A ban on farmers using glyphosate would reduce wheat yields across the EU by between 7% and 30%, according to a new study.

The impact assessment of the loss of glyphosate within the EU found that this reduction in EU production could equate to 24 million less tonnes of wheat produced per year, worth €10.5bn.

This would be deducted from the current level of EU wheat production, at 138 million tonnes.

The research was conducted by the independent consultancy ADAS at Boxworth, Cambridgeshire, England. ADAS is the UK's largest independent provider of agricultural and environmental consultancy, rural development services, research and development, and policy advice.

The European Parliament continues to debate the pros and cons of using glyphosate in EU agriculture, with a crucial vote on the matter fast approaching.

Lost production

Losses to wheat production would be seen at varying rates without the pesticide spray used for weed control in crops, with up to 24 million tonnes at risk across Italy, France, the UK, Germany and Spain alone.

There would also be a major hit to EU potato production if glyphosate was to be banned, the research found.

The European Parliament continues to debate the pros and cons of using glyphosate in EU agriculture. \ Donal O' Leary

Using data from the country-level studies, the review calculated that potato yields would decline by between 5% and 20%, which, when scaled up to EU production, equates to losses of between 2.6 and 10.4 million tonnes.

Even grape and wine production would suffer reduced output, albeit at varying rates between different EU countries. A loss of glyphosate would lead to a 1% to 3% reduction in Italian grape yields, and a 12% to 20% loss in French yields.

Extrapolating a 3% reduction in grape yields across all 28 EU member states, a glyphosate loss would lead to losses in grape production of 700,000t, whilst a 20% reduction in production would equate to 4 million tonnes of loss in production.

Extra costs

Not only did the study find that there would be reductions in yields without glyphosate availability, it also found that there would be substantially increased costs to the farmer.

The review found that these costs would arise through the need for additional fuel for increased cultivations and additional labour (as cultivations take longer than spraying) and, in situations where conservation tillage has been adopted, would potentially require the purchase of new cultivation equipment that was previously unnecessary.

Glyphosate. \ Donal O' Leary

The best data for increases in cost of production were presented for wheat, with estimates of losses ranging from €27/ha to €134/ha through additional fuel and labour costs.

Assuming these cost increases are applied across the whole of the EU wheat area of 25.4 million hectares, the study calculated an increase in wheat production costs of €690m to €3.4bn.

In addition, a subsequent 7% to 30% reduction in wheat production, at an average value of €171/t, would equate to a €1.6 to €7.1bn reduction in the value of EU wheat production.

Together, it was calculated that, in the absence of glyphosate, the cost to the wheat sector could be up to €10.5bn in increased costs and lost revenue, assuming that crop areas were maintained.

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