Since the 1960's, the objective for the United Kingdom (UK) government policy and legislation on crop protection practices has been to minimise the impact of pesticide use in agriculture and horticulture to the wider environment.
Subsequent European Union (EU) policy and legislation have also targeted this objective through a demanding approvals process, competency tests for users, maximum residue limits, regular post-registration monitoring and the promotion of integrated pest and disease management techniques. However, none of this substantive regulation refers to target reduction levels for pesticide use. Since 1992, the number of arable farms in Northern Ireland has decreased by 61% with a consequent reduction of 34% in the area of arable crops grown. Despite this reduction in area of arable crops grown, the area treated by the major pesticide groups increased by 49% due to intensification, but the weight of major pesticides applied to arable crops decreased by 37%. However, the intensity of application measured by the total quantity of all pesticides applied to the basic area of arable crops treated remained relatively constant at approximately 3.2 kg/ha. Pesticide usage trends and reduction policies in other geographic regions are also discussed for comparative purposes.