It’s going to be a hard “no” from the major grain companies for 2016-17 deliveries of canola sprayed with the herbicide quinclorac and wheat treated with the growth regulator chlormequat.
The announcement came recently from the Western Grain Elevator Association when it introduced its Declaration of Elegibility affidavits for the coming crop year, noting the new documents will require growers to declare they haven’t used the products.
While both are approved for use in Canada neither have approval, nor established maximum residue levels (MRLs), in key markets. Quinclorac is not approved in China, Canada’s biggest market for canola seed, while chlormequat is not approved in the United States — a major Canadian cereals market.
If residues are detected on shipments to either destination the deliveries could be rejected, causing financial harm to the exporter and potentially disrupting future Canadian exports, which will affect both exporters and Canadian farmers, Wade Sobkowich, WGEA’s executive director said in an Apr. 5 interview.
“We’ve seen what happens with Triffid flax,” Sobkowich said.
Several years ago the European Union blocked, and then restricted, imports of Canadian flax because they were contaminated with small amounts of Triffid, a genetically modified flax that is not approved in Europe. Most importers have zero tolerance for unapproved genetic traits and pesticides.
Last June the WGEA announced its members would not accept canola sprayed with quinclorac, but later a few companies did, believing farmers didn’t get enough advance notice, Sobkowich said.
“They tried to help farmers by taking and segregating it and sending it to different markets,” he said.
“It was awkward and costly. This year everybody should have plenty of notice that quinclorac is not approved in China… and the members of the Western Grain Elevators Association will not be accepting canola treated with quinclorac (or cereals sprayed with chlormequat).”
The WGEA represents Canada’s major grain companies — Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, Parrish & Heimbecker, Paterson GlobalFoods, Richardson International and Viterra.
The Canola Council of Canada is also advising farmers not to use quinclorac on canola this year.
“It’s a very serious issue,” council president Patti Miller said in a news release in March. “Our export customers test shipments regularly to make sure their standards are met and the tests are becoming more and more precise. If a shipment is turned back because of an unacceptable residue, it can mean millions and millions of dollars, not only to the exporting company, but to farm revenue.”
Data from 2015 confirmed that quinclorac leaves detectable residues on canola seed and in the processed oil and meal, the canola council says.
“When samples were tested from canola fields that had been treated with quinclorac according to label directions, residues were found most of the time,” its website states. “Therefore, the value chain believes there is a significant risk to Chinese exports if quinclorac is used on canola.”
Cereals Canada also wants farmers to be aware of the chemicals they apply to ensure they meet end-users’ requirements. President Cam Dahl said crop protection product residues are generally getting a lot more attention lately.
“This is the reason we launched the ‘Keep it Clean,’ cereals campaign — to help manage this issue and educate producers and to demonstrate to our customers that we take the issues seriously,” Dahl said in a recent interview.
The campaign, and an accompanying website, warns farmers not to apply unregistered products to their crops and to be aware of specific market restrictions.
The site also says farmers should follow pesticide label directions and deliver the grain farmers declared they would.
Very low levels of residue can be detected, Dahl said. Even trace residues are forbidden if there’s zero tolerance. One part per trillion is equivalent to one second in 32,000 years, he said.
“It’s amazing what you can find when you test to that level,” he added.
That’s why it’s important for farmers to check with grain buyers and their pesticide retailers before applying new products to their crops, Dahl said.