Indicator: IW-16 Total pesticide use

Data

The principal forms of pesticides used in Australia can be categorised into insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and growth promotants.

The most extensively used pesticide in Australia today is glyphosate, a broad spectrum, non-selective post emergence herbicide with high activity on virtually all annual and perennial plants. Glyphosate shows no pre-emergence or residual activity because it binds strongly to soil particles and is readily metabolised by soil microorganisms. Use approaches 15,000 tonnes per annum.

The next most widely used herbicides are atrazine and simazine. These are selective systemic herbicides which provide knockdown and residual action for control of many broad-leafed weeds and some grasses in forestry and agricultural crops. About 3,000 tonnes of each of these are used annually, much of them in industrial rather than agricultural uses for seasonal weed control.

The most widely used groups of insecticides in recent years have been the organophosphates which include parathion methyl, chlorpyriphos, dimethoate, profenofos and diazinon. Around 5,000 tonnes of active ingredients from this group, which comprises around 30 identifiably distinct chemicals, have been used annually.

The next most significant group of insecticides are the acetyl choline esterase inhibitors, comprising various carbamates, of which about 3,000 tonnes have been used each year.

There are about 20 principal fungicides, which together represents over 3,000 tonnes use per annum. The two most significant of these are mancozeb, a dithiocarbamate, and captan, a cyclic imide which is used to control a wide range of fungal diseases, and also used as a seed treatment on field crops, canola, ornamentals, and vegetables.

The annual use of plant growth regulators exceeds 500 tonnes. The main chemical is ethephon, which is an ethylene generator used to optimise blemish-free and pest-free fruit crops.

Endosulfan has been perceived as the chemical with greatest potential for risk in catchment and water environments. It has been widely used in the cotton industry. Levels found in surface waters in cotton-growing areas of eastern Australia declined from 89% exceeding 0.01/L in 1993-4 to only 29% in 1999-2000. Only 10% exceeded the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC)/ARMCANZ standard of 0.03/L. The National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals has imposed more stringent controls on the use of this chemical. Some rivers which in earlier years showed significant levels, had no detectable levels in 2000.

Source: Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering 2002, Pesticide Use in Australia, ATSE, Parkville, Victoria, viewed 14 Oct 2005, http://www.atse.org.au/index.php?sectionid=199.

Chemicals as percent of total farm costs

Chemicals as percent of total farm costs

Source: adapted from Source: Australian Bureau of Agriculture and ResourceEconomics 2000, ABARE Surveys of Primary Industries, Resources and Energy (ASPIRE), Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Canberra, cited in, Source: Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering 2002, Pesticide Use in Australia, ATSE, Parkville, Victoria, viewed 14 Oct 2005, http://www.atse.org.au/index.php?sectionid=199, Table 2, p. 7

Total Crop Protection Sales (in ‘000 of 1998 dollars)

Total Crop Protection Sales (in ‘000 of 1998 dollars)

Source: Adapted from ABARE Commodity Statistics cited in Source: Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering 2002, Pesticide Use in Australia, ATSE, Parkville, Victoria, viewed 14 Oct 2005, http://www.atse.org.au/index.php?sectionid=199, Table 1, p. 5

What the data mean

Substantial amounts of pesticides are used on farms annually: over 18,000 tonnes of herbicides, 8,000 tonnes of insecticides, 3,000 tonnes of fungicides and 500 tonnes of plant growth regulators. Sales in agricultural chemicals for crop protection have been steadily increasing since the mid 1970s.

Data Limitations

Trend data on pesticide use is difficult to obtain.

Issues for which this is an indicator and why

Inland Waters - Habitat scale influences - Water Quality (for surface and groundwater) - Other pollutants 

Total pesticide use is a measure of one aspect of this pressure.

Other indicators for this issue:

Land - Direct pressure of human activities on the land - Pollution to and from the land 

Agricultural use of the land frequently involves the use of pesticides which impact directly back on the land and its biodiversity as well as washing into inland waters where they place pressure on water quality, aquatic biodiversity and the downstream terrestrial life which relies on the waterway for its water supply. Total pesticide use is a direct measure of this pressure.

Other indicators for this issue:

Further Information