POSTCOVA Project April Update – is it all in vain?

Our Winter Wheat trials are coming along nicely with all of our Nitrous Oxide gas detectors in place, ready to detect Green House Gas emissions from our control plots and – hopefully – significantly reduced emissions from our treatment plots.

The few weeks of warm spring weather has meant that our vegetable field trial sites in Pembrokeshire, run by our project partners Puffin Produce, have been a hive of activity. The leeks have been planted and the cauliflowers have received their first application of foliar feed treatment.

The salad potatoes are a few weeks off emergence and like many parts of the UK would not mind a drop of rain, which would also be helpful for the cabbages and main crop potatoes that are due to be planted in the coming weeks.

However, as lovely as our trial plots look, all is not rosy…in recent weeks we have learned of a proposed regulatory issue, not just additional paperwork, but the complete elimination of the use of biostimulants for reducing biotic stress on UK farms by 2022.

While many people are under the impression that regulatory laws passed in the EU will not affect the UK any longer, this is, however, not the case. Many regulations continue to affect us and of particular concern is the EU Fertiliser Regulation, (EC) 219/1009, which has already become part of UK law due to the Withdrawal Legislation.

This regulation will come into force in 2022 and will require manufacturers and suppliers of biostimulants to complete field trials to the same level required for pesticide registration, but still not make any claims for plant strengthening and reduction of biotic stress, something which has been a major benefit from the use of many biostimulants in the UK and overseas. The biostimulant industry is made up of many smaller companies who would be at a severe disadvantage to the multi-nationals if they have to to undertake such costly and time-consuming additional trials. No producer should be frightened to demonstrate efficacy, but the EU regulations are onerous in this respect.

If this legislation in its current form is converted to statutory law it will be an unnecessarily severe blow, not only to the UK independent biostimulant industry, but also for UK farmers and will remove one of the main tools they have at their disposal to reduce their use of nitrogen, pesticides and fungicides to meet the environmental demands of ELMS and the goals of both Government, NFU, major supermarkets and – most importantly – the expectations of the British Consumer.

All interested parties, farmers, crop specialists, retailers, food experts, merchants and most of all biostimulant companies are asked to complete a survey that can be found here and register your comments and concerns at [email protected] as soon as possible.