End of the road for diquat on potato farms

New ways of dealing with potato foliage must be found
End of the road for diquat on potato farms

Potato foliage must be removed before harvesting to prevent blight infection of the tubers, facilitate the passage of the harvester, and remove weeds. After this year, farmers can no longer  use Diquat, the most  used desiccant  for many decades.

No 1 potato dessicant product banned

Irish potato growers have been handed a minor reprieve from the EU’s campaign to reduce use of pesticides by 50%.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has granted a temporary, once-off and short term emergency authorisation for diquat.

Diquat has been the most commonly used desiccant in the potato sector for many decades.

It is no longer approved for use as a plant protection product within the EU.

However, to facilitate industry transition and to support growers as they move to other methods of dessicating potato crops, Minister McConalogue granted a derogation.

The authorisation is subject to a number of strict conditions to ensure appropriate protections are in place.

These conditions reduce the maximum allowed application rate and spray volume, and specifications in relation to buffer zones and drift-reducing nozzles.

They are the same as those provided for in an emergency use authorisation recently granted by Denmark, but the provision in Ireland is for a reduced period of time, remaining in place only for 60 days from September 10, facilitating limited use of diquat to desiccate this year’s potato crop.

The Minister said he has requested Teagasc to engage with stakeholders across the potato sector to address the challenges of potato crop desiccation in the absence of diquat, “to ensure that a similar situation does not arise in the future”.

As an EU clampdown on pesticides continue, the French sugar beet crop has been hit hard, with the drop in yields exceeding 30%, in crops affected by jaundice disease, spread by aphids which proliferated due to warm weather.

The government has proposed allowing sugar beet growers to use a type of pesticide which controls the aphids, but which had been banned because of risks to bees.

The Tereos sugar company expects the average yield for its French growers this year to fall by about 12% from last year.

However, the farm ministry has projected a 15% drop in production, due to yield and area reductions.

Even with aphid pesticides allowed, French farmers may turn their back on the beet crop, given the likelihood of not being allowed to use pesticides in future years.

Similar fears are blamed for the EU-28 soft wheat production shrinking, down 13.6% compared to the 2019 harvest.

Along with bad weather, growers were hit by increased presence of insect pests and diseases, which are ever harder to combat with pesticides availability reduced.

EU bans of many plant protection pesticides are making it increasingly difficult for European farmers to produce rapeseed, production of which has declined steadily since 2018, taking oilseed production to a historically low level.

The highest-profile pesticide which Irish farmers must manage without is chlorothalonil.

Banned since last May, the loss of this fungicide poses a significant threat to winter wheat and barley production in Ireland, according to Teagasc.

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