The risks to British crop protection and plant health due to uncertainty caused by Brexit were highlighted at a potato industry conference on Wednesday.
Dr Sophie Churchill, chair of the AHDB Potatoes Board, spoke at the industry event BP2017 about growers’ concerns over the ever-dwindling access to plant protection products.
She has called upon the industry as a whole to work together to ensure long-term sustainability and productivity, whatever the future crop protection scenario is post-Brexit.
She said: “We don’t know how the crop protection landscape will look post-Brexit and until we know the outcomes of trade negotiations, we are looking at a prolonged period of uncertainty. At the same time, we are aware of potential increased momentum to look for a sustainable future for crop protection in Britain.”
Dr Churchill has spent much of her six months in the role visiting growers and those in the supply chain. She stated the most common concern among farmers was the future of crop protection.
Commenting after Dr Churchill’s speech, Will Shakeshaft of Spearhead Potatoes said: “Over the past ten years a number of seed treatments, herbicides and desiccants have been removed from our tool-kit. Growers have relied on the work of organisations such as AHDB to provide an evidence-base for potential replacements.
“Any sudden or unexpected changes connected to Brexit could leave us without proven replacements for lost products. The consequence could be lost or lower value crop and it will be farmers who will be most affected.”
AHDB manages 137 crop protection and plant health related research projects, with a combined spend of £4.92m across the potatoes, horticulture and cereals and oilseeds sectors.
It comes at a critical time when the European Union debates whether to renew glyphosate for a further five years following continued deadlock.
Dr Churchill added: “Our strength in tackling this issue is not only to consider all potential crop protection scenarios – as we are already doing through our growing Horizon series which includes a report dedicated to crop protection – but also in working together.
“AHDB’s role is to provide a platform, to act as a catalyst for key organisations across agricultural sectors and to take a long-term view on the sustainability and productivity of the industry. We will therefore be leading a wider effort in research and innovation to ensure that the next generation of crop protection products meet these vital aims.
“We will be sharpening our focus on these issues throughout 2018.”