The days of using glyphosate as a desiccant on dry beans are coming to an end.
Canadian dealers of dry beans, such as white, cranberry, navy and pinto beans, have decided that glyphosate cannot be used at harvest starting with this year’s harvest, Derwyn Hodgins of Hensall Co-op, a major buyer of dry beans, told the recent Ontario Bean Growers research day.
Glyphosate can continue to be used on adzuki beans.
Why it matters: The decision is based on market trends versus science and shows the power of consumer belief carrying through to retailers, marketers and now farmers of crops.
Hodgins says the bean dealers saw a pretty plain trend and decided Canada was behind other jurisdictions in the world.
Most American states, especially the ones that produce dry beans, have already eliminated glyphosate as a desiccant.
“Canada is two years behind and we must continue to have market access for Canadian beans,” he says.
Several factors lined up in the past six months that pushed the dry bean dealers to take this step. They include:
- Michigan, a major producer of dry beans, is ahead of Canada in eliminating the use of glyphosate as a desiccant.
- Most American states are not using glyphosate as a desiccant.
- Because of United States tariffs and the current agriculture trade war, European Union buyers have started to look for different growing regions around the world to diversify their supply. The new growing areas “want a piece of our pie and they won’t be using glyphosate,” says Hodgins.
- Buyers in Europe told Canadian sellers of dry beans that they still need Canadian product now and will take it with glyphosate as a desiccant, but “they had a very clear message: ‘When we can get high quality non-glyphosate product somewhere in the world, you better be ready.’ ”
- If the United Kingdom leaves the EU without a deal, called a “hard Brexit,” then the U.S. could have tariff-free access to that market, giving Canadian beans more competition.
- “Every time we turned on the TV or picked up a paper, we saw people being sued,” said Hodgins. It made sense from a business risk management scenario to move away from glyphosate, he said.
The timing of the announcement is unusual, Hodgins admitted as they would normally let growers know pesticide restrictions at the time a production contract is signed.
However, he said, they couldn’t wait another year.
“When we signed contracts up originally, we had no idea we were going to do this. Events and mounting pressure through the growing season resulted in making this decision,” he said.
The removal of glyphosate as a desiccant for dry beans follows a trend in other crop sectors where it is discouraged as a desiccant in durum wheat, as well as pulses and other grain crops.
Italy has used the fact that glyphosate is used to burn down wheat in Canada to justify its dramatic reduction in the amount of wheat it imports from Canada for pasta.
Mike Donnelly-Vanderloo, chair of the board of the Ontario Bean Growers says the loss of the use of glyphosate as a desiccant is “a concern absolutely” but he understands the dealers’ decision.
“Given the current climate they had no choice. It’s just that it’s taking something out helped us be competitive.”
Donnelly-Vanderloo, who farms near Thorndale, is concerned that there appears to be little logic and science in such decisions, driven by juries of laypeople instead of experts in product safety.
The biggest concern is the loss of grass control while using a desiccant. Glyphosate provides good grass control, but Eragon, which will be the most-used alternative, does not.
Farmers also liked using glyphosate to fully kill off the plants, versus what most desiccants do in killing off green material on the plant. If the growing point isn’t killed, then the plants can start to grow again, says Donnelly-Vanderloo.
“Now we’re back to the second best,” he said. Some growers have said they won’t be growing dry beans – a more challenging crop to grow, if they lose the use of glyphosate, he says.
Adzuki beans aren’t as much of an issue, says Hodgins, as they are mostly destined for Japanese markets where there’s actually been an increase in the limits of glyphosate allowed on crops there. He expects that glyphosate will continue to be allowed on that crop.
Other desiccant options vary in effectiveness, weed control
Glyphosate used as a desiccant has long made many in the farming sector uncomfortable.
There can be residue issues unless the greenest part of the field is less than 30 per cent moisture before spraying.
Eragon LQ and Merge are the preferred desiccants for all classes of dry beans other than adzukis, says Hodgins.
For seed production, Reglone can also be used.
Adzukis can be still treated with glyphosate, along with Aim, glyphosate with Eragon and Merge or just Eragon and Merge.
Meghan Moran, canola and edible bean specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs says that Eragon is doing a good job controlling end-of-season weeds in edible beans. What will be lost without the ability to use glyphosate is potential concern with grass weeds that glyphosate would have controlled.