Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle

Many will have noticed there are considerably fewer bright yellow fields than last year, and some a much paler shade of yellow than their owners will have wanted.  Evidence suggests that in the UK a slightly lower amount of oilseed rape was planted last autumn than previous the year.  A considerable proportion did not have a good start, possibly in part as a result of the very dry soil conditions at the time, but also the concerns of Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB).  This a meant an unknown quantity, but perhaps 8% of the national crop, written off before winter.

That which made it to the spring, is also in rather poor condition now, with another 5-10% being written off largely in the central and Western parts of England.  This will either be replaced with another crop or fallowed, or in some cases, left in poor condition, its owner resigned to the fact it will probably generate a poor yield.  It is concerning that reports are emerging that CSFB is having a damaging effect on the emerging sugar-beet crop too.  It is too early to speculate on yield impact, but we will continue to monitor this situation.

Ironically, reports from Lincolnshire suggest some bee-keepers are concerned there is insufficient OSR to supply enough nectar to produce honey from their hives.  Perhaps the loss of Neonicotinoids has had adverse impacts even on the insects that the ban was designed to protect.

What the impact of CSFB on OSR in the British farmer’s rotation in future might be is unclear, but many growers and agronomists have suggested their rotations and crop recommendations will not include OSR for at least three years.  The OSR area is in long-term decline; its area topped out in 2012 and has fallen every year since then apart from once.  In 2019 we could harvest the lowest rape area since 2004, and possibly the smallest crop since then too.

This article is from Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin, a subscriber-based publication which provides readers with expert, concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry and what it means for you and your clients. For further information, including a free trial, please visit:

10-year license renewal for glyphosate?

The EU Commission stated that it will propose extending its approval for glyphosate by 10 years, having taken into account the recent ECHA study’s view that glyphosate should not be classified as a cancer-causing substance.

The Commission decision has drawn criticism from both environmental groups and crop protection companies which were seeking a longer approval. No date has been set for when discussions with Member States will start. It also remains to be seen how the new French government will react to the proposal as green activist, Nicolas Hulot, has been appointed as environment minister. From a UK standpoint, although EU decisions will become less important from March 2019 onwards, any decisions taken before that date will be transposed into UK law via the Great Repeal Bill. Therefore, the renewal agreed at EU level will also be applicable to the UK, assuming a decision is made before 2019 of course…

Pesticide and GM voting rules

Proposed changes to EU voting rules for approving products such as Genetically Modified (GM) crops and pesticides are aimed at making Member States more responsible for their actions. Under current rules, many Member States abstain from voting, particularly on politically sensitive topics.

This increases the likelihood of ‘no opinion’ outcomes, delays and shifting responsibility for such decisions to the Commission.

The new proposals being considered include classifying those who abstain or who are absent at the Appeal Committee vote (2nd stage of the voting process) being classified as ‘non-participating Member States’.  Such countries will be subsequently discounted when the double majority of votes (55% of Member States representing 65% of the population) is calculated.

Other proposals include making public Member States’ voting patterns and the introduction of a ‘quorum provision’ which would mean that a vote would be invalid if a simple majority of Member States did not participate in the Appeal Committee vote. In addition, where an initial vote results in a ‘no opinion’, a second referral to the Appeal Committee would take place and Member States would be represented at Ministerial level. There is also a proposal to have the right to refer the matter to Council to obtain a non-binding opinion, in a bid to give the Commission a political steer.

These proposals are unlikely to be popular amongst several Member States which have been content to permit the Commission to be criticised for authorising sensitive products.  However, such reforms are necessary, especially if the EU is serious about being more accountable to its citizens. Having unelected bureaucrats making contentious decisions is an abdication of responsibility and has contributed to the increasing ‘disconnect’ that voters feel regarding the EU.   

Some may feel that such proposals will not have much relevance to the UK as it prepares for Brexit.  However, EU regulation will remain important in the next two years and beyond. The Great Repeal Bill will transpose whatever EU regulation is in place upon formal Brexit directly into the UK statute and may not be amended for some time. Therefore, decisions such as whether glyphosate is reauthorized will continue to play a central role in UK arable farming.