1992 - Volume #16, Issue #4, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Dutch Government Outlaws Farm ChemicalsDutch farmers are bracing themselves for big changes in the way they farm since their government virtually outlawed farm chemicals - including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and nearly every other chemical applied to farm crops and fields.
The change won't happen immediately. The goal is to cut chemical usage by one third by 1995 and to one half by the end of the 1990's. If all still goes well at that point, the government plans to further re-duce their usage until they are totally eliminated.
It's a risky experiment for the tiny country which exports up to 70 percent of all its agricultural production, accounting for a major part of total trade revenue. But pressure from non-ag groups, and the strength of the organic farming movement, have prompted the strong action, making the Netherlands the most strongly anti-chemical country in the world.
Government researchers through-out the country are concentrating on projects designed to reduce chemical usage. Already, new methods used in some studies have resulted in an overall reduction of 60 percent in herbicides and a 50 to 60 percent reduction in fungicides without hurting yields. Crop rotation and use of rotary hoes and other mechanical weeders have been the most effective, as well as later planting (one study showed fewer broadleaf weeds germinate in late-sown wheat, for instance) and using mixes of different varieties to cut down on diseases.
One big problem is coming up with a way to encourage farmers to quickly adopt the new methods. At this time it looks like the government will either offer a premium for crops produced with less chemicals or direct payments will be made to farmers who adopt the new "integrated" systems. (Excerpted from FARMER'S WEEKLY)
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