Most no-tillers work very hard to farm sustainably and be good neighbors by farming responsibly. But if you make a habit of fighting the good fight when applying pesticides, your job just got a little tougher.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is investigating the recent deaths of more than 50,000 dead bumblebees in two cities.  The use of a neonicotinoid insecticide to spray linden trees for aphids is being fingered, and the state has responded by banning for 6 months the use of insecticides containing the active ingredient dinotefuran.

Although there are timing differences with the two cases, Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, says the neonicotinoid insecticide Safari is “likely the cause.”

He told the Oregonian newspaper that bees won’t visit a tree if it’s not flowering, and if trees are sprayed prior to flowering, the flowers could still be toxic to bee populations. An off-label application is being investigated as a possible cause of the bee deaths.

While some facts are still being gathered, the message here is that no-tillers should be very careful to not go off label with any pesticides.

Environmentalists are always looking for a reason to push for the ban of a chemical — whether their assertions that they are harmful to the public, wildlife or environment are correct or not. Just one slipup could provide them with the fuel they need to push for bans, particularly with a federal government today that seems eager to take their side.

Ohio State University offers some guidelines to follow about insecticides and pollinators. Hopefully, you can make sure to avoid landing in the regulatory crosshairs.

John Dobberstein,
Managing Editor
No-Till Farmer