Renewable Farming

Penn State: Avoiding neonicotinoid seed treatment helps protect beneficial insects

We’ve long admired No-Till Farmer for presenting the facts about farm chemicals, and the Dec. 15 report by Laura Barrera confirms that confidence again.

Barrera describes how Lewisburg, PA farmer Lucas Criswell has planted seed untreated by neonicotinoids for the past three years, with expectations of reducing toxic pressures on beneficial insects in the soil food web.

“We’re saving $15 an acre in seed treatment costs on soybeans,” Criswell is quoted.  The entire article is at this link. 

Criswell made his decision based on research supervised by Penn State University entomologist John Tooker. 

Tooker’s department reported in April 2015 that the acreage treated by neonicotinoids has increased rapidly the past several years.

Also, Penn State also reported a year ago that the neonicotinoids favor damaging slugs, while wiping out beneficial species.

Neonics don’t affect gray slug, which proliferates in soil when its predators are taken out


The release, available at this link, says in part:

“Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world,” said Margaret Douglas, graduate student in entomology, Penn State. “Seed applications of neonicotinoids are often viewed as cheap insurance against pest problems, but our results suggest that they can sometimes worsen pest problems and should be used with care.”

According to John Tooker, associate professor of entomology, Penn State, recent research links neonicotinoids with negative effects on pollinators and pollution of surface water in agricultural ecosystems, and even with cascading negative effects on aquatic invertebrates and insect-eating birds. However, the effects of these common seed-applied insecticides on soil-dwelling creatures have been little explored.

“Our research suggests that neonicotinoids can have unintended costs, even within crop production,” he said.

Penn State research on “neonic” pesticides has been released in a straightforward way. Not all researchers in this area have fared as well. The Honey Colony website published an update on Jonathan Lundgren, the USDA researcher who ran into sanctions for being too candid about the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on non-target insects. You can read it at this link.