Systemic seed treatment products, applied as a coating around the seed, protect the emerging crops from fungal diseases and insects. However, if parts of this layer get rubbed off the seeds, crop protection products may be released into the air as dust particles. In order to minimize the chance of bees being affected by this, a campaign has been launched to help Hungarian farmers fit their planting equipment with so-called deflectors.
// Systemic seed treatment products protect seeds and young plants from pests.
// Without precautionary measures, small parts of the seed treatment can rub off the seed surface and be released to the environment as dust during planting.
// A campaign, launched to encourage Hungarian farmers to fit planting equipment with deflectors, was started in order to minimize the emission of dust.
Seeds are the starting blocks of thriving plant life. As such, they require a particularly high degree of protection, so that e.g. the corn, soybean or oilseed rape seedlings they produce will grow into strong, healthy, productive plants. For this reason, the seeds are covered with protective products before they are planted. If this is done with a systemic seed treatment product, the substance is taken up by the roots as the young plants grow, protecting them from destructive insects or fungal diseases. The crop protection afforded by the seed coating also ensures that less spraying will need to be done, thereby reducing resource usage, costs for farmers and potential exposure of pollinating insects such as bees. “For the environmental safety of this approach to work, however, it is essential that the protective treatment sticks well enough to the seed,” says Dr Peter Ohs, Senior Global Stewardship Manager at Bayer’s division Crop Science.
“And the treatments have to be properly applied to the seed by qualified experts, and the treated seeds must be handled, stored and used with care by the farmers,” he explains. Otherwise, a small amount of the substance could rub off the seeds and be emitted into the environment or the air as they are being planted with vacuum-pneumatic drilling machines, causing potential risks for beneficial insects and other organisms. Bayer experts are therefore constantly working on making the entire seed treatment and planting processes even safer. “For example, it is important that we reduce the amount of dust emitted during planting,” says Dr Ohs.
This is where deflectors come into the equation: Deflectors attached to the planting equipment direct 90 percent of any dust generated to the ground. This process protects not only the pollinators but also the farmers and environment.
Dr. Peter Ohs
Senior Global Stewardship Manager
bei Bayer im Bereich Crop Science
Prior to the start of the project in Hungary, no reliable data was available to indicate how many drilling machines are operating in the country and if they were equipped with such a device. A market survey showed that smaller farms in particular, that comprise more than 50 percent of the farmers community, usually own drilling machines which have no deflectors.
That is why standardized deflector kits have been developed, which are customized to fit the planting equipment commonly used in Hungary. "Parallel to this, we have also launched a campaign to raise awareness in the farming community that deflectors are an important part of environmentally friendly farming,” says Dr Ohs. The campaign was supported by all major takeholder organizations including the National Chamber of Agriculture, the Hungarian Seed Association and the Hungarian Crop Protection Agency.
The Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture is also working along the same lines as Bayer. “We are trying to make farmers more aware of this important issue,” explains Gabor Szalkai from the Ministry. “At the same time, we want to introduce binding rules on equipping agricultural machinery to better protect our environment.”
“The Bayer and Syngenta campaign for fitting Hungarian planting equipment with deflectors was well received and many small-scale farmers have been reached. Additionally, the Hungarian Agricultural Ministry is also committed to better protect bees and the environment.“
The deflector campaign, therefore, comes at just the right time. The initiative, which has been running in Hungary since the end of 2014, includes a discount scheme for farmers. The discounts allow them to fit their planting equipment with deflectors more affordably, saving between 50 and 75 percent of the original costs. “In this way, smallholders can also afford the easy-to-install retrofit kits,” says Dr Ohs.
Currently, about two thirds of farmers are aware of the upcoming regulations. Those who have already installed the deflector are saying every pneumatic drilling machine should be equipped with such a device as it requires only a small effort but can make a large contribution to sustainable crop protection and farming. A particularly positive aspect of the campaign is that smallscale farmers with whom the companies normally have no direct contact could also be involved. “We have opened the gates to the farmers,” says Dr Ohs, optimistically.
After all, only if many farmers get on board with the campaign, will the goal of this stewardship measure be reached – to further reduce potential risk to pollinators.