Viewpoint: German farmers say neonicotinoid ban throws them back into ‘plant protection stone age,’ forces use of ‘dangerous’ pesticides

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With the ban on the three most effective insecticides [Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam] for the protection of beet seeds, beet growers must come up with something different in 2019 to protect the seedling and the growing plantlets against mossbug beetles, virus-transmitting aphids and beet flies.

“The ban throws us back into plant protection stone age,” says Martin Pfeuffer, sugar beet farmer from Ochsenfurt, Franconia, and assistant to the management of the [regional sugar beet farmers associations].

The German beet farmers will need to spray up to 120 tons of conventional insecticides such as pyrethroids and carbamates in the future instead of the approximately 20 tons of [the recently banned synthetic chemicals] in order to protect the crops effectively.

For the agricultural expert [Horst-Henning] Steinmann, [agronomist at the University of Göttingen] the future lies primarily in alternative, environmentally friendly methods. These include pest-resistant varieties, longer crop rotation, mechanical fieldwork, the use of modern technology such as robots and drones, [and] the…targeted use of…so-called biopesticides that fight harmful organisms without synthetic chemicals.

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There are probably few farmers who would deny that there is a high potential for saving pesticides… Most of these alternative methods require more labor from the farmers and higher crop losses, which in turn increases production costs and thus the price on the store shelves. The development of virus-resistant varieties, however, takes, according to experience, five to ten years, so in the short term, it’s not a solution.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in German. This English summary was prepared with Google Translate and lightly edited for clarity.

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