Paying Farmers to NOT use pesticides Stalls Increasing Food Production

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With 2 billion more people inhabiting the earth in the next 40 years, food production must increase. Some countries, such as Switzerland, have adopted policies to encourage farmers to not use pesticides. The non-use of pesticides is slowing down increased food production. Policymakers need to be aware of these consequences.

“We analyze trends in crop yields and yield variability of barley, maize, oats, rye, triticale and wheat in Switzerland from 1961 to 2006. It shows that there have been linear increases in crop yields since the 1960s. However, yields of barley, oats, rye, triticale and wheat have leveled off in Switzerland since the early 1990s, which contrasts linear trends in cereal yields that is usually assumed for Europe. We show a relationship between the introduction of agricultural policy measures towards environmentally friendly cereal production that fostered widespread adoption of extensive farming practices and the observed leveling-off of crop yields. Thus, this paper emphasizes that agricultural policy can be an important reason for slowing crop yield growth.

Recent declines and leveling-off of yields are attributed to the adoption of an environmental program that aims to reduce the environmental load of agriculture as well as to decreasing crop prices.

In Switzerland, agricultural policy reforms in 1992 introduced ecological direct payments for extensive cereal production and led to major changes in production patterns… In this ancillary payment scheme no application of fungicides, plant growth regulators, insecticides and chemical-synthetic stimulators of natural resistance is allowed.

…the share of the cereal production area under this ecological direct payment scheme to the total area under cereals (except maize) was 37% in 1992, increased to 54% in 1997, but remained stable at about 50% since then.

The adoption of extensive cereal production in the framework of ecological direct payments leads to crop yield reductions in different ways: crop yields in extensive farming systems are smaller than for intensive management, simply due to the non-use of agro-chemicals.

Author: Finger, R.
Affiliation: Agri-food and Agri-environmental Economics Group, Zurich, Switzerland.
Title: Evidence of slowing yield growth – the example of Swiss cereal yields.
Source: Food Policy. 2010. 35:175-182.

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French Government Policies to Reduce Pesticide Use Will Lower Food Production

Sprays!

Pesticide Spraying: French Vineyard

French farmers spend several billion Euros on pesticides each year. A large number of pesticide treatments are made to crops in France: wheat (4), sugarbeets (4), rapeseed (6), potatoes (17), apples (36) and vineyards (7-22). The French government has announced a policy to reduce the use of pesticides by 50%. The French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) estimated the impacts on crop production as a result of the pesticide use reductions.

“The results demonstrated that the commitment of the Environment Round Table to a 50% reduction of pesticide use from current levels is a difficult target to achieve. During an average year similar to 2006, this could correspond to the results of a simulation under which all French farming would switch to integrated production: the reduction in pesticide use would then be estimated at 50% in arable crops, 37% in viticulture, 21% in fruit orchards and 100% in grasslands; drops in yield (in value terms) would then be observed, estimated at 12% for arable crops, 24% for viticulture and 19% for fruits (based on 2006 prices).”

Author: INRA
Affiliation: INRA
Title: Ecophyto R&D – which options to reduce pesticide use?
Source: Ecophyto R&D. January 2010. Pgs. 1-8.

Quick Profits from Organic Sugar: Deforestation is the Way

Paraguay

Organic Sugar Mill, Paraguay

Most organic sugar used in US foods comes from sugarcane crops grown in Paraguay. When converting an existing field to organic, a company needs to wait three years since the last pesticide spray was made before being certified as organic. With a desire for large profits, sugar companies are clearing forests so that sugarcane fields can be immediately certified as organic.

“The Ybytymi hills of eastern Paraguay are crowded with mango trees, palms, and gnarled cacti.

It’s one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, home to jaguars, tapirs, a plethora of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 500 species of birds.

In a remote area known as Isla Alta, the forest abruptly halts at the edge of sugar fields. The land belongs to a company called Azucarera Paraguaya (AZPA), one of the country’s chief sugar producers and the supplier of nearly one-third of the organic sugar consumed in the United States. If you’ve ever eaten a bowl of Cascadian Farm breakfast cereal or had a glass of Silk soy milk, you’ve probably enjoyed some of its harvest.

Organic producers have little incentive not to clear land, says Laura Raynolds, codirector of the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies at Colorado State University.

This dynamic was evident when I visited Paraguay, where AZPA has been looking for additional land to grow more organic cane to feed the American market. Converting its conventionally farmed fields to organic would take three years, during which it would have to use more expensive organic methods on “transitional” crops that must be sold at the lower conventional price. A more attractive approach is to establish new fields where forest once grew; then, the cane can fetch the higher organic price from the first harvest.”

Author: Rogers, H.
Affiliation: Journalist.
Title: Sweet & lowdown organic
Source: Mother Jones. May/June 2010. Pgs. 58-59, 79.

EU Subsidies Lead to Increased Pesticide Use in Poland

Crop Protection Product Sales

Pesticide Sales, Poland (million $)

In 2003 Poland voted to join the European Union (EU). However, Polish farmers were concerned that they would not be able to compete with other EU member countries. Polish agriculture benefitted from over €10billion from the EU and Polish budgets. As a result, farmers had more funds to buy pesticides and accession to the EU influenced an upward trend in pesticide use in Poland.

“Since EU accession an increase in plant protection products consumption has been observed in Poland. According to Eurostat, in 2003 (before accession) the average use of active substances in Poland amounted to 0.8 kg AS/ha. In 2011…the average use of active substances of plant protection products in Poland amounted to 1.4 kg AS/ha.

The reason for the increasing demand for PPPs was probably the impact Poland’s accession to the EU has had on the agricultural sector. The rise of export to the European single market and prices for many agricultural products along with subsidies have boosted farmers’ income and profitability in agricultural production. As a result, on the one hand, farmers had more funds to buy agrochemicals, while on the other hand, they had more possibilities to sell their crops (if of suitable quality) for an attractive price. These conditions led to an increased demand for PPPs. In this manner, accession to the EU influenced the increase of PPP sales in Poland, in spite of EU policy concerning the reduction of pesticide use.”

Author: Matyjaszczyk, E.
Affiliation: Plant Protection Institute, Poland.
Title: Plant protection in Poland on the eve of obligatory integrated pest management implementation.
Source: Pest Management Science. 2013. 69:991-995.

Taiwan is Free of the Codling Moth and Wants to Keep It That Way: US Apple Growers Need to Spray in Order to Export

Asian with Foood

Apple Inspection in Taiwan

Gross Apple

Codling Moth in Imported Apple

The Taiwanese have the highest per capita consumption of fresh fruit in the world, about 300 pounds per person. The apple is the most heavily consumed imported fruit in Taiwan. US exports supply about 40% of the marketplace. If Taiwanese inspectors find three living codling moth larvae anywhere in the 2 million boxes of apples Washington growers send them, that shuts down the entire export market.  That happened in the fall of 2004 and in the four following months it cost the industry about $25 million. Since then, US growers have been vigilant……

“In 2002, Taiwan ruled that the discovery of three codling moths in US apple shipments in any given crop year would result in the closing of the Taiwanese market to all US apple imports. Since then, warehouses and shippers have been very careful in inspecting and rejecting damaged fruit from growers, and growers have been vigilant in spraying for codling moth as needed.”

Authors: Goldberger, J. A., Lehrer, N., and Brunner, J. F.
Affiliation: Washington State University
Title: Azinphos-methyl (AZM) phase-out: actions and attitudes of apple growers in Washington state.
Source: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2011. 26(4):276-286.

 

French Apple Production Requires Dozens of Pesticide Sprays every Year

Codling Moth

Codling Moth

Apple Scab

Apple Scab

French apple production totals about 1.9 million tons worth approximately $750 million annually. French apple orchards are plagued with the same major pests that infest orchards worldwide: the fungal disease, apple scab, and the insect, codling moth. Both pests would seriously damage most of the apple crop in France without the dozens of pesticide sprays that are made.

[1]
“In Southern France, over 35 pesticide treatments are applied yearly in apple orchards, among which 8-15 are targeted against the codling moth.”

[2]
“Codling moth is a major pest of pome fruit orchards throughout their area of cultivation…. Two or three larval generations are present in southern France and insecticide applications are needed from the beginning of the first larval generation in May until fruit harvest.”

[3]
”Chemical control of apple scab represents a considerable part of the pest control measures necessary to protect an apple orchard when it is planted with one or several cultivars susceptible to the disease. In France, as many as 15-20 fungicide treatments per year may be necessary to control the disease.”

[1]
Authors: Monteiro, L. B., Lavigne, C., Ricci, B., Franck; P., Toubon, J-F
Affiliation: UFPR, Parana Federal University; INRA Plantes et Systemes de Culture Horticoles
Title: Predation of codling moth eggs is affected by pest management practices at orchard and landscape levels.
Source: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 2013. 166:86-93.

[2]
Authors: Simon, S., et al.
Affiliation: Unite Experimentale Gotheron, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique.
Title: Effect of codling moth management on orchard arthropods.
Source: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 2007. 122:340-348.

[3]
Authors: Brun, L., et al.
Affiliation: INRA, UMR Pathologie Vegetale.
Title: Effects of apple cultivar susceptibility to Venturia inaequalis on scab epidemics in apple orchards.
Source: Crop Protection. 2008. 27:1009-1019.

Organic Apple Growing Not Popular in Sweden

Apple Scab

Apple Scab

The Swedish government set a goal of having 20% of the total crop area grown organically by 2010. Organic fruit acreage did not make the goal and is still less than 5%. Growers fear low yields and poor quality by not using chemical pesticides in organic systems. Apple production would decline significantly in Sweden if the majority of growers gave up the use of pesticides and used organic methods. A major problem for apple growers in Sweden is apple scab.

 “There is a large demand for domestically grown apples in Sweden. However, approximately 85% of the apples consumed in Sweden are imported, and the percentage of imported organic apples is even higher. Organic fruit is produced on 4% of the orchard area.

The estimated cost price of producing organic apples in a 5 ha orchard is €1.14 per kg, which is twice as high as for conventionally produced apples, mainly due to lower yields in organic production. Modern apple orchards have average yields of 40 ton/ha in conventional production and around 20 ton/ha in organic production.

The high cost price of organic apples was mainly due to lower yields in organic production, but also higher costs for weed control. Although it is possible to generate similar economic returns from organic production, few conventional growers in Sweden are converting to organic production. Another obstacle is that growers fear low yields and poor quality in organic production due to pests, diseases and weeds.”

Authors: Ascard, J., et al.
Affiliation: Swedish Board of Agriculture.
Title: Cost price calculations for organically and conventionally grown apples in Sweden.
Source: Ecofruit Proceedings. 2010.

Pesticide Sprays Improve Food Safety

Cherry Fruit Fly

Cherry Fruit Fly

Plants are living, dynamic organisms that must defend themselves from bacteria, fungi and insects. Plants in nature synthesize toxic chemicals in large amounts as a primary defense against hordes of bacterial, fungal, and insect predators. Plants respond to attacks by increasing their production of self-defense chemistries. To be effective, these self-defense chemistries are often potent toxicants. The good news is that the levels of natural toxicants of food plants are very much under human control through the application of small amounts of man-made pesticides. Farmers treat crops with pesticides to reduce damage from insects and fungi. When plants do not have to fight off insects and fungi, the plants make less of the self-defense chemicals. Adding a tiny amount of synthetic pesticide reduces exposure to larger amounts of plant-produced toxic chemicals.

“An unrecognized benefit of use of crop protection chemicals is a reduced net exposure to toxicants. …crops that are stressed by competition from weeds, and from attack from infections and bugs, have increased levels of ‘natural’ pesticides. Crops protected from stress have smaller amounts of ‘natural’ pesticide. These ‘natural’ pesticides commonly are mutagenic and carcinogenic, as well as having the capability of inducing a large variety of other types of toxicities. Manufactured crop-protection chemicals are screened for mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, organ toxicity and the like, and exposure is rigorously regulated. Hence, proper use of crop-protection chemicals can cause a net reduction in toxicant exposure by reducing exposure to the potentially more hazardous and abundant ‘natural’ pesticides.”

Author: Mattsson, J. L.
Affiliation: Health and Environmental Sciences, The Dow Chemical Co.
Title: Let’s end the double standard for natural versus manufactured chemicals
Source: J Occup Health. 1996. 38:94-96.

Organic Cocoa Growers Likely to Switch to Conventional Production if Financing of Inputs is Made Available

Weedy Cocoa: Ghana

Weeding Cocoa: Ghana

There are very few certified organic cocoa growers in Africa. The risks of trying to grow an organic crop are great. Many of these growers choose to grow organically because they lack financial resources to purchase inputs including pesticides. With financing of inputs, many of the current organic growers are likely to switch to use of conventional methods with pesticides due to greater yields, income and less risk.

“…the total market share of organically grown cocoa is still relatively very small and accounted for less than 0.5% of the total production in 2002 to 2005.

For producers who cannot afford inorganic inputs and who currently grow organic cocoa, there is a large amount of risk (both in price and in yield) involved with an estimated 30% lower yield compared with conventional (inorganic) production.

The obvious challenge for producers to produce conventionally is to obtain credit up front to purchase inorganic inputs. Given the advent of organizations like the Cocoa Abrabopa Association (CAA) established in 1998 in Ghana, credit is becoming more accessible to producers.

The current organic producers, who are constrained to do so because of a lack of microfinance opportunities to buy conventional inputs (fertilizer, fungicide, etc.), would probably switch to conventional if financing for said inputs became available, say through a microfinance program. Thus, an unintended impact of a microfinance program might be to lead to lower levels of current organic production.”

Authors: Mahrizal, L., et al.
Affiliations: Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas
Title: Necessary price premiums to incentivize Ghanaian organic cocoa production: a phased, orchard management approach
Source: HortScience 47(11)1617-1624. 2012.

Nobody Wants an Orange with a Worm Inside

Med Fly

Med Fly

Medfly females lay their eggs inside many different fruit and vegetable crops, including oranges. When the eggs hatch, small Medfly worms begin eating inside the fruit. In order to keep Spain’s oranges free from these worms, growers have to spray.

“The Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the most destructive pests of fruit in the world, attacking >250 species of fruits and vegetables. In Spain, this fly is considered one of the most economically damaging pests of citrus orchards. Direct losses result from the oviposition in fruits, larval activity, and eventual infection by fungi. In addition, quarantine measures are required for exportation to fly-free areas.”

(2)”The Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the most serious pests affecting cultivated plants in the world… Its life strategy includes changes of host species throughout the year, because larvae develop inside fruits only when they are mature.
Eastern Spain has a heterogeneous fruit growing area which extends all along the coast of Iberian Peninsula, from north to south… The most important damage to citrus fruits is produced between September and November, when satsuma and clementine mandarins reach maturity and suffer heavy attacks. Traditional control methods for reducing medfly populations and damage in citrus groves rely on the use of chemical sprays applied to fruits near harvest.”

(1)
Authors: C. Magaña, P. Hernández-Crespo, F. Ortego and P. Castañera
Affiliation: Departamento de Biología de Plantas, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, CSIC, Madrid, Spain
Title: Resistance to malathion in field populations of Ceratitis capitata.
Publication: Journal of Economic Entomology. 2007. 100(6):1836-1843.

(2)
Authors: Martinez-Ferrer M.T., et al.
Affiliation: IRTA Amposta. Ctra. de Balada, km. 1. 43870 Amposta (Tarragona). Spain.
Title: Seasonal and annual trends in field populations of Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, in Mediterranean citrus groves: comparison of two geographic areas in eastern Spain.
Publication: Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research. 2010. 8(3):757-765.