Pesticide Usage Report: Soft Fruit Crops 2020

Date published: 18 November 2021

Pesticide Usage Report: Soft Fruit Crops 2020




This report presents information from a survey of pesticide usage practices on soft fruit crops in Northern Ireland in 2020.  Data were collected from 9 growers representing 33% of all soft fruit holdings in Northern Ireland.  Quantitative data has been adjusted to provide estimates of total pesticide usage. A survey of the total population was not possible primarily due to non-participation of growers.


Soft fruit cultivation is a very minor sector of agricultural production in Northern Ireland and includes a range of crops grown on relatively small areas, which receive varying degrees of pesticide application.  These factors lead to greater statistical uncertainty associated with the estimates produced and, whilst these data give an indication of pesticide use in this sector, they are less statistically robust than the estimates from the other reports in this series and should be interpreted accordingly.


Compared with the previous survey, carried out in 2018, the total area of soft fruit crops grown decreased by 17% to approximately 14 hectares and the area treated with pesticides (spray hectares) decreased by 25%.  


A total of 24 kilograms of pesticides were applied to 39 spray hectares of soft fruit crops in 2020.  Strawberries were the most commonly produced soft fruit (protected, semi-protected and non-protected), with 21 kilograms of pesticides being applied to 35 spray hectares.  This represented approximately 89% of the total pesticide-treated area and 88% of the total quantity of pesticides applied.


Fungicide usage decreased by 25% when compared with 2018.  Fungicides were applied to 54% of the total pesticide-treated area, representing 36% of the total weight of pesticides used in 2020.  Azoxystrobin and fenhexamid were the fungicides applied to the largest area. Fenhexamid and sulphur were also the most frequently used fungicides by weight applied.  Grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) and powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis) were the main reasons given for fungicide use on strawberries.


Herbicide usage, applied to the inter-row area of non-protected crops, decreased by an estimated 29% compared with 2018.  Herbicide active ingredients were applied to 16% of the total pesticide-treated area (36% of the total weight of pesticides used) with propyzamide and napropamide collectively accounting for 82% of the herbicide-treated area and the weight of herbicides applied.


Insecticide and acaricide usage decreased by 45% in 2020 when compared with 2018.  Insecticide and acaricide active ingredients accounted for 10% of the total pesticide-treated area and 2% of the total weight of pesticides applied in 2020.  The insecticide and acaricide pirimicarb and thiacloprid were the most frequently applied active substances and were only applied to strawberries.  Reasons for insecticide/acaricide use during this survey period included general insect control, aphids, red spider mites, sawfly and vine weevil.


Biopesticides were applied to 9% of the treated area in 2020, comparable with 7% in 2018. Biopesticides were only applied to protected and semi-protected strawberry crops.  Bacillus subtilis was the most commonly applied biopesticide accounting for 78% of the biopesticide treated area. Biopesticide applications were to control grey mould (Botrytis cinerea), powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis), aphids, red spider mite and vine weevil. Aphelinus abdominalis, Aphidius colemani, Ephedrus cerasicola, Praon volucre, Bacillus subtilis, Steinernema feltiae, Steinernema kraussei and Phytoseiulus persimilis were the only biopesticides used.


Molluscicides were only applied to non-protected crops and accounted for 7% of the total pesticide treated area and 2% of the weight of pesticides applied.


‘Other products’ (derived completely from natural ingredients but not classified as ‘plant protection products’) accounted for 5% of the pesticide treated area and 23% of the weight of pesticides applied. ‘Other products’ were only applied to protected and semi-protected strawberry crops with the reason for use given as aphid control.