Friday, 30 January 2015

Project Beeswax - Members Meeting February

11 February  
DMBKA Members Meeting 
The Oakhouse, Maldon CM9 5PF 
Project Beeswax
Guest speakers:
Professor Andrew Lewis
Professor Abdul Sahli

Project BEESWAX is a collaboration between Andrew J Lewis MSc FLS as Simul Systems Ltd, Chelmsford, Essex, and The Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Essex, funded by an Innovation Voucher from the Technology Strategy Board.

The man behind the maths and our first prototype, BEESWAX I, is Dr Abdel Salhi, the Head of Department. email:

BEESWAX IV, the latest prototype just announced, is a website which uses Bing map technology and mathematics to determine the location of beehives to assist in pollination. It works on a four-sided polygon selected by the user. The website can be accessed at:

This new system is free-to-use, and is designed as "Encouraging" software to encourage the placement of beehives intra-orchard to improve pollination. It  uses a simple pattern which has proved serviceable by beekeepers in-situ.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Treated seed Stewardship

Treated seed stewardship

Last year saw the European Commission (EC) placed a temporary ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments on certain crops. In the UK this ban could create problems for growers of oilseed rape and linseed, with both crops susceptible to flea beetle attacks at establishment and to viruses carried by aphid. This could result in significant extra costs and yield loss.

The ban on using these seed treatments on oilseeds, maize, peas and some vegetable crops arose from concerns about their impact on the environment, especially on bee health. This whole issue has put the spotlight on seed treatments and highlights the need to make sure that everyone involved in the use of treated seed, such as treatment contractors, growers and farm staff, follow best practice. In order to avoid any further restrictions, it is important that the industry shows that it uses treated seed carefully.   
All seed treated with a pesticide is potentially under scrutiny and we all have to play our part to safeguard their use. Despite these concerns, it must be remembered that all approved products have been through a rigorous registration process that allows safe use when applied and drilled as directed.

Why should we worry?

Treated seed is something that farmers pretty much take for granted. Early seed treatment began with mercury treatments in the 1920s, which were widely adopted over 50 years ago. These have since been replaced with an armoury of contact and systemic materials that control a range of diseases and insect pests.
Treating seed is an effective way of applying fungicides and insecticides. The approach should be used as part of an integrated pest management strategy and is the only way some damaging seed-borne diseases like bunt (wheat), loose smut (wheat/barley) and leaf stripe (barley) can be controlled. Seed dressings can also provide early protection against a range of damaging foliar diseases, such as yellow rust.
They also offer a precisely targeted mechanism for dealing with pests. For example, a seed dressing to control grain and bird-cherry aphids can replace a broad spectrum pyrethroid insecticide applied through a crop sprayer.
Seed treatments are applied to the seed where they are needed to protect the young plant through the establishment period. By using a seed treatment the amount of active ingredient applied per hectare of crop can be reduced by up to 75% compared with a spray programme. With continual pressure to reduce pesticides use on farm seed treatments is a way of achieving such a goal. For instance, using a seed treatment is the only reliable and effective control of Myzus persicae (peach potato aphid) in sugar beet and the all-important virus yellows it carries, as well as soil pests. Just over 60g of ai/ha can replace a couple of foliar sprays and a soil-applied granular insecticide.
Used correctly, seed treatments are a cost-effective and safe way of applying pesticides, but we have to remember they are pesticides and that legislators treat them as such. Registering new products is just as costly and difficult as other agrochemicals and the need to preserve existing products is equally important.

Seed stewardship

Stewardship in the use of seed treatments is becoming a factor in the approval of new products. Thus companies have responded by providing extensive stewardship advice to support their products. Information is available from company websites and seed suppliers.
Working with the manufacturers, the seed industry has developed the European Seed Treatment Assurance Scheme (ESTA), which is designed to ensure seed treatments are applied safely and to a high standard so that farmer customers can be sure the treated seed they buy is reliable and safe to use. This is a pan-European scheme designed to ensure that where growers see the ESTA logo they can be assured the seed has been treated correctly, no matter where in the EU it is sourced.
Although in the past few years the spotlight has focused on neonicotinoids, it is important to note that stewardship guidelines apply to all seed dressings, not just these materials.
These messages are not new – they have been on seed bag labels for years. What is important is growers need to be seen to be acting on these messages. Just like other pesticides, seed bags have a label stuck or attached and must be read before use. The label provides essential information on safe use and if further information is required, advice can be sought from the supplier, seed treatment manufacturer or a BASIS registered agronomist.

Key risk areas

The main concerns driving seed stewardship are environmental, and the key factors and how to address them are what we will concentrate on in this academy.
However, it goes without saying that human health is paramount, so drill and seed treatment plant operators should always wear the appropriate protective clothing as outlined on the label, and wash hands after working with treated seed.

Storage of treated seed

Treated seed, as with any seed, should be stored securely in dry conditions away from livestock and the risk of damage to bags by passing tractors and machinery that can cause spills. To prevent the risk of contamination to water, seed should be stored away from drains and watercourses.

Accidental seed spills

Spills potentially carry the biggest risk to the environment, as there is such a concentration of material in one spot. This can attract wildlife such as birds and small mammals, and if wet the seed treatment can dissolve in the water and spread.
To avoid spills, take care when loading the drill. And don’t fill the drill where seed spillage is difficult to clear up, such as grass verges. Handle bags with care and ensure no seed is released in transit, either from the drill or from an empty trailer – be sure to remove any spilt seed.
Always clear up spilt seed immediately. Small spills can be buried in the field; larger spills should be cleared up into a seed bag for later safe disposal. A spill kit consisting of spade, spare seed bag and label, plus canvas sheet for use when calibrating, should be carried.

Prevent dust

It was dust arising from poorly treated maize seed at drilling that gave some seed treatments their initial bad press. In 2008, many bees were killed in Germany as dust containing neonicotinoid settled on flowering crops.
To keep dust to a minimum, make sure a quality dressing is applied to ESTA standards. Handle bags with care, and don’t drop seed into the hopper from too great a height.
Drills – especially precision vacuum drills – must vent into the soil or on to the ground not into the air. Some manufacturers offer retro-fitted kits for older vacuum drills that need adapting. Take extra care if it is windy as fine dust can be prone to drift.

Ensure seed is buried

All treated seed must be suitably covered by soil so it does not attract birds and mammals. The most important message here is that broadcasting seed treated with pesticides is forbidden – and that includes Autocasting. Before considering broadcasting treated seed you should check with your supplier.
It is also worth remembering that some seed treatments such as tefluthrin, which controls wheat bulb fly, must be buried adequately to work effectively.
A properly maintained drill operated at the right speed in a good seed-bed will help ensure seed is covered. Do not force the drill round sharp corners or coulters may ride out, and ensure coulters are in the soil and the drill is moving forward before seed is released.
Cloddy seed-beds can be a problem; patience may be needed to achieve a finer tilth. If a lot of seed remains on the surface, a post-drilling harrowing or rolling might be needed as soon as the seed-bed is fit to travel, though it could be argued that seed wasn’t buried at the time of drilling.

After drilling

Once drilling is completed, check difficult areas like corners and headlands where seed may be left on surface, and take action to cover it.
Do not reuse seed bags, except to store treated seed, and dispose of them as contaminated waste.
Finally, make and keep a record of the drilling operation.


Safe use of treated seed is important for both our health and for the environment. Each bag of treated seed has a label giving the essential safety phrases to note when handling and sowing treated seed. They are common sense, but it is important they are acted upon. Failure to do so could restrict the future supply of the products needed for successfully growing profitable crops.

10 weeks – and still no Defra answer on neonicotinoids

flea beetle ©Rex
Defra was asked 10 weeks ago to grant emergency permission for two agrochemicals that could have helped growers stave off a flea beetle epidemic this autumn, it has emerged.
The NFU supported two requests to the Chemicals Regulation Directorate for the agrochemicals to be used against flea beetle. But a decision has yet to be announced.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said: “We supported emergency applications to use non-banned neonicotinoid chemistry in the autumn for flea beetle and aphid control. Those applications were submitted in July.”
Mr Smith said he had been told time and again by government officials that a decision was imminent. But an announcement had still not been made. “We are getting fed up. It seems like the request is being sat on and it would be useful to know why there has been such a delay.”
A flea beetle epidemic has seen some growers forced to redrill half their OSR this autumn. The situation has been exacerbated by a two-year European Union ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments over fears the chemicals damage pollinator populations.
The NFU disputes the assertion that the chemicals harm bees. It argues that the EU neonicotinoid ban is based on unsound science.
When regulators made decisions about banning pesticides, they should consider the effect that a ban would have, said Mr Smith. “It is quite clear they had no idea of the impact the neonic ban would have.”
A Defra spokesman said: “We are considering two applications for pesticide authorisations in accordance with EU rules but cannot comment further.

Neonic sprays given green light for use in oilseed rape

Neonic sprays given green light for use in oilseed rape

spraying OSR ©TS
Two neonicotinoid-based foliar insecticides are being approved for use in oilseed rape – one against cabbage stem flea beetle and the other against disease-carrying aphids.
Certis has been granted a 120-day emergence use of its product InSyst against cabbage stem beetle, while Bayer CropScience has gained an extension of use for its Biscaya product against aphids.
Some oilseed rape growers, mainly in eastern England, are seeing their crops being badly damage by cabbage stem flea beetle after the European Union banned the use of neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments. The approval for these two products came from the Chemicals Regulation Directorate, which is responsible for UK policy on pesticides, and authorises and monitors pesticides.
The Certis product contains the neonicotinoid acetamiprid and is already cleared for the control of pollen beetle in oilseed rape crops in the spring, but it can now be used for 120 days until late January against cabbage stem flea beetles.
Bayer’s Biscaya, which contains the neonicotinoid thiacloprid, now has an extension of use for the control of the main vector of turnip yellows virus in oilseed rape, the peach–potato aphid.
Yield loss to this disease can be as much as 30% in a high pressure year, and the old neonicotinoid seed treatments had given some control of the aphids.
Neil Thompson, Bayer’s campaign manager for insecticides, said the product’s extension of use will bolster growers’ armoury against aphids.
“Growers now have a fighting chance, but success will depend on the duration of aphid migration and how these foliar insecticides are deployed,” he added.
Bayer has not carried out any trials looking at Biscaya on cabbage stem flea beetle, but Mr Thompson said there may be some control of the pest.
“Based on our knowledge of the pest spectrum of thiacloprid, there may be some level of efficacy against adults, which are present at the time when Biscaya is being applied, however this won’t be a use supported by Bayer CropScience,” he added.

Doubts raised over neonic ban as bee scientists clash

Doubts raised over neonic ban as bee scientists clash

Bees on oilseed rape© REX/Image Broker
Concerns are mounting over the scientific backing behind a ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments as two researchers at the same university row over possibly flawed experiments.
The two scientists at the University of Sussex disagree on whether neonicotinoids were to blame for a decline in bee populations, which was the main factor behind the ban on the pesticide.
Bee researcher Norman Carreck is accusing his colleague Dave Goulson of feeding bumblebees unrealistic high levels of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid in the laboratory to show an adverse effect on bees.
Nearly 3% of the oilseed rape crop was destroyed by cabbage stem flea beetles in autumn 2014 after the ban on the insecticides, and in hotspots like the M11 corridor damage has been much higher.
“This shows that there are significant questions over the science. Full field trials have not shown the levels of harm compared with artificial doses,” says Chris Hartfield, bee and pollinator expert at the NFU.
There is clear science to show that neonicotinoids are harmful to bees, but in all of those studies the bees have been fed artificial doses of the pesticides, Dr Hartfield adds.
“This shows that there are significant questions over the science. Full field trials have not shown the levels of harm compared with artificial doses.” Chris Hartfield, NFU
Luke Gibbs, spokesman for Syngenta, which saw one of its products banned, added the group has always said that lab-based results were inconsistent to what had been seen in the field
“We always had a problem that lab studies were not replicated in field,” he says.
The European Commission imposed its two-year ban in December 2013 on the use of three neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam as seed dressings on bee-attractive crops, such as oilseed rape.
Two major products  – Syngenta’s Cruiser (thiamethoxam) and Bayer’s Modesto (clothianidin)  were banned, and the EC says it will review the ban by December 2015.
Mr Carreck published his review paper in the Journal of Agricultural Research that said the neonicotinoid doses used by Professor Goulson were much higher than those that bees were likely to encounter in fields.
He pointed out that field studies had not shown evidence that neonicotinoids harmed honey-bee colonies in the field.
Mr Carreck, who has been studying bees for more than 25 years, concluded that the ban could do more harm than good as growers would spray crops with alternative insecticides which are more damaging to wildlife.
Professor Goulson says Mr Carreck has been a bit selective in reference to field-realistic doses and the ban should be extended beyond December this year.
The UK has always opposed the EC ban as well as the agrochemical industry, which has agreed to fund independent trials run by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
One agrochemical giant is developing a replacement non-neonicotinoid oilseed rape insecticide seed treatment which could be available this autumn if emergence use is approved.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

2015 Mailing List

Subscribe to our 2015 mailing list 

* indicates required