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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Pest management and yield in spring oilseed rape without neonicotinoid seed treatments

Lundin, Ola; Malsher, Gerard; Hogfeldt, Carol; Bommarco, Riccardo


Use of neonicotinoid insecticides as seed treatments has been prohibited in the EU. As a consequence, concerns of lost production have been raised among producers. It remains, however, unclear to what extent the ban has increased pest attacks and crop damage, and reduced yield and farm profit. It is also unclear to what extent alternative, non-chemical options can protect crops. Flea beetles (Chrysomelidae: Alticini) are the main pests targeted by insecticide seed treatments in spring oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.). Over three years, we conducted 23 field experiments in which we compared seeds treated with neonicotinoids with untreated seeds, grown at normal or doubled sowing rates. The experiments were established during a range of sowing times at the same time as the hosting farmer sowed, which also allowed us to assess the impact of sowing date. We measured flea beetle activity density, crop plant density, cotyledon damage, crop yield and relative economic performance. Flea beetle activity density was eight times higher in 2014 than in 2016, with intermediate activity in 2015. Neonicotinoid seed treatment, increased sowing rate and an earlier sowing date all reduced crop damage. Seed treatment decreased crop yield loss by 521 kg ha(-1) and relative profit loss by 144 Euro ha(-1) in 2014, but had no effect on yield or profit in 2015-2016. Increased sowing rate did not affect yield, but decreased profit in 2015 (-138 Eum ha(-1)) and 2016 (-114 Euro ha(-1)), mainly due to higher costs for seed. Earlier sowing date was consistently associated with higher yield and profit. Our results put prophylactic seed treatments in question, as they gave lower yield losses in only one year out of three. Earlier sowing and somewhat higher sowing rate emerge as viable alternative pest management practices. Because management outcomes depended on pest pressure, which varied from year to year, crop damage prognosis tools are needed based on improved understanding of the population ecology of crop pests, to support the growers' decisions and avoid unnecessary use of insecticides.


Canola; Chaetocnema; Neonicotinoid; Non-chemical pest control; Phyllotreta; Seed coating

Published in

Crop Protection
2020, volume: 137, article number: 105261

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Plant Protection Network

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

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