Almost 50% of plant protection products not used in agriculture

Agriculture is often deemed the main user of plant protection products in this country. Tractors and sprayers travel the roads and are visible to the public.

However, agriculture accounts for not much more than half of the plant protection products used in this country.

Large amounts of pesticides are being sold outside of the farm gate and as the European Commission sets about implementing its Farm to Fork Strategy, which will impact massively on farms across Europe, the regulation of products used in other areas is one to be tackled sooner rather than later.

Over the past number of days, AgriLand has been trawling through figures, surveys and reports on pesticide usage in Ireland and, while there is large amounts of good data out there, much of it covers different sectors in various years.

Usage by sector

Taking the pesticide usage surveys carried out by the department over the past few years, it can be seen that grassland and fodder crops accounted for approximately 17.5% of pesticide use in Ireland in 2017; arable crops accounted for 34% of plant protection products used in 2016; outdoor vegetables accounted for 0.6% of the pesticide usage in 2015; and soft and top fruit production accounted for 0.3% of the pesticide usage in 2014.

Pesticide usage by sector:
  • Grassland and fodder crops (2017) – 17.5%;
  • Arable crops (2016) – 34%;
  • Outdoor vegetables (2015) – 0.6%;
  • Soft and top fruit production (2014) – 0.3%.

To get a rough idea of the agricultural use of plant protection products, these percentages were added together, bringing the total use in agriculture to approximately 52.4%. Small amounts may be added on for vegetables under glass or plastic.

If the 17% of plant protection products placed on the market for non-professional use in 2018 is added in, 69.4% of the total is accounted for.

So, approximately 30% of plant protection products could therefore be associated with use by local authorities, on railway lines, in forestry, in amenities like golf courses and sports pitches, parks and in other areas. It should be noted this 30% is sold for professional use.

More sectors responsible

These estimates, crude as they may be, show that there is a much wider sector responsible for pesticides outside of agriculture and the 17% of plant protection products placed on the market for non-professional use with no regulation outside of the store is a cause for concern.

In 2020, the Department of Agriculture plans to carry out a survey on the non-agricultural use of pesticides.

The Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive has improved regulations and training in Irish agriculture, and no doubt there is more room for improvement and a willingness to reduce the use of plant protection products among farmers; but when agriculture is using just over half of the plant protection products placed on the market, when will the remaining plant protection products be regulated to the same degree?

The agricultural sector is highly regulated and pesticide use is monitored closely.

What figures will the planned reduction be based on?

The Farm to Fork strategy announced by the European Commission in May requires a reduction in pesticide use of 50% across Europe by 2030.

Looking at the data it also brings up the question – what figures will the Farm to Fork reduction be based on?

Will it be based on market statistics and if so how will the different sectors’ usage be calculated?

The Pesticide Usage Surveys show great detail and are extremely useful, but they are not consistent across years.


While the Pesticide Usage Survey outlines that a pesticide refers to plant protection products and biocides, the figures used above do not include biocides.

The data clearly showed what plant protection products had been used whether that be a herbicide, fungicide or another product. The percentage was therefore calculated from the market statistics of plant protection products placed on the market in each of the years referred to above.

To see more on this topic click on this tag Pesticide usage figures