EU neonic insecticide ban cut UK canola production from 1.8 million acres to 1.3 million annually

neonics canola
What canola fields really look like without neonics: Left has not been treated, while the right has. Credit: Gregory Sekulic, Canola Council of Canada Agronomy Specialist)

In 2012, U.K. farmers seeded about 1.8 million acres of oilseed rape [canola]. But over the last eight years, acreage consistently dropped, sinking to 1.3 million in 2019 and possibly 1.04 million in 2020.

One large reason for the decline is neonicotinoids. Rather, the lack of neonics in the U.K., says a Syngenta rep. “Since we lost neonic seed treatments we are struggling, really struggling, to grow oilseed rape,” said Scott Cockburn, business manager with Syngenta U.K.

In 2013, the European Commission banned the use of thiamethoxam, a Syngenta product, along with clothianidin and imidacloprid, Bayer products. The ban applied to flowering crops like oilseed rape. Europe imposed the restrictions because of a potential risk to bees.

[Editor’s note: Read Are neonicotinoid seed treatments critical for protecting crops—or unnecessary, with potential to harm bees?]

Related article:  EU neonicotinoid ban could leave UK sugar beet farmers with no defense against virus

Some environmental groups have argued that …. oilseed rape yields have remained steady since the neonic ban. That doesn’t tell the whole story, Cockburn said …. [T]housands of seeded acres go unharvested, every year, because of severe insect damage.

In 2017, researchers from Newcastle University reached the same conclusion. “The U.K. oilseed rape area has fallen from a peak of …. 1.87 million acres …. in 2011-12 …. An increased incidence of damage caused by cabbage stem flea beetle is being reported as a major reason for this decline following the ban on the use of neonicotinoid dressed seed.”

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