Harper Adams academic re-opens neonicotinoids debate

Harper Adams University visiting professor Professor Keith Walters is to lead research in the integrated pest management of thrips and the environmental impact of neonicotinoids.

Keith Walters
Keith Walters

The European Commission recently introduced a restriction on three neonicotinoid pesticides, and a two-year suspension of their use as seed treatments on flowering crops began last December.

Said Walters who has worked in research for more than 25 years;

"My interest was first excited when I led a consortium that, after six years, developed a unique integrated pest management system for thrips. Part of this involved using a neonicotinoid pesticide to reduce numbers while leaving their natural enemies relatively untouched.

"The debate regarding impact on bees did not seem to fit well with the outcome of this work, which has now been successfully tested on the commercial scale, so I am investigating why this is. Much of the data that has been generated in this area is focused on only one of the neonicotinoids and there is evidence that it may not be transferable to other members of the group so further data is needed to establish risk from these other insecticides. In addition, it is focused on honey bees with relatively little having been published on the other key pollinator species, and many studies have used much higher exposure rates than would be encountered in the field.

He added:

"We also need to ask ourselves what are the alternatives to neonicotinoids? Is it possible that these may have an even worse effect on bee populations. This is a debate that needs to be worked through to ensure that all stakeholder needs are addressed whether it's farmers, beekeepers or agronomists, for example.

"Key to this debate is protecting the environment we all rely on, including the beneficial organisms that are so important in crop production, and this must be achieved in a way that is compatible with the commercial constraints facing the agricultural industry."

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