It seems there is never a dull moment in the greenhouse ornamental industry these days. From transitions to new crops, new export requirements, to novel pest problems, the industry has seen a lot of change….and it’s not over yet.
The industry is also going to be facing changes regarding some commonly used chemical products. Here is the latest on potential revisions to the list of chemical tools we have access to in Canadian floriculture.
This is guest post was written by Cary Gates, Pest Management Director at Flowers Canada Growers.
Having been invited to provide a guest blog on this great forum (thanks Sarah!!) I thought I would start with some of the challenges we’ve faced in terms of access to pesticide registrations, and some losses we’re encountering.
Don’t worry – it’s not all bad news, but that’s where I’ll start.
The Re-Evaluation Process:
Health Canada/the PMRA, who regulate pesticides, are mandated to review registrations periodically for several reasons. Primarily, they need to make sure that registered pesticides remain safe for the public and the environment. These re-evaluations occur every 15 years.
The PMRA is also now reviewing many “older” pesticides (registered pre-1995). Finally, Health Canada is conducting special reviews on products where unique concerns have been identified – neonicotinoids are an example of this but are not the only class under special review.
Generally, FCG has been discouraged by the process the PMRA has used and are frustrated by many of the proposed results and how they’ve been determined. Particularly, we are concerned with the use of generic “defaults” used in risk assessments that often are the cause of cancellations (more on this below).
Pesticides at Risk:
The greenhouse ornamental industry has been impacted heavily by recent re-evaluations. Several products are proposed to be withdrawn in the near future from ALL ornamental use. Some examples include:
- Aliette (fosetyl-AL)
- Daconil (chlorothalonil)
- Intercept (imidacloprid)
- Imidan (phosmet)
- Rovrol (iprodione)
- Orthene (acephate)
However, some of these cancellations might not be outright, at this point. For example, some Daconil uses can likely be restored through efforts by FCG via proposing changes in the use pattern. But for growers who rely on them for scheduled crop protection, the anxiety is understandable.
Additional Pesticides at Risk: Cut Flowers
Due to the increased safety risks associated with labour and increased handling in cut flower crops, this sub-crop is scheduled to suffer further potential losses. These additional products may include:
- DDVP (dichlorvos)
- Dyno-Mite (pyridaben)
- Captan (captan)
Obviously, cut flowers aren’t the only crop who will feel some of the pain from these pesticide losses. But, many of the proposed changes in other crops are limited to use pattern adjustments only, as opposed to outright cancellations.
FCG is working very closely with registrants and the PMRA to try and adapt use patterns in cut flowers as well, to keep these uses. This would include potential changes as increased REI’s, fewer allowable applications, lower rates, and drench applications vs. foliar sprays. The bottom line is that there’s a possibility some of these proposed decisions could be reversed, but with use changes that may make implementing these products in a practical way more difficult.
Other Reasons for Pesticide Losses:
Unfortunately, it’s not just PMRA re-evaluations that affect the industry. We are also seeing the voluntary removal of some products from the market by the companies themselves, for various reasons.
Vectobac 600L (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) and Sevin (carbaryl) are examples of this. Stock up now if you use these products as you typically have multiple years to use up product on hand.
Focus on New Registrations:
FCG recognizes the loss of these chemicals is a big deal for a large number of farmers.I have been participating in numerous stakeholder working groups, providing detailed commentary to the PMRA on use patterns and suggesting adjustments to labels, and developing collaborative approaches to challenge some re-evaluation decisions.
But probably the one single activity of most value to address potential pesticide losses is to register replacements.
FCG works with companies to expand existing pesticide labels and request that new registrations include greenhouse ornamentals. At present I have over 35 open files at various stages of completion. Registrations are a slow processes but we have had very reasonable success. For more on how the registration process works in Canada, see this previous post. Once approved, new registrations are announced on this blog and on the Flowers Canada website.
More Research is Needed:
Flowers Canada is heavily involved in research projects that benefit all flower farmers, but additional focus on cut flowers is going to be needed moving forward.
Canadian cut flower growers have suffered considerably from a variety of factors. These include the loss of production space to new crops like cannabis or strawberries, challenges with water use approaches, and decreased competitive advantages from free trade agreements. Cut flower growers are an important part of the ornamental industry, and consistently losing pest management tools for this group hurts the industry immensely. These are often long term crops (up to 3 years) that require considerable investment to produce, and emptying greenhouse compartments or roguing out infected plants to solve serious pest issues is generally not an option.
One of my highest priorities will be to secure funding to examine the concerns PMRA has with pesticide risks to workers in greenhouses, and how pesticides degrade in greenhouse environments. We suspect the reality might be different than current defaults used in PMRA risk calculations, and that the cut flower industry is suffering over and above other commodities. But we need to prove it with concrete evidence.
Generally, the PMRA has been very generous in providing guidance on how a project like this might advance. But, to positively address issues for ornamental farms (especially cut flower growers), AND harmonize regulatory decision making with other developed nations that produce cut flowers, we probably need more assistance.
What YOU Can Do in the Meantime:
Despite the bad news , this could be an opportunity to start to consider pesticide alternatives like using biological control agents. They work.
Yes, they are somewhat more involved to use. And, if you’re unfamiliar with them, there can be a learning curve involved. But, they also come with many positives. For example, we know that employees enjoy working around crops treated with biocontrol agents. They can also be an effective marketing tool with customers.
Luckily, we have many world-class experts available in the region who would be happy to assist you in developing production programs without certain pesticides.
From Drs. Sarah Jandricic and Chevonne Carlow at OMAFRA, to Rose Buitenhuis and Micheal Brownbridge at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Ontario is an international leader in biological pest control and alternatives to pesticides. We also have a large number of private consultants and industry representatives who are incredibly talented and can help a lot with production and pest management issues.
Finally, I always appreciate talking to growers and getting feedback. Reach out anytime with your concerns. Many thanks to OMAFRA for the invitation to guest author a piece on this great blog. I look forward to doing it again.
You can reach Cary Gates at Cary@fco.ca or call him at 519-836-5495 Ext. 228.