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British beet sugar industry emergency authorisation application

13 September 2021

The British beet sugar industry has submitted an emergency use application for the neonicotinoid seed treatment Cruiser SB to be used on sugar beet seed in 2022, if weather conditions mean it is required. The application is due to be considered at the September meeting of the Expert Committee of Pesticides (ECP).

This seed treatment would be used to protect the sugar beet crop (which does not flower) from Virus Yellows disease, a crop disease spread by aphids surviving a mild winter. The treatment is applied to the seed before it is sown - it is not a spray.

As was the case last year, the use of Cruiser SB is subject to a predetermined, independent threshold level through the Rothamsted Virus Yellows model. If the threshold for using Cruiser SB is met early in 2022, sugar beet growers will be required to follow a strict set of conditions, including rules on what crops can be planted in the same field following any treated sugar beet. The seed treatment would also be applied at a lower than standard rate.

Although our previous application for emergency authorisation was granted by Defra, we did not need to treat the sugar beet seed sown in 2021 with Cruiser SB, as very cold winter conditions meant the Rothamsted model accurately predicted low levels of Virus Yellows in the crop, and the predetermined threshold was not triggered. While this was welcome news, as growing the crop without the neonicotinoid seed treatment as a result of the freezing weather is the best outcome, it is not yet possible to predict virus levels for next year and we want to be able to protect the 2022 crop if required.

More generally, across the industry we continue to work to progress plans to tackle Virus Yellows without the need for neonicotinoids in future years. This includes active programmes focused on grower practices, traditional and new breeding techniques, and novel approaches such as the use of beneficials (insects) in the crop. Put together, these will help us to have a range of tools available to protect the UK’s sugar beet crop.

Notes to editors:
  • The agenda for the ECP’s September meeting, when published, can be read in full here.
  • In 2020, Virus Yellows had an extreme and unprecedented impact on the UK’s sugar beet crop, with some growers seeing their yields destroyed by as much as 80 per cent.