A COMPREHENSIVE review of the socioeconomic value of neonicotinoid seed treatment released in Brussels has prompted further concerns from the agricultural sector about proposed restrictions on its use.

Neonicotinoid seed treatment, which has been linked to a decline in honey bee populations, was suspended in France last year. It involves applying the chemical to the seed as a coating prior to planting, and is among the most efficient forms of crop protection against severe seasonal pests such as aphids. It is critical for successful, profitable production of winter wheat, oilseed rape, barley and sugar beet in the UK, and for corn, sunflowers and vegetable crops across the EU.

Published by the Humboldt Forum for Food Agriculture, the authors of the report conclude that withdrawing access to neanicotinoid technology could lead to yield declines of up to 20%. That could make winter wheat an unprofitable crop for many UK farmers, and its production unfeasible in high-pest pressure areas.

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The authors also predict an annual loss to the UK economy of up to £630 million; that 1300 UK jobs directly created by neonicotinoids would be threatened; and there would be income loss for a further 15,000 growers. In addition, market prices for crop commodities could rise by up to 2% if an EU-wide suspension on neonicotinoids was introduced.

Chris Baldwin, managing director of United Oilseeds, said: "Using neonicotinoids is the most effective way to apply insecticide to crops and target specific threats. The alternative means spray ing post-emergent crops with insecticide in the field. As well as being less effective, this method is less targeted and means higher input costs for farmers."

Market round-up

Lawrie and Symington Ltd sold 27 prime heifers in Lanark on Monday to a top of 238p per kg and an average of 209.8p (-5.4p on the week), while 16 prime, beef-bred bullocks peaked at 235p and levelled at 209.7p (-7.4p). Fourteen prime, B&W bullocks averaged 166.5p (-10.5p).

In the rough ring, 50 beef cows averaged 134p and 64 dairy cows levelled at 106p. Twenty-two OTM cattle averaged 152p and six bulls levelled at 139p.

There were also 2002 prime hoggs that sold to £94.20 per head and 219.1p to average 161p (+19.4p).

The 545 cast sheep forward saw ewes sell to £116.50 for Texels and £54.50 for Blackfaces, with the overall average levelling at £50.80 (-£5).

The firm's fortnightly sale of dairy cattle was topped by a Holstein heifer at £2100 and averaged £1735 for the 11 sold (+£90 on the previous sale).

The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart sold 1776 store hoggs and feeding ewes at their weekly sale in Longtown yesterday. Top prices and averages for hoggs: Suffolks to £54.50 and averaged £43.71; Texels £56.50 and £41.12; Greyfaces £44.50 and £37; Blackfaces £40.50 and £32.17; Hill Cheviots £45 and £29.50.