* Crop threats include flea beetles, peach potato aphids
* Ban imposed to tackle sharp fall in bee population
* Insects becoming more resistant to some alternatives
By Nigel Hunt
LONDON, May 10 Rapeseed production is likely to
fall in the European Union, top grower of the oilseed, from the
2015 harvest after the bloc voted to protect bees by banning
three of the most widely used pesticides.
The EU has decided to restrict from Dec. 1 the use of a
class of pesticides known as that neonicotinoids, which have
been linked to a plunge in the bee population.
Rapeseed is one of the crops most at risk because of the
wide use of neonicotinoids as seed treatments and the fact that
alternatives are less effective.
"We are facing the danger of substantial loss of rapeseed
crop yields, but it is not possible to say precisely what," said
Manuela Specht, spokeswoman for German oilseeds industry
Specht said it was impossible to estimate the extent of
losses as the level of insect infestation can vary from year to
year, adding that some farmers may decide in several years that
rapeseed is too risky and switch to another crop.
The European Union produced 19.3 million tonnes of rapeseed
out of the global total of 60.7 million tonnes, including the
cultivated variety canola, in the 2012/13 season.
Entomologists said the flea beetle is among the pests most
likely to pose a growing threat to EU rapeseed crops.
The small jumping beetle devours the leaves of rapeseed
plants and has been known to cause severe damage to crops in
both Europe and North America.
The threat posed can vary from year to year. Some of the
worst outbreaks in the past have occurred after a hot summer as
the beetles lay more eggs in warm weather.
"The major use of neonicotinoids in the UK affected by these
changes will be oilseed rape seed treatments. There are
currently no seed dressing alternatives to the three banned
actives," entomologists at crop consultants ADAS said.
The alternative would be to use foliar pyrethroid sprays to
control flea beetles, ADAS said in an emailed comment.
"They (sprayed crop chemicals) don't offer the same
flexibility as seed treatments," Jean-Charles Bocquet, director
of French crop protection makers association UIPP.
"There are farmers who can't apply them because it is
raining or it is windy. In the autumn it rains a lot, so the
tractor can't always get into the field."
Another threat is peach potato aphids, which spread the
damaging Turnip yellows virus and can cause yield losses of up
to 30 percent in rapeseed.
"Control of the peach potato aphid may be more difficult in
view of the widespread resistance of this pest to insecticides,
including pyrethroids," ADAS said.
European Commission spokesman Roger Waite said the size of
the economic damage was difficult to assess and had not been
taken into account when the decision was taken.
He added that as a last measure, if no alternative pest
control possibilities exist, the legislation provides for the
possibility for member states to grant an emergency
authorisation for restricted use for the pesticides.
"In addition, the actual bans may push the industry to offer
suitable alternative solutions," he added.
Some EU countries have already taken some measures against
neonicotinoids, including France which withdrew its license for
a rapeseed treatment called Cruiser in late June 2012.
The banned neonicotinoids are produced mainly by Germany's
Bayer and Switzerland's Syngenta, while
rival firms such as Dow Chemical could benefit from
increased sales of sprays.