London — An emergency derogation for the use of a neonicotinoid seed treatment in the UK is unlikely to be triggered for the upcoming sugar beet campaign, according to a report in Farmers Weekly.
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A Rothamsted Research model shows that only 9% of sugar beets in the UK is expected to be infected by virus yellows by August. In contrast, the model predicted last year that 70-90% of the crop would be infected by the virus, the report said.
A forecast at or below 9% will likely lead to the derogation not being triggered, one source said.
The terms of the authorization of neonics had a trigger point that includes the Rothamsted model, which incorporates data taken up until Feb. 28, the source said. On March 1, UK growers expect to know with absolute certainty whether the derogation will be triggered.
This news has been attributed to cold weather since the start of the year. The source said: "It's looking like a low risk year as the weather has killed a good number of aphids and delayed the migration to the beet crop."
According to the source, some growers have ordered seeds that are not coated with neonics and have asked for their orders to be processed regardless of the outcome of the emergency derogation. However, others said they prefer to wait for a final decision and the majority of seeds have not been coated with neonics and are currently "sat in a factory," the source said.
While farmer groups would typically ensure that seeds are distributed by mid-February, they have had to plan for delaying logistics this year. Seeds are expected to arrive at most farms in mid-March, with the remainder to be "trickled out" until early April, the source said.
In previous years, planting would typically begin from early February to mid-March and farmer groups expect planting to begin by the end of March this year. The source said: "In reality, a good proportion of the crop won't be planted until April." However, warming temperatures could see some growers getting out into their fields fairly soon, the source said.
Sugar beet acreage in the UK is expected to decline by 10-15% year on year to around 90,000-92,000 hectares, one source said. "Some growers have been cancelling their seed orders and this is down to the realities dawning on them about the risks they will have to bear," the source said.
Sugar beets have historically had a dependable yield and the industry had been able to counter falling prices with rising yields. However, plateauing beet yields are "affecting growers' appetite for sugar beets as it becomes a riskier crop with more risks and less reward", the source said.
This, in addition to more attractive prices for other crops such as barley and wheat, and the impact of sugar beets on soil structure, which has an impact on the rotation of the next crop, is increasingly leading beet growers to reduce the sugar beet acreage.