High Taxes in the E.U. Will Not Reduce Pesticide Use: Pesticides are Essential

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Dutch Farm

Pesticide use is very high in the E.U. and policies to reduce use have been adopted. Under consideration are taxes on pesticides. Some people believe that pesticides are not essential and that alternatives are available and, as a result, believe that taxes would cause farmers to reduce their use of pesticides. However, recent research in the Netherlands shows that, due to their essential importance, pesticide use is unlikely to go down even with very high taxes. The main effect of high taxes on pesticides would be to reduce farmer income.

“Pesticides are integral components of modern crop production systems. Recently, attention is focused on the use of economic incentives to reduce pesticide use and its related indirect effects. The European Union’s (EU) pesticide policy envisages the use of pesticide tax and levy schemes.

The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness of different fiscal measures in reducing pesticide use and environmental spillovers by using detailed farm-level data from Dutch arable crop production.

Increasing the tax rate (for both high- and low-toxicity products) to 80% and 120%, total pesticide use is decreased by almost 3% and 4%, respectively. These scenarios show that even high taxes are not able to achieve significant reductions in pesticide use. Moreover, high taxes decrease farm revenues as the 4% pesticide decrease is accompanied by a 22% decrease in farm revenue. Producers’ rigidity in reducing pesticide use, thus avoiding the tax burden, may be attributed to the damage preventing role of pesticides and their capacity to reduce output variability.

The dilemma inherent in pesticide taxation is that the use of pesticides may be so essential for some crops or regions that tax rates would have to be very high to impact pesticide use. This could result in a major reduction in farm income as depicted through the pesticide tax scenarios presented in this work… Results show that even high (and politically challenging) tax rates would result in a small reduction in the use of pesticides due to the rigidity of Dutch farmers in reducing pesticide use.”

Authors: Skevas, T., et al.
Affiliation: Wageningen University
Title: Can economic incentives encourage actual reductions in pesticide use and environmental spillovers?
Source: Agricultural Economics. 2012. 43:267-276.

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Apple Scab Would Almost Completely Destroy Dutch Apple Orchards Without Fungicide Sprays

Apple Scab

Apple Scab

Apple scab is caused by a fungus Venturia inaqualis, which overwinters in infected leaves on the orchard floor.  Mating among different strains of the fungus occurs shortly after leaf fall and spores develop in the fallen leaves during the winter.  Spring rains cause spores to be forcibly discharged. Spores continue to mature and are discharged over a period of 5-9 weeks. If the surface of apple tissue is wet and temperatures are suitable, the spores germinate and penetrate the cuticle and outer layers of the plant, causing an infection.  The fungus grows beneath the cuticle and eventually ruptures it and forms dark green lesions.  Masses of spores are produced asexually within the lesions and become detached during rain.  Water splashes and redistributes these spores, causing secondary infections. Each leaf scab lesion is capable of producing 50,000-100,000 spores. Assuming 50,000 leaves per tree have 2% scab infection, about 50 million spores would be present on a single tree.  One spore can cause an infection. Infections early in the season can kill tissues near the fruit surface and the fruit develops unevenly as uninfected portions continue to grow.  Cracks appear in the skin and flesh and the fruit may become deformed.  Heavily infected fruit fall from the tree resulting in yield losses.  Scab lesions on harvested apples result in a lower price for growers since the commercial tolerance for scab damage approaches zero.

“Apple scab [Venturia inaequalis (CKE.) Winter] is one of the most important diseases of apple, causing considerable losses every year in many countries. Crop losses in the Netherlands caused by apple scab would be about 80% if no control measures were taken; therefore, 15-22 conventional spray applications per season are used to prevent apple yield loss under Dutch weather conditions.”

Authors: Holb, I. J., et al.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Protection, Centre of Agricultural Sciences, Debrecen University.
Title: Summer epidemics of apple scab: the relationship between measurements and their implications for the development of predictive models and threshold levels under different disease control regimes.
Source: Journal of Phytopathology. 2003. 151:335-343.

Very Few Pear Growers in the Netherlands Dare to Go Organic

Pear Scab

Pear Scab

Organic growers face the same potentially severe pest problems as non-organic farmers. By contrast, the organic farmers have a very limited range of approved products with which to control these problems. In many countries, very few fruit farmers even dare trying to grow with the less effective organic pest control methods.

“The demand for organic pears in North-western Europe is high compared to the limited production. In spite of the good market perspective there are very few pear growers in the Netherlands who dare convert to organic production. The most prominent reason for this is their fear of scab (Venturia pirina). And indeed it is the experience of those who are growing organically that it is very hard to control this important disease. This is even more so since Copper based products were banned as fungicides in the Netherlands.”

Author: Jansonius, P. J.
Affiliation: Louis Bolk Institute, Hoofdstraat, NL
Title: Conference pears; work on system changes to enable better scab control in organic orchards in the Netherlands.
Source: Ecofruit Proceedings. 2008.