Roses could be under threat if EU votes to ban pesticides

Peter Beales Roses was awarded the Darlington Crystal Vase for best exhibit shown in the Festival of Roses marquee at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier this month.

Roses under threat - photo: HW
Roses under threat - photo: HW

The Norfolk-based firm, which has won gold for its stands at Chelsea and BBC Gardeners' World Live this year, received the accolade for a walk-through display of old fashioned roses and new varieties.

But roses, among other ornamental plants, could be threatened by the pesticide vote at the European Parliament in October. As HW reported last week, products used on roses to control aphids, blackspot and powdery mildew - such as Aphox, Bravo and Twist - could be lost. HW heard mixed reactions from exhibitors about this prospect.

Fryer's Nurseries managing director Gareth Fryer said: "I think it will be so difficult that I imagine a lot of rose growers will just give up. For anyone thinking of pulling out it will be the final straw. Our roses are a two-year crop and without the herbicides it would be impossible to keep the weeds under control. It would take us back 50 years.

"We can't go back to 20 men hoeing all summer. It will be the death knell for the UK trade and flowers will be bought in from all other parts of the world."

He called for action: "Not only MEPs but our Government needs to be lobbied. We need to have a day of action, with agriculturists and horticulturists campaigning together. There should be a demonstration in London or Brussels, perhaps locking up Eurostar trains for the day."

But other rose growers and breeders stressed that pesticide usage should be reduced and that the approach their companies were taking was to concentrate on breeding disease-resistant varieties and encouraging cultivation techniques.

Robert Harkness said: "My feeling is that there is a need to have some control on pesticide use. The best idea is to develop healthy roses so that consumers do not have to use pesticides in their gardens."

David Austin's technical manager Michael Marriott said: "We are trying to be less reliant on pesticides and are relying more on foliar feeds and compost teas. It would be worrying if we didn't have access to them but it's not as worrying as it would have been three years ago as we do the minimum number of sprays now."

He added: "Our roses are generally resistant to powdery mildew and if roses are mulched and watered well it won't be a problem. There are also good varieties which are resistant to rust and blackspot."

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