This report presents the results of a survey of rodenticide use on arable farms in Scotland in 2020. Information was collected from 268 holdings, collectively growing seven per cent of the 2020 arable crop area. Data from this sample was used to estimate total Scottish rodenticide use in this crop sector.
It was estimated that rodenticides were used on 61 per cent of all arable farms in 2020, slightly higher than the 55 per cent reported in 2018 but significantly fewer than the 78 per cent reported in 2016. Farmers conducted the baiting on 57 per cent of holdings using rodenticides and applied 59 per cent of rodenticides by weight, with the remainder being applied by pest control professionals (PCPs). In 2020 an estimated 62 tonnes of rodenticide products were used on arable farms. This is an increase of 27 per cent since 2018 and a decrease of 32 per cent since 2016. The products used contained ca. 3 kg of rodenticide active substance. As in previous surveys, almost all products used (>99 per cent) were second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, primarily bromadiolone and difenacoum (97 per cent by weight).
Forty five per cent of rodenticides were applied throughout the year, either used permanently or in multiple individual baiting operations. This is a decrease in year-round use from 2018 (61 per cent) but similar to 2016 (46 per cent). Most rodenticides were used in autumn and winter (73 per cent). Grain baits were the most common product type (82 per cent) and the main targets were a combination of rats and mice (51 per cent). Fifty one per cent of farms that did not use rodenticides and 52 per cent of those that did, employed non-chemical rodent control; most commonly cats and traps.
Data were collected about training, compliance with best practice and aspects of farm operation. Eighty seven per cent of farmers were aware of rodenticide stewardship, of these 28 per cent had completed stewardship compliant training and nine per cent planned to in the future. As in previous surveys, significantly more PCPs had completed training than farmers. In relation to best practice, the majority of farmers and PCPs stated they complied with all elements and responses were similar to those in 2018. In relation to farm operation, farmers that practised rodenticide baiting were significantly more likely to be members of a quality assurance scheme and to have a grain store than farmers that did not use rodenticides.
This dataset is the third in this series to be conducted since the industry led stewardship scheme was introduced in 2015. The previous surveys in 2018 and 2016 reported decreased rodenticide usage, increased adoption of non-chemical control and increased uptake of best practice which was likely to have been influenced by the introduction of the stewardship and regulatory changes. The increase in rodenticide use in 2020 and the reduction in use of PCPs could potentially indicate that the impact of the stewardship scheme has plateaued. However, it is also possible that rat populations, farmer use of PCPs and, as a consequence, bait volumes were impacted by COVID-19 restrictions during 2020. The impact of the pandemic on trends in baiting operations may be clearer in subsequent surveys.
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