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Use of pesticides down in Europe
by Mike Owen

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A report in the Pesticide Action Network North America Updates Service ( indicated that pesticides application rates have dropped 21% from 1991 to 1995. The study was conducted by the European Crop Protection Association and indicates that the average pesticide application rate is now approximately 3.3 kg/ha. They attribute the dramatic decline in pesticide application rate to products with very high specific activities, adoption of integrated pest management strategies, and mandatory reductions imposed by governments. Sweden has criticized this report and suggests that the use of newer products with lower application rates has not improved the environmental situation due to the continued dependence of agriculture on pesticides.

However, it should be noted that the new pesticides have been developed under increasingly stringent environmental guidelines and typically have extremely clean toxicological and environmental characteristics. Thus, the reduction in pesticide application does represent a positive step in agriculture. With increased use of alternative techniques for pest management, agriculture can dramatically improve the sustainability of the industry. Specific items from various European countries follow –

In Austria, the number of registered agricultural chemicals has dropped by 66% and reflects the strict pesticide legislation implemented in 1991. Only 23 new agricultural chemicals have been approved between 1991 and 1996, of which 14 were approved in 1995. This is compared to 455 new products approved in France, 379 in the UK and 170 new products in Denmark.

Agricultural chemical sales in Germany continues to increase while the average pesticide use rates has dropped to approximately 2.1 kg/ha. This rate is similar to that found in Denmark (1.9 kg/ha) where there is a mandatory pesticide reduction scheme. There is a pesticide reduction plan also in effect for the Netherlands. Annual use of pesticides is 55% lower than the mean level established between 1984 and 1988. Importantly, the use of soil sterilants has declined dramatically (83% less than used on average between 1984-88) while herbicide use has decreased 1.8% from the amount used the previous year.

Pesticide sales in Spain increased 16.5% in 1996 compared to 1995. Herbicide sales increased 32% while the actual amount used only increased 14.5% from the previous year. This is indicative of the rapid adoption of newer, low rate herbicides compared to older products. Insecticides represented the greatest sales by volume (33%) while herbicides and fungicides represented 27% and 25%, respectively.

Interestingly, the use of herbicides in non-agricultural settings increased 13% from 1989 and 1995 in England and Wales. This increase was primarily herbicides and has resulted in concerns about water quality and the environment. Glyphosate and diuron were the herbicides most widely used in these settings.

Prepared by Mike Owen, extension weed management specialist, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

For more information contact:
ISU Extension Agronomy
2104 Agronomy Hall
Ames, Iowa 50011-1010
Voice: (515) 294-1923
Fax: (515) 294-9985
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Common chemical and trade names are used in this publication. The use of trade names is for clarity by the reader. Inclusion of a trade name does not imply endorsement of that particular brand of herbicide and exclusion does not imply nonapproval.