignorance . What the heck lets go back to full all out coverage spraying and put the insecticide boxes back on the planters that the seed treatment replaced for good scientific reasons !
Dust from corn seed planters has the highest concentrations of Neonicotinoids due to the shape of the seeds; this dust travels to nearby none target fields and contaminates none target flowering plants. When treated seeds are planted less than 10% of the neurotoxin is absorbed by the plant the rest of it gets diluted by rain water and travels to contaminate rivers and streams. Neonicotinoids are at least 7000 times more toxic to bees than DDT so why should we assume their safe for bees? You want me to listen to the science, what science is that? The Bayer and Syngenta science? Maybe it’s the junk science feel good data coming from Croplife Canada? As far as insects living in corn and soy fields well they don’t that’s why we use these neurotoxins. So why is Ontario wrong for attempting to restrict these poisons? What gives a farmer the right to dump these poisons on the ground as a prophylactic without any proof that there is even a pest problem?
I guess a person can hitch their horse to any study of their choosing but how can you take a study seriously that determines neonics 7000 times worse than DDT and at the same time rules parasites and disease to have no bearing in deaths of Bee colonies?
Especially when a number of countries in the world have ruled Varroa mites the number 1 leading cause of Colony collapse.
Neonicotinoids being thousands of times more toxic to Bees than DDT is a fact! Sub lethal Neonicotinoid exposer destroys the Bees immune system making them susceptible to disease is another fact! Varroa mites are visible to the naked eye and unlike systemic pesticides can be controlled; Collapsing colonies don’t have signs of high mite infestations. Fact #3, PMRA acknowledges Neonics are contributing to high colony losses in Ontario. Fact #4, you don’t have a clue.
The neonic dust is a problem and no one is saying it is not . Studies have shown that deflectors along with not using the old talc power is working . But lets not acknowledge the good things being done right ! Is this the last of the studies being conducted , I would say not . More improvements are on the way . It may well be that manufacturers will have to come up with a filter for their machines . So the dust is being addressed . The part that is not being addressed is that the bees are livestock and not being controled .
Studies being done by Gov are now not backing what gov has been saying .
What is being done for all of the other neonic use that happens in the province ? Do you even know where it is used other than corn and soybeans ? When you can list ALL of the other uses then maybe it will be worth continuing with this discussion . You will be shocked as to just how little of the total use of corn and soybean farmers use .
Dust is only part of the problem, as stated earlier these toxins are water soluble and leave behind contaminated rain water puddles in these fields that bees use as a water source, they end up being absorbed by none target plants that bees use for pollen and nectar, what part of this don’t you get? This new lubricant introduced by Bayer only reduces contaminated dust by 27%. “bees are livestock and not being controlled” Native bees and other beneficial insects are also being poisoned, so this statement is nonsense and you know it! “Studies being done by Gov are not backing what gov has been saying” This makes no sense either. I am aware of the many uses of these products like using them on your dogs and cats for flea and tick control but the biggest problem right now is the prophylactic use of these toxins on millions of acres of corn and soy.
i think we should also regulate how much honey is removed from these hives and also regulate how much cane sugar they can feed them to overwinter . They are taking out way to much causing overwintering losses to rise. We need to regulate the insecticides the beekeepers use.This has a direct relationship to bee deaths.
In every country government put some restriction on the using of different fertilizer those are using on crops. Under Neonicotinoids seed treatment we have found the use of this pesticide more on crops and cereals in order to keep the insect away from the crop and soybean.
I stumbled onto this looking to see just which pesticides neonicotonids replaced (not clear) and which bugs we want them for now. This article seems to say they're not sure...but they need to figure it out so that farmers still have access to neonicotonids. And they found these bugs you'd find in a lawn, or other places that grow grasses year after year, like corn fields...and the cause must be that the DDT broke down. It has nothing to do with refusing to rotate crops anymore, some kinda mystery...better fast track the new pesticides.
Fast tracking pesticide regulation is always a terrible idea. If it is said there is an unknown part of the equation, it's obviously of significance. Short term goals in farming need to be weighed next to long-term sustainability targets.
-James Norton, consultant for http://www.fantasticpestcontrol.co.uk/
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