Pesticide Usage in Scotland: Protected Edible Crops 2015 - Summary Report

Report on a survey of pesticide use on protected edible crops in Scotland.

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Executive summary

This summary report presents information from a survey of pesticide use on edible crops (excluding soft fruit) grown under protection in Scotland during 2015. The crop groups surveyed were tomatoes and vegetables which were permanently covered by glass or polytunnels.

Data were collected from 16 holdings, which collectively represented 16 per cent of the total census area of protected edible crops grown in Scotland ( Table 13). Ratio raising was used to estimate national pesticide usage from the sampled data.

Data relating to individual crop types have not been published due to the small cultivation and sample areas and the large range of crops encountered. Protected crop cultivation is a very minor part of Scottish agricultural production but encompasses a wide range of crop types which receive very different pesticide treatment regimes. As the sample of holdings surveyed is randomly selected this may result in different crop types being encountered in different surveys. These factors lead to greater statistical uncertainty associated with the estimates produced, which is reflected in their large relative standard errors ( RSE). Therefore, whilst these data give an indication of pesticide use in this sector they are less statistically robust than the estimates from the other reports in this series and should be treated with caution.

The land area used for growing protected edible crops recorded in the June Agricultural Census decreased by 24 per cent from approximately 15 hectares in 2013 to 11 hectares in 2015 ( Table 12). However, the estimated crop area grown in Scotland in 2015 was just over 31 hectares, including multi-cropping, representing a 46 per cent increase since the previous survey in 2013 ( Table 11, Figure 1). This indicates that more multi-cropping was recorded in 2015 than in the previous survey. However, this may be a consequence of the type of crops encountered in the sample rather than representing an overall increase in the multi-cropped area of all protected crops.

It was estimated that pesticides were applied to almost 40 per cent of the protected edible crop area. Sulphur accounted for 49 per cent of the total pesticide-treated area, biological control agents 21 per cent, insecticides 15 per cent, seed treatments 14 per cent and fungicides, herbicides and molluscicides less than one per cent each ( Figure 7).

Overall the estimated quantity of pesticides applied per hectare has declined over the last three surveys. Average application rates declined from just over 16 kg/ha in 2011 to just under 8 kg/ha in 2013 ( Figure 4). In 2015 it was estimated that less than 0.1 kg/ha of pesticides were applied. The decline between 2011 and 2013 was primarily driven by the reduction in the usage of soil sterilants which were applied at high dose rates ( Figure 3). The reduction in quantity applied between 2013 and 2015 was mainly due to a decrease in the reported use of fungicides. However, this is likely to be the result of differences in sample composition in 2015 rather than representing a real change in pesticide usage patterns in protected edible crops.

Data collected from growers about their Integrated Pest Management ( IPM) activities showed that growers were using a variety of IPM methods in relation to risk management, pest monitoring and pest control.

Due to the very small area of protected edible crops grown in Scotland, the limited pesticide input and the issues associated with estimating pesticide use, this report will not be produced in subsequent years unless crop area or pesticide input increases. Data will continue to be collected and submitted to the UK reports.


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