Herbicide Use in Finland has Increased Significantly to Protect the North Sea

Herbicide sales: Finland

Herbicide sales: Finland

In 2001, herbicide use began to increase in Finland largely due to government policies subsidizing growers to no longer plow fields for weed control. Finland is a signatory to the North Sea Treaty which includes a goal of reducing nutrients into the North Sea by half. Research showed that a considerable amount of phosphorus moves into waterways with eroded soils from fields that are plowed in the autumn. Thus, growers now are using herbicides to control weeds without plowing in order to keep phosphorus out of the North Sea.

“Our weed survey represented part of a follow-up project on the impacts of agri-environment policy in Finland. For instance, reduced tillage has been one of the subsidized measures primarily implemented to reduce nutrient leaching. Spring cereals, 1.1 million hectares in total, covering 50-55% of arable land, dominate crop production in Finland. In the 1990s ploughing was still the standard tillage practice in spring cereal fields, while the latest statistics show that only approximately half of the cultivated cereal field area is currently ploughed. Ploughing has been replaced with reduced tillage methods (29%) or direct drilling (17%). At the same time, the sales of glyphosate have more than doubled within a decade in Finland.

Increased use of glyphosate in Finland is notable; in 1999, the annual sales of glyphosate products were sufficient to treat about 13% of arable land under cultivation or fallow, while the same figure had increased to 37% in 2010.”

Author(s): Salonen, J., et al.
Affiliation: MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Plant Production Research, Jokionen, Finland
Title: Impact of changed cropping practices on weed occurrence in spring cereals in Finland – a comparison of surveys in 1997-1999 and 2007-2009.
Source: Weed Research. 53:110-120. 2012.

Global Warming Likely to Result in Increased Insecticide Sprays in the Northeast

# of Insecticide Sprays for Sweet Corn (Today)

# of Insecticide Sprays for Sweet Corn (Today)

The U.S. is likely to warm substantially over the next 40 years. Along the eastern seaboard, average temperatures will increase in a northward direction. Future temperatures in New York State will be similar to current temperatures in the Carolinas. Increased temperatures and earlier onset of the growing season will reduce the winter mortality of insects, increase the rate of insect growth and increase the number of generations during the crop season. In response, insecticide applications are likely to increase in the northeast-a point recently made in a major climate change report from USDA.

“A warming trend is likely to lead to increased pesticide use in the Northeast due to earlier arrival of migratory insects, higher winter-time survival of insects that currently are only marginally adapted to the region, and more generations of insects within a single season.

With more pests shifting northward, generation times decreasing, and abundances increasing in the future, management costs are expected to increase due to more frequent application of pesticides. For example, pesticide applications to control lepidopteran pests (e.g., moths) on sweet corn decrease with increase in latitude from 15 to 32 times per year in Florida, four to eight times per year in Delaware, and zero to five times per year in New York. “

Author(s): Walthall, C.L., et al.
Affiliation: USDA
Title: Climate change and agriculture in the United States: effects and adaptation
Source: USDA, February 2013. Available at: http://www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/effects.htm

Southern California Vineyards Recover Thanks to Insecticide Applications

Grapevines Destroyed in 1999

Grapevines Destroyed in 1999

Temecula Today

Temecula Today

In 1999, about one-third of the vineyards in Temecula Valley, Riverside County, California were destroyed due to Pierce’s Disease which is caused by a bacteria transmitted to grapevines by an insect-the glassy winged sharpshooter. The disease seemed destined to spread throughout Southern California. However, research demonstrated that a carefully-timed insecticide application would prevent the sharpshooter from transmitting the disease to grapevines. As a result of this insecticide use, the wine grape industry in Southern California has recovered and is prospering.

“Twelve years ago a Pierce’s disease epidemic in Southern California wine grapes prompted a multi-pronged local, state and federal attack to contain the disease spread and find a cure or treatment.

Riverside County agriculture officials declared a local emergency in 1999 and 300 acres of Temecula wine grape vines were destroyed after they were found to be infested with the glassy winged sharpshooter.

Emergencies were declared, a task force was formed, and in 2000 $22.3 million in federal financial assistance was secured to reduce pest infestations and support research.

Research found that the Southern California epidemics were almost entirely the result of vine-to-vine transmission…. A protocol of applying one carefully timed application of a persistent systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid virtually eliminates the vine-to-vine spread.

Ben Drake is a Temecula-area wine grape grower and vineyard manager who began seeing problems from PD in the Temecula Valley as early as 1997.

We’ve found that if we apply (imidacloprid) at the middle to the end of May, before the sharpshooter moves out of the citrus and goes into the vineyards, we get levels of the material into the plant high enough that when the sharpshooter flies over from the citrus groves to try it, they just fly back where they came from. Or, if they feed long enough, it will kill them.

But just look at the Temecula Valley now to understand what’s changed: From 12 wineries in 1999, the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association website today lists more than 50 growers and 34 wineries…. A thriving agritourism industry has developed…. Existing wineries are expanding and new ones are under construction or in planning phases.”

Author: Christine Thompson
Affiliation: Reporter
Title: Grape growers urged to remain vigilant against sharpshooter pest
Source: Western Farm Press. 2011-12-12. Available at: http://westernfarmpress.com/grapes/grape-growers-urged-remain-vigilant-against-sharpshooter-pest

A Late Blight Pandemic Struck Northeast Tomatoes in 2009

Untreated Tomatoes

Untreated Tomatoes

Treated Tomatoes

Treated Tomatoes

The late blight fungus attacks all aboveground parts of the tomato plant. Infected foliage becomes brown, shrivels and soon dies. When severe, all plants in a field may be killed in a week or two. The spores can be disseminated up to 30 or 40 miles by wind or over short distances by dew and rain. Each spore may swim in a film of water on plant surfaces to initiate a new infection. A recent article summarizes the effects of a severe late blight outbreak in the U. S…

“Indeed, the tomato late blight pandemic of 2009 made late blight into a household term in much of eastern USA. Many home gardeners and many organic producers lost most, if not all, of their tomato crop. Some CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) could not provide tomatoes to their members. …This pandemic was unusual. It started synchronously in mid to late June over much of the northeastern USA. The pathway was via infected tomato transplants shipped to the garden centers in large retail stores throughout the Northeast. …Many homeowners and organic growers lost crops when fungicide was not applied soon enough, and because they lacked highly effective curative fungicide options. (Conventional commercial growers, who have more fungicide options, were more successful in delaying the epidemic and subsequent yield loss.) …Later in the year other issues arose. Consumers were alarmed to see fungicide residues on tomatoes at farmers markets, especially on organically produced fruit. (Some copper-based fungicides are allowed in organic production in some states.)”

Authors: W. E. Fry, et al.
Affiliations: Cornell University
Title: The 2009 Late Blight Pandemic in Eastern USA.
Publication: APSnet Features. 2012. http://www.apsnet.org/publications/apsnetfeatures/Pages/2009LateBlight.aspx

Mildew Causes Sunburned Tomatoes

Mildew on tomato leaves

Mildew on tomato leaves

Powdery mildew on tomatoes is restricted to warm, arid and semiarid climatic regions. A fine talcum-like powder growth develops on the leaves resulting in the loss of 30-40% of the leaf canopy. Defoliation predisposes fruit to sunscald and reduced quality. The tomatoes become soft or are burned before they reach maturity.

“Powdery mildew is a serious economic problem in Mediterranean tomato production. The disease is currently controlled by fungicides (especially sulfur) in both conventional and organic production. In addition to causing reductions in yield and quality, it may make plants vulnerable to secondary infections by other fungal pathogens (e.g., Botrytis cinerea). Fungicides are used to control tomato powdery mildew, even in organic production, where sulfur fungicides are permitted and widely used.”

Authors: N. G. Dafermos, et al.
Affiliation: School of Agricultural Technology, Technological Educational Institure of Crete, Heraklion-Crete, Greece.
Title: Integration of Elicitors and Less-Susceptible Hybrids for the Control of Powdery Mildew in Organic Tomato Crops.
Publication: Plant Disease. 2012. 96(10):1506-1512.

European Organic Wheat Suffers from “Stinking Smut”

Common bunt is one of the most destructive diseases of wheat. As the fungus grows in the plant, the wheat kernels are converted to bunt balls that, when crushed, release thousands of black spores. They smell of rotting fish, hence the name “stinking smut”. Because of effective chemical seed treatment, common bunt had become a forgotten disease—until its reemergence in European organic wheat.

“The legal requirement for organic seed has compounded the bunt problem in Europe. For many years, it was possible to use conventionally produced seed as long as the cultivars were not of transgenic origin and the seed had not been treated after harvest with synthetic fungicides. All of this changed with Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1452/2003, which stipulated that beginning January 2004, all plant materials used for organic agriculture must be produced under organic farming conditions.”

“In conventional agriculture, common bunt is often exclusively controlled with chemical seed treatments. … Now, more than half a century after common bunt was thought to be vanquished, it has re-emerged in organic wheat. … In the United Kingdom, organic seed lots are predominantly contaminated with common bunt spores.”

“Contamination of wheat with common bunt spores has resulted in considerable loss of yield and seed quality. … Given the epidemiology of the disease, it has the potential to cause economic devastation to low-input and organic farmers.”

Authors: J.B. Matanguihan, K.M. Murphy and S.S. Jones*
Affiliation: *Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University
Title: Control of Common Bunt in Organic Wheat.
Publication: Plant Disease. 2011. 95(2):92-103.

Non-chemical Weed Control Methods Fail to Control Weeds in Organic Peanut Trials

Extensive research has been undertaken in Georgia to determine the effectiveness of non-chemical weed control methods for organic production systems. None of the systems has proven effective, meaning that hundreds of hours of hand weeding are necessary to make these peanut fields viable.

“The inability to sustain a reliable domestic supply of organic peanut is partially due to difficult and costly weed control. … The initial attempt to develop weed management systems using propane flaming and [Organic Materials Research Institute] OMRI herbicides in organic peanut was a weed control failure. Propane flaming and OMRI herbicides did not control annual grasses and perennial nutsedges, and provided only short-term control of dicot weeds.”

“A factor that limits successful in-row weed control using cultivation is inconsistent performance. … The lack of consistency using cultivation as the primary means of weed control in organic peanut appears to be a major unresolved challenge. Even when cultivator implements are properly adjusted and operated in a timely manner, in-row weeds can escape control. …hand weeding cannot be completely replaced by intensive in-row cultivation. … This is also shown by the time and cost of hand weeding to control escapes, particularly the brush-hoe cultivator at VE/1 wk in 2009 needing 116 hours/ha to remove escapes at a cost of $1,021/ha.”

Authors: W.C. Johnson1, M.A. Boudreau2 and J.W. Davis2
Affiliation: 1USDA-ARS, 2University of Georgia
Title: Implements and cultivation frequency to improve in-row weed control in organic peanut production.
Publication: Weed Technology. 2012. 26(2):334-340.

The Consumer is Always Right and That’s Why Farmers Use Pesticides

More than 90% of US fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) is sprayed with insecticides and fungicides to prevent rots and yield loss. This spraying also assures that there are no scabs or insect-feeding marks on the produce. Although some consumers would prefer no pesticide residues, many are unwilling to accept any cosmetic damage. You can’t have it both ways—picture-perfect produce requires pesticide use.

“Over 300 shoppers entering supermarkets completed a questionnaire about purchasing certified pesticide residue-free (CPRF) fresh produce. One-half expressed concern about pesticide use on fresh produce. Two-thirds were willing to pay 5 to 10% higher prices to obtain CPRF fresh produce, but were unwilling to accept any cosmetic defects or insect damage.” 

Author: S.L. Ott
Affiliation: USDA Economics Research Service
Title: Supermarket shoppers’ pesticide concerns and willingness to purchase certified pesticide residue-free fresh produce.
Publication: Agribusiness. 1990. 6(6):593-602.

Organic Sugar Production in Mauritius Derailed Due to Weed Problems

Sugarcane is the major crop in Mauritius. Weeds are usually controlled with herbicides. In the early 1990s, three sugar processing firms in Mauritius decided to grow organic sugarcane without the use of herbicides. However, the weed problems led to the curtailment of organic production. At the time of this article’s publication, there was still one organic producer; today, we have discovered there are no organic sugar companies operating in Mauritius.

“Organic sugar production started in Mauritius in 1992 after it was realized that a demand existed in Europe. … As the use of herbicides is not permitted in fields under organic crop production, manual weeding had to be resorted to. In view of the acute labour shortage and the increasing cost of labour, this item was a major contributor to the costs of production and one of the main sources of discouragement for producers who generally do not like to see their fields infested by weeds. Manual weeding is also known to be ineffective.”

“Although alternative methods of weed control exist, they could not be envisaged in the Mauritian context. Using a flame applicator would represent a fire hazard because of the presence of dry trash in the field, and weeding by mechanical means is not convenient because of the rocky nature of the soil. Weed control in the fields under organic cane was therefore not carried out to the same extent as it is in conventionally grown cane. … Owing to these constraints, producers gradually lost interest in organic sugar and only one estate, out of the three originally, is still involved.”

Author: J Deville
Affiliation: Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute, Reduit, Mauritius
Title: Organic sugar production – the Mauritian experience.
Publication: Proceedings of the XXIII International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT) Congress. February 22-26, 1999, New Delhi, India.

“Organic Farming Just Didn’t Work: Trees Became a Source of Pestilence”

Organic apple production in the Eastern US is very difficult because of the presence of insects and disease pests. The moist climate is perfect for mold, rots and other fungi. Recently, a couple in New Hampshire felled their organic apple trees. They explained their reasons in an article for the Concord Monitor.

“In 10 years of organic apple production we had yet to turn a profit. Additionally, the trees in our organic block were the least healthy on the farm and were a source of pestilence for our other apple trees. After harvest, the trees were cut down and will serve their last purpose: keeping us warm next winter.”

“Apple scab – which appears with the springtime rain in New England – was the toughest problem. In an organic orchard sulfur and copper are the pesticides used to combat scab. Trouble is, they wash off and are at best poor fungicides. At a recommended rate of 12 pounds per acre and their propensity to was off, I was spraying this block every time it rained, over and over again.”

“Last June we came to the realization that the organic block was not only a net financial drain on the farm but, more important, an environmental drain. I was spraying it more, using more fuel, more pounds of pesticides, more precious time, and it was serving as the source of pestilence for the rest of the farm.”

Author: Chuck Souther
Headline: Organic apple farming just didn’t work: Trees became a source of pestilence
Publication: New Hampshire Concord Monitor. 10 January 2010.