Estonian farmers opposed to cutting pesticide use ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Tractor spraying a field with plant protection products.
Tractor spraying a field with plant protection products. Source: ERR

Estonian farmers are not in favor of cutting the use of plant protection products by 50 percent across the board as prescribed by the European Commission's biodiversity strategy for 2030. Estonia is among EU countries that use such products the least and the country's chamber of agriculture and commerce finds that mitigating risks should be prioritized over cutting quantities.

Two-thirds of Europe's plant protection products are used by France, Germany, Italy and Spain, said Margus Ameerikas, CDO for Baltic Agro that has been selling seeds, cereals, fertilizer and plant protectors to farmers for 25 years.

He added that the plan to cut use of plant protection products across the board is like forcing an obese and underweight person on the same diet and that he believes every country should be looked at individually.

"If just a few decades ago, we grew around 600,000-700,000 tons of cereals for our own use, we grow three times that much today, while we use half the pesticides we did in Soviet times. The same goes for fertilizer," Ameerikas said.

If Estonian farmers used on average 0.7 kilograms of plant protection products per hectare last year, the figure was nine kilograms in Cyprus and four in the Netherlands for example. Head of the Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce Roomet Sõrmus said that plant protection cannot be helped in agriculture.

"We can see how climate warming is bringing new pests, new plant diseases to Estonia. The past year's mild winter lacked the natural deterrent that is very cold weather that can kill diseases and bugs. There is very strong pathological pressure on fields," Sõrmus said.

The Ministry of the Environment finds that use of pesticides needs to be curbed.

Head of the ministry's nature conservation department Taimo Aasma said that the situation of species inhabiting agricultural landscapes, such as amphibians, is clearly deteriorating. "Plant protection products clearly have a hand in it," he said.

This reflects the European Commission's vision at this time as Estonia is still shaping its position.

Head of the Ministry of Rural Affairs' plant health department Sigmar Suu said that there needs to be country-specific approach. "We cannot adopt a universal policy when there are such massive differences between countries regarding use of plant protection products," she said.

The Estonian Chamber of Agriculture and Commerce finds that instead of cutting the use of plant protection products, mitigating associated risks needs to be prioritized.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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