THE WORD that we'd like to put up for contention for the 'new' one that enters the dictionary for the end of the year, 2019, is Brustration – the cantankerous, misleading and irritation that was Brexit.

Its political ministrations, its physical baggage and its tangible effect on the credibility of the people who were supposed to run this country, have pushed the nation to the brink. It brought upheaval to the meat market, uncertainty to grain commodity trading and put hard-won pensions on a roller-coaster ride – to say nothing of condemning politics to the gutter.

But whatever its frustrations, the wheels still turned in agriculture – albeit that tracks were sometimes needed! – the auction marts kept going, the crops grew and nation was fed.

How long will that continue?

For the UK – along with much of the rest of Europe – faces a life without important herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. There have been a few losses of important chemistry already and there are more teetering on the brink, and yet more under scrutiny. Nobody ever said that chemical treatments were without risk, but by far the greater risk is that people will go hungry.

Farmers have excelled at what they do and have done for millennia. They will adapt, they will produce, but they are fast approaching a time when the chemical armoury available to them will no longer be able to hold back a tide of fungus, pestilence and rotting food in storage.

Cultural methods of control are all very well – and preferred by the green lobby – but invariably they add cost and, with the likes of mechanical weeding, make more passes through the crop necessary (actually flying in the face of being 'green').

This all makes the industry's push towards ICM (integrated crop management) ever more important. Legislators have to accept that we can never do away with chemical control – especially in the UK, where GM crops are not allowed – and that there must be some leeway given to products that work, especially when utilised alongside risk-assessed use and cultural controls.

Pharmaceuticals abound in all aspects of life, from ladies make-up to veg-free 'meat', and they all carry a 'risk'. Caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and now, seemingly, their replacement, vapes, are all freely available to the general public – and all have risk. Seemingly, they are mostly without much control, other than warnings of dire consequences on fag packets.

What agriculture has now, though, is a chemical industry frightened to commit money to research and development, running scared from a political and legislative process which offers little in the way of succour that their work will be rewarded.

If nothing else, 2020 should give 'them' the vision to at least acknowledge that there is a risk:benefit quotient and that fair and open scrutiny should be applied without fear or favour. That is all the industry wants – for the moment!