Pesticide Usage Report: Top Fruit Crops 2018

Date published: 23 October 2019

Pestcide Usage Report: Top Fruit Crops 2018




This report presents information from a survey of the pesticide usage practices of top fruit growers in Northern Ireland in 2018.  This is the tenth pesticide usage survey to be conducted on top fruit crops in the region since 1992. There were an estimated total of 206 top fruit holdings in Northern Ireland in 2018. Since the previous survey, there was a marginal decrease in the total area of top fruit crops grown to 1,498 hectares, and a slight decrease of 2% of the area of Bramley apples grown. A sample of 74 growers was selected to provide information on crop applications, storage treatments and orchard floor treatments.  An estimated 93% of all top fruit crops were grown in County Armagh, with Bramley apple orchards accounting for 97% of the total top fruit grown in Northern Ireland.  There were an estimated 48,932 tonnes of Bramley apples harvested in 2018, a 9% increase compared to 2016.


Overall, an estimated 33.5 tonnes of pesticide active ingredients (including other products) were applied to 40,748 spray hectares. The total quantity of fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and acaracides and growth regulators applied was approximately 22.5 tonnes applied to 30,503 spray hectares. The pesticide-treated area decreased by 13% compared with 2016, and the weight of active ingredients applied decreased by 6%.


Fungicide application accounted for 63% of total pesticide treated area (including ‘other’ products) and 63% of weight applied. When compared with 2016, the area treated with fungicides decreased by 19%, and the weight of fungicides applied decreased by 11%. Captan (20%), mancozeb (14%), dithianon (12%), pyrimethanil (12%) and dodine (10%) and pyraclostrobin (7%) were the fungicide active ingredients most commonly used on top fruit crops, collectively accounting for 74% of fungicide-treated area. An estimated 94% of all fungicide applications were applied to control apple scab (Venturia inaequalis).


Insecticide and acaricide application represented 6% and <1% of total pesticide use by area treated and weight of active substance applied, respectively. The area treated with insecticides and acaricides decreased by 13% when compared with 2016. The moulting accelerator, methoxyfenozide accounted for 35% of insecticide treated area, a two-fold increase since 2016. Deltamethrin represented 21% of the insecticide treated area.  There was no recorded use of the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos or the carbamate, pirimicarb. It should be noted that, from 31st March 2016, all uses of chlorpyrifos were revoked except for treatment of brassica crops in peat blocks via gantry-mounted sprayers. The use of the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin decreased by 82%, representing 13% of total insecticide application. The pyridine carboxamide flonicamid accounted for 3% of insecticide treated area. Aphid control accounted for 9% of insecticide application and a further 78% was attributed to ‘general insect control’.


Herbicide application represented 3% of total pesticide use by area treated and 4% of weight applied. Overall, the area treated with herbicide decreased by 32%, but the weight of herbicides applied increased by 1%, when compared with 2016.  Glyphosate was the most frequently used herbicide accounting for 67% of total herbicide application. MCPA accounted for 11% of the total herbicide treated area. 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 91% of growers using this method.  The remaining 9% of growers either mowed or grazed the strips under the tree canopy in addition to the inter-row area.


Growth regulators accounted for 3% of the pesticide-treated area and less than 1% of the total weight of pesticide applied.  Gibberellins, prohexadione and prohexadione-calcium were the only growth regulator active ingredients applied.  Prohexadione and prohexadione-calcium accounted for 81% of the area treated with a growth regulator and 99% of the total weight of growth regulator applied.


An estimated 11 tonnes of ‘other products’, which included foliar feeds, trace elements and calcium-based products, were applied to the crops during this survey period, a similar figure compared to 2016.  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 14,476 tonnes of apples were stored, of which only Bramley apples were treated accounting for 14,474 tonnes. The pesticide active 1-Methylcyclopropene was recorded in use on stored top fruit crops in 2018, accounting for 100% of apples treated. Bramley apples represented 99% of all stored apples.