Limagrain UK is optimistic that treated maize seed will still be available for the upcoming season as hope grows that the impending ban on seed treatments will be delayed following a successful lobbying campaign.
The future viability of maize being grown in the UK – either for use as livestock forage or as a feed source for AD (anaerobic digestion) plants – has been in question due to an impending ban on all seed treatments including Korit (ziram) bird deterrent, Redigo M (prothioconazole + metalaxyl) fungicide and Force 20 CS (tefluthrin) insecticide.
As it currently stands, from 31st December 2023 it would be illegal to import, sell or sow any seed which has been treated with any of these products, leaving crops at significant risk of failure.
“Without a suitable bird repellent, insecticide and fungicide, there’s a substantial risk that newly drilled crops could be completely wiped out by corvid grazing, or seriously hindered by insect damage and soil-borne pathogens,” explains Tim Richmond, Maize Manager for Limagrain Field Seeds in the UK and Ireland.
“Corvids are highly intelligent birds, and quickly understand seed drilling patterns, with any attempt to drill seed deeper to prevent bird damage likely to exacerbate the risk of seedling blight, making the application of a fungicide seed treatment such as Redigo M even more critical.”
To counter the ban, which has threatened the industry as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU, an industry working group – spearheaded by Limagrain UK – has been set up to lobby the Government into taking action.
“Limagrain has taken a leading role in this sector-wide campaign which has also included the MGA, AIC and NFU,” Mr Richmond continues. “A number of emergency authorisation (EA) applications have been made to the regulators for the continued use of these treatments for sowing in spring 2024, with a decision on whether the ban will be withdrawn or delayed due imminently.”
The Expert Committee on Pesticides is scheduled to meet in September, with a final announcement are expected to be made before the end of the month.
“As things currently stand, we’re confident that our ongoing discussions with the Farming Minister, the Rt. Hon. Mark Spencer MP, will have a favourable outcome and that all three seed treatments will still be available for use in 2024 – either as a result of the Emergency Authorisations being granted, or because of a change in the law to delay the withdrawal date.”
Despite the imminent announcement there remains significant uncertainty amongst UK maize growers, with some already suggesting they are preparing to sow an alternative crop such as wholecrop winter wheat.
“We appreciate that the clock is ticking and that for some growers any announcement might come too late,” Mr Richmond adds. “But until a concrete decision has been made, we’d urge growers not to rush into making any changes to next year’s rotation.
“We will know more in a relatively short timeframe and will announce the Committee’s decision as soon as it has been made known to us. In the meantime, we are continuing to lobby for the new generation of maize seed treatments to be registered with the CRD as quickly as possible to ensure maize remains a viable crop in the UK in the long-term.”