By Stuart Hill, of Hutchinsons

THE IMPACT of regulation responding to politics has been a topic of growing concern for the farming industry in the past couple of years.

There is a real danger of some positive agricultural practices being undermined, if key active ingredients, such as glyphosate, continue to be lost due to a hazard based regulatory system responding to political pressure.

In this article Stuart Hill, Hutchinsons head of technology and innovation outlines what is important to the industry and how we can ‘save it for the nation’!

Available chemistry has fallen by around two-thirds since the review of plant protection product regulations began back in 1991, under EC Directive 91/414 (since replaced by Regulation 1107/2009).

However, whenever there is a challenge, innovation comes to the fore. Our R and D crop protection partners have responded to the regulatory challenge, although there have been major cost increases.

There have been two rounds of industry rationalisation since the late 1990s, aimed at gaining market share through mergers and acquisitions.

Part of the objective has been to mitigate against the £250m cost of developing a new active ingredient.

More significantly, the manufacturers have diversified, investing significant R and D budget in other critical areas, such as genetics, nutritional products, biologicals and, more recently, precision farming and data.

This has all coincided with the realisation that farm output has been challenged, as yields have plateaued, fixed costs have increased, resistance has developed in all areas of chemistry and our soils have been struggling with a loss of organic matter, associated structure and biology.

We are investing more in broad but relevant long-term research and development projects, such as the Brampton black-grass centre of excellence and satellite sites, to actively deliver management of black-grass and soils culturally, whilst optimising machinery systems.

The development of precision farming and data management service, Omnia, is enabling more detailed analysis of the benefits of linking different agricultural practices.

Future developments

During this period, it has felt quiet on the new active ingredient front.

However, investment in conventional chemistry has increased and we have been experiencing development time lag.

We are now, arguably, about to see the most significant period of active ingredient development in three decades.

The main question is: Will new chemistry and technology resolve all our problems?

I don’t believe so and a combination of factors will continue to cause significant challenge.

With the loss of so much chemistry, then the pressure multiplies exponentially on the options left.

The vegetable, fruit, herb and pulse sectors, especially, are struggling with few options available and resistance management highly restrictive.

The emergence of biological control is proving a success in protected crop situations and, to an extent, in fruit, but in broad acre cropping significant development is required to prove efficacy.

Suppliers are ultimately businesses and have to justify their investment. This is challenging when an analysis of area and return is calculated in some of these smaller crop sectors and investment is then directed into other cropping, or other parts of the world.

Threat to soils

In some instances, the options are down to a single active ingredient. This is the case with glyphosate.

It is a key component in many farming systems, in such as rotation change, reduced tillage and direct drilling that have transformed black-grass control. Over time, it also benefits soil health.

Diquat is also under regulatory review pressure. If both of these are lost, then there are no options and the positive path we have started will be lost with a return to a mechanised approach putting more pressure on our soils and environment.

Glyphosate has been classified by the RAC (Risk Assessment Committee) of ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) as ‘non carcinogenic’. This is good news but only the first step.

The decision now has to be ratified by the commission by the end of the year to allow re-approval of glyphosate products.”

The message is clear, complacency is not an option and lobbying must continue to ensure the right outcome for positive, long term sustainable farming.

How can you help?

We are asking growers to write to their MP and local MEPs to request support in the re-registration of Glyphosate.

A campaign highlighting the benefits of glyphosate to the farming industry is needed and to assist this Hutchinsons have prepared supporting information and a draft template letter to MPs/MEPs, for growers to individualise to reflect the needs of their own farming business.

For a copy of the draft letter, go to

MORE than 100 different products are up for re-approval in the next two years, including: