Pesticide Usage Report: Arable crops 2016

Date published: 29 November 2017

Pesticide usage report: Arable crops 2016



This is the fourteenth survey of pesticide usage practices on arable crops in Northern Ireland.  Information on all aspects of pesticide usage was collected from 217 holdings throughout the Province, representing 27% of the total area of arable crops grown. Quantitative data has been adjusted to provide estimates of total pesticide usage.

The total area of arable crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2016 was 38,082 hectares. This is the lowest cropping area recorded since records began in 1990. This represented a decrease of 2% compared to that recorded in 2014 and a 38% reduction compared to that recorded in the first pesticide usage survey of the arable sector, in 1990. Approximately 43% of the arable cropping area in 2016 was in County Down, 24% in County Londonderry, 19% in County Antrim, 7% in County Armagh and 7% in County Tyrone. This distribution is similar to that recorded in 2006 - 2014.  There was no significant area of arable cropping in County Fermanagh.  A total of 366 products (including 7 adjuvants), comprising 134 active substances were recorded in use on field crops in the survey.  No fallow, organic or cover crops were recorded during this survey period.

Spring barley, winter barley and winter wheat collectively accounted for 79% of all arable crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2016.  Since 2012, the area of spring wheat crops grown decreased by 53% whilst during the same period the area of winter barley crops grown increased by 43%.  Winter wheat accounted for 40% of the area treated with fungicides and 38% of the weight of fungicides applied whereas spring wheat accounted for only 2% of both the fungicide treated area and weight of fungicides applied.  Undersown barley was the only arable crop not to receive a fungicide treatment. 

Compared with 2014, fungicide applications increased by 10%, with chlorothalonil, either applied as a single active substance or as a formulation, the most frequently applied to cereal crops, especially spring barley and winter wheat.  Herbicide and desiccant applications increased by 2%. Glyphosate was the most frequently applied, accounting for 20% of all herbicide and desiccant applications. Insecticide applications decreased by 15% when compared with 2014 and the weight applied decreased by 83%,  mainly due to decreased applications of the organophosphorus insecticide, chlorpyrifos, used extensively in 2014 for control of Leatherjackets in spring barley crops.  Whilst chlorpyrifos has been used to a lesser extent during this survey period on spring and winter barley, it should be noted that, from 31st March 2016, all uses have been revoked except for treatment of brassica crops in peat blocks via gantry-mounted sprayers. 

Pyrethroids were the most frequently applied insecticides representing 92% of all insecticide applications. Esfenvalerate was the most frequently applied pyrethroid, primarily to spring and winter barley along with winter wheat crops, for general insect pest control. Growth regulator applications increased by 16% when compared to 2014. The principal growth regulator used in 2016 was chlormequat, which is consistent with previous surveys conducted in 1998-2014. In 2016, growth regulators were applied primarily to spring barley, spring wheat and spring oats and, most frequently, winter barley. Between 2012 and 2014, molluscicide applications decreased by 62% but rose by 96% during this reporting period.  Primarily, molluscicide applications were to control slugs in ware potato crops accounting for 74% of area treated with this pesticide group.

The total weight of pesticides applied to arable crops in 2016 increased to 121 tonnes of active substances, representing a 3% increase compared with 2014 and 8 %, 11% and 28% reduction when compared with 2012, 2010 and 2008, respectively. Seed treatment applications increased by 3% and the weight applied by 69%.

Potato crops comprised 10% of the area of arable crops grown in Northern Ireland in 2016, accounting for 18% of the total pesticide-treated area. However, the weight of pesticides applied to potato crops represented 30% of the total weight of pesticides used on all arable crops. The total area of potatoes grown comprised 87% early/maincrop and 13% seed potato crops. Potato crops accounted for 29% of the area of arable crops treated with fungicides and received 48% of the total weight of fungicides applied. Furthermore, applications of herbicides and desiccants to potato crops represented 14% of the area treated and 17% of the weight applied of this pesticide group.

Unlike previous surveys, where the cultivation of pea and bean crops was recorded, only field beans were recorded in 2016, with 295 hectares being grown.  Due to low numbers of early potato crops recorded in the survey the results for these crops were included with those for maincrop ware potatoes.  In addition to information concerning field applications of pesticides to crops, data relating to post-harvest/storage treatments applied to farm-stored potatoes were collected. It was estimated that 67,283 tonnes of potatoes were stored on-farm, following the 2016 growing season. This represented a 63% increase compared with 2014.  County Antrim accounted for 40% of all potatoes stored with Down and Londonderry both accounting for a further 26% each.