Pesticide Usage Report: Top Fruit Crops 2020

Date published: 17 November 2021

Pesticide Usage Report: Top Fruit Crops 2020




This report presents information from a survey of the pesticide usage practices of top fruit growers in Northern Ireland in 2020.  This is the eleventh pesticide usage survey to be conducted on top fruit crops in the region since 1992. There was an estimated total of 202 top fruit holdings in Northern Ireland in 2020. Since the previous survey, the total area of top fruit crops grown decreased by 9% to 1,362 hectares, and a slight decrease of 8% of the area of Bramley apples grown. A sample of 60 growers was selected to provide information on crop applications, storage treatments and orchard floor treatments.  An estimated 91% of all top fruit crops were grown in County Armagh, with Bramley apple orchards accounting for 98% of the total top fruit grown in Northern Ireland.  There was an estimated 38,586 tonnes of Bramley apples harvested in 2020, a 21% decrease compared to 2018.


Overall, an estimated 18.4 tonnes of pesticide active ingredients (fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and growth regulators) were applied to 27,355 spray hectares. The pesticide-treated area decreased by 10% compared with 2018, and the weight of active ingredients applied decreased by 18%.


Fungicide application accounted for 86% of total pesticide-treated area (not including ‘other’ products) and 91% of weight applied. When compared with 2018, the area treated with fungicides decreased by 8%, and the weight of fungicides applied decreased by 20%. Captan (24%), dodine (11%), pyrimethanil (10%), and mancozeb (9%) were the fungicide active ingredients most commonly used on top fruit crops, collectively accounting for 54% of fungicide-treated area. An estimated 88% 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 28% when compared with 2018. Deltamethrin represented 45% of the insecticide treated area, an increase of 50% since 2018.  Chlorantraniliprole accounted for 17% of the insecticide treated area. The moulting accelerator, methoxyfenozide accounted for 16% of insecticide treated area, a three-fold decrease since 2018. The use of the pyrethroid insecticide cypermethrin decreased by 39%, representing 11% of total insecticide application. The pyridine carboxamide flonicamid accounted for 9% of insecticide treated area. Aphid control accounted for 24% of insecticide application and a further 39% was attributed to ‘general insect control’.


Herbicide application represented 4% of total pesticide use by area treated and 8% of weight applied. Overall, the area treated with herbicide decreased by 14%, but the weight of herbicides applied increased by 6%, when compared with 2018.  Glyphosate was the most frequently used herbicide accounting for 46% of total herbicide application. The formulation 2,4-D/glyphosate accounted for 38% 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 93% of growers using this method.  The remaining 7% 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 and prohexadione were the only growth regulator active ingredients applied.  Prohexadione accounted for 82% of the area treated with a growth regulator and 99% of the total weight of growth regulator applied.


An estimated 7.8 tonnes of ‘other products’ were applied to 5,570 spray hectares. These included foliar feeds, trace elements and calcium-based products. A majority of applications were to treat potential nutritional disorders.


Data were also collected on post-harvest storage treatments applied to top fruit crops. Only Bramley apples were stored with an estimated 16,023 tonnes of which 13,390 tonnes were treated. The pesticide active 1-Methylcyclopropene was the only pesticide active used on stored top fruit crops in 2020.