Pesticide Usage Report: Soft Fruit Crops 2022

Date published: 20 December 2023

Pesticide Usage Report: Soft Fruit Crops 2022



This report presents information from a survey of pesticide usage practices on soft fruit crops in Northern Ireland in 2022.  Data were collected from 9 growers representing 39% 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 2020, the total area of soft fruit crops grown decreased by 29% to approximately 10 hectares and the area treated with pesticides (spray hectares) decreased by 5%.  


A total of 12 kilograms of pesticides were applied to 37 spray hectares of soft fruit crops in 2022.  Strawberries were the most commonly produced soft fruit (protected and semi-protected), with 10 kilograms of pesticides being applied to 33 spray hectares.  This represented approximately 88% of the total pesticide-treated area and 81% of the total quantity of pesticides applied.


Fungicide usage decreased by 15% when compared with 2020.  Fungicides were applied to 49% of the total pesticide-treated area, representing 62% of the total weight of pesticides used in 2022.  Azoxystrobin and the formulation fluopyram/trifloxystrobin were the fungicides applied to the largest area. Azoxystrobin and sulphur were also the most frequently used fungicides by weight applied.  General disease control, 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 semi protected and non-protected crops, decreased by an estimated 72% compared with 2020.  Herbicide active ingredients were applied to 5% of the total pesticide-treated area (21% of the total weight of pesticides used) with propyzamide and napropamide being the only two actives used.


Insecticide and acaricide usage increased by 9% in 2022 when compared with 2020.  Insecticide and acaricide active ingredients accounted for 15% of both the total pesticide-treated area and the total weight of pesticides applied in 2022.  The tetramic acid insecticide spirotetramat and acaricide abamectin 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, thrips and vine weevil.


Biopesticides were applied to 23% of the treated area in 2022,more than double that used in 2020. Bacillus subtilis was the most commonly applied biopesticide accounting for 30% of the biopesticide treated area. Biopesticide applications were to control grey mould (Botrytis cinerea), powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis), red spider mite, thrips and vine weevil. Aphelinus abdominalis, Aphidius colemani, Ephedrus cerasicola, Praon volucre, Bacillus subtilis, Steinernema feltiae, Steinernema kraussei, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, Neoseiulus cucumerisand Phytoseiulus persimilis were the biopesticides used.


Molluscicides were applied to semi-protected and non-protected crops and accounted for 2% of the total pesticide treated area and 1% of the weight of pesticides applied.


‘Other products’ (derived completely from natural ingredients but not classified as ‘plant protection products’) accounted for 6% of the pesticide treated area ‘Other products’ were only applied to protected and semi-protected strawberry crops with the reason for use given as general insect control, red spider mite and thrips.