UK pulse industry condemns EU MEPs surprise EFA pesticide ban

“This EU decision is both surprising and disappointing in equal measure as it will have a negative impact on the area of pulses grown in the UK,” comments Roger Vickers, chief executive of PGRO. “Pulses are an integral part of the UK farmer’s rotation, and as well as their many, many benefits in their own right, they also impact positively on resultant crops in terms of weed pressure and soil health.”
His comment was supported by Franek Smith, president of BEPA. “The United Nations designated 2016 the International Year of Pulses to promote pulse consumption worldwide – and BEPA has made a huge and continuing effort to encourage this great source of vegetable protein which is healthy, affordable, sustainable and nutritious. This work will have been in vain if future supply is limited. We already have a tight marketplace – for example, this year we have seen the supply of Faba Beans, Large Blues, Yellow Peas and Maple Peas all but sell out.”
In a statement issued by PGRO and BEPA jointly on behalf of growers, the trade and the UK pulse industry, they listed a number of areas that will be compromised by the EU decision:
* All pulses support a huge range of biological diversity, and beans in particular are hugely attractive to pollinating insects and hence attract a very wide range of bird life.
* Pulses are flowering plants at a time of year when other pollen and nectar sources are less available. This benefit to bees and foraging insects may be reduced, bringing a negative environmental impact from the change in EFA regulations.
* It is almost certain that anyone growing pulses solely to fulfil the EFA will think long and hard about continuing if they are unable to use any pesticides. This will be to the detriment of both ecological diversity and EU protein production.
* The majority of growers know that there are huge benefits provided by having pulses in the rotation, and few are producing them purely for the 5% crop area EFA qualification. And even those who are growing for this reason will by now have realised the benefits of having a pulse crop on their farms.
* Pulses are crops that do not require intensive use of pesticides and require lower input levels. But to be successful they do need inputs to deliver economic yield potential – and this needs the judicious use of a very limited portfolio of approved fungicides as and when required.
* Their unique lack of requirement for manufactured nitrogen fertiliser means they have a significantly lighter energy requirement – a factor that is also tremendously beneficial to the environment.
* It is widely recognised that pulses boost the performance of the following crop as well as adding to the general improvement of soil structure and soil health.
* A good crop of peas or beans has many benefits for following crops and improved rotational margins. To reap the benefits of pulses, growers use limited justifiable inputs to maximise the output and quality of their pulse crops in order to market them to best advantage.
* Three crop requirements and close rotational issues in other crops will not disappear. Issues with pest and weed control that have driven the move to spring cropping have not changed.
* The EU’s Horizon 2020 programme is sponsoring research to the tune of tens of millions of Euros to inform policy as to how pulse and protein production can be increased to counter the EU protein deficit. Hence, it seems both perverse and counter-productive to impose measures that will make that goal even harder for producers.
In a final joint statement Roger Vickers and Franek Smith: “All these environmental and other benefits are surely why the pulses were included in the EFA rules in the first instance, so this decision seems perverse to say the least. It would be enormously disappointing if growers of pulses were to reduce their cropping area because of a negative message on EFA rules from the EU when the fundamental reasons and benefits for pulse production remain the same.”

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About The Author

Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.