Too Great a Risk: Organic Rapeseed Growing in the EU

Rapeseed Field

Rapeseed Field

Humans have used oil pressed from the seeds of plants known as rape for thousands of years. The name rape originated from the Latin word “rapum” which means turnip. Oilseed rape has enjoyed unprecedented popularity in the EU since the 1970s due to support from the Common Agricultural Policy. European production of rapeseed plays an important role in increasing EU self sufficiency in cooking oil. Oilseed rape is harvested from about 3 million hectares in the EU. The crop is attacked by a large number of insects and insecticide use is common. There is little organic rapeseed production in the EU because the insects cannot be effectively controlled.

“The demand for organic winter oilseed rape is steadily increasing. Yet in Germany, for example, oil seed rape cultivation is negligible with a maximum cropping area of 4,000 ha. One important reason for this is the occurrence of insect pests, including the cabbage stem flea beetle, the rape stem weevil, the cabbage stem weevil, the pollen beetle, the cabbage seedpod weevil, and the brassica pod midge. Pest-related yield losses – up to total loss of the crop – make the cultivation of organic winter oilseed rape an incalculable risk.”

Authors: Ludwig, T. and S. Kuhne.
Affiliation: Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants.
Title: Mixed cropping with turnip rape and natural insecticides: results of field and laboratory trials on pest control in organic winter oilseed rape.
Source: Integrated Control in Oilseed Crops IOBC-WPRS Bulletin. 2013. 96:43-44.

Advertisements

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.

Organic Sugarbeets from Austria: Fungicide Use and Lots of Handweeding

Organic Sugar

Organic Sugar

There is a retail market for organic sugar in the EU and until recently the demand was met with imports of organic sugar from Latin America. British Sugar began producing organic sugar in the UK in 2002 but abandoned the organic line because it was not commercially viable. Now, a small number of sugarbeet growers in Austria are growing organic sugarbeets. Without herbicides for weed control, these growers need an enormous amount of hand labor. For disease control, the organic growers spray copper fungicides.

“In the past organic sugar from sugar cane was imported to Europe. In 2008 AGRANA started to contract organic sugar beet… In 2008 organic sugar beet was grown by 105 farmers on 323 ha. Up to 2011 the organic beet area was increased to 913 ha and reached about 2% of the Austrian sugar beet acreage.

Weed control is a major issue in production of organic beet. Farmers are using harrows and inter row cultivators for mechanical weed control. In addition, an enormous input of hand labour is required, on average there is the need for 200 hours per hectare.

Control of Cercospora leaf spot and powdery mildew is carried out by spraying fungicides containing copper or sulfur. Normally two or three sprayings with copper products are required to control Cercospora. It is allowed to apply up to 2 kg Copper per hectare and year.”

Authors: Kempl, F., et al.
Affiliation: AGRANA Zucker GmbH.
Title: Organically grown beets? A growing segment in the Austrian sugar production.
Source: 73ed IIRB Congress. 2012. Proceedings of Papers:183-186.