Pesticide usage report: Top fruit crops 2014

Date published: 20 November 2015

Pesticide usage report - Top fruit 2014



This report presents information from a survey of the pesticide usage practices of top fruit growers in Northern Ireland in 2014.  It is the eighth pesticide survey to be conducted on top fruit crops in the region since 1992.  There were an estimated 219 top fruit growers in Northern Ireland in 2014, of which 52 were selected to be surveyed regarding information on crop, storage and orchard floor treatments.  The total area of top fruit crops grown increased by less than 1% to 1,519 hectares when compared with the previous survey in 2012.  An estimated 97% of all top fruit crops were grown in County Armagh, with Bramley apple orchards accounting for 99% of the total top fruit grown in Northern Ireland.  There were an estimated 38,235 tonnes of Bramley apples harvested in 2014, a 61% increase compared to 2012.

Overall, an estimated 36.5 tonnes of pesticide active substances were applied to 40,936 spray hectares.  The pesticide-treated area decreased by 11% compared with 2012, and the weight of active substances applied decreased by 25%.

In common with previous years, fungicides were the most frequently applied pesticide.  When compared with 2012, which was a particularly wet year with high scab risk, the area treated with fungicides and the weight applied decreased by 12% and 27%, respectively.  In 2014, fungicides were applied to 70% of the pesticide-treated area and accounted for 65% of the weight of pesticides used (including ‘other’ products).  Mancozeb, captan, dithianon and pyrimethanil were the fungicide active substances most commonly used on top fruit crops.  An estimated 86% of all fungicide applications were applied to control apple scab (Venturia inaequalis).

The area treated with insecticides and acaricides decreased by 16% when compared with 2012.  Insecticides and acaricides were applied to 4% of the entire pesticide-treated area, accounting for 2% of the total weight of pesticides used.  The organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos and the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin were the two most frequently applied insecticides, collectively accounting for 61% of the area treated with insecticide/acaricides.  An estimated 45% of insecticide/acaricides were applied to control aphids, with a further 21% applied for ‘insect control’.

The most common weed management practice was to apply herbicides in strips under the tree canopy and mow the inter-row grass area between the rows of trees, with 96% of growers using this method.  The remaining 4% of growers either mowed or grazed the strips under the tree canopy and the inter-row area.  Overall, the area treated and weight of herbicides applied increased by 91% and 45%, respectively, when compared with 2012.  Glyphosate and dicamba/MCPA/mecoprop-P were the herbicides most frequently used.  In Northern Ireland, growers may have multiple planting densities in the same orchard where small areas of older trees are gradually replaced with younger trees.  This makes it difficult to estimate the orchard floor treated area due to the different spacing distances between the trees.  For this report, a new method of calculating the treated area has been used which is based on the average age of the trees (see Definitions and Notes).    

Growth regulators accounted for 3% of the pesticide-treated area and less than 1% of the total weight of pesticide applied.  Paclobutrazol, prohexadione-calcium and gibberellins were the only growth regulator active substances applied.  Paclobutrazol accounted for 42% of the area treated with a growth regulator and 56% of the total weight applied.

An estimated 7 tonnes of ‘other products’, which included foliar feeds, trace elements and calcium-based products, were applied to the crops during this survey period, representing a 26% decrease when compared to 2012.  The majority of applications were to treat potential nutritional disorders.

Data were also collected on post-harvest storage treatments applied to top fruit crops. An estimated 11,272 tonnes of apples were stored, of which 9,706 tonnes (86%) were treated.  The only active substance applied to stored apples was 1-methylcyclopropene. Bramley apples represented 99% of all stored apples.

For further information on this work please contact: Pesticide Usage Monitoring Group