Agricultural Chemical Usage Database

Rural landscapes

The Agricultural Chemicals Usage Database contains certain information on the agricultural chemicals used in Australia from 1997 to 2006 by broadacre farmers. The database allows governments, chemical users and the community to view trends in the usage of chemicals over an entire decade. Important information about the limitations and interpretation of the data are below. It is strongly recommended that you read this information before using the database.


How were the data collected and processed?

This database contains information from sources that are external to the Department of the Environment. The Department of the Environment takes reasonable care in obtaining this information but has no direct control over, nor does it accept responsibility for, the content or accuracy of the information, the changes that may occur to the information, or the security arrangements applying to the information. It is the responsibility of users to make their own decisions about the accuracy, currency, reliability and completeness of information contained in this database.

The Department of the Environment disclaims all liability to any person in respect of any thing, and of the consequence of any thing, done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether wholly or partly, upon any information presented on this database.

The data were collected quarterly through surveys to report the use of agricultural chemicals (mainly herbicides) by a representative sample of broadacre, cotton and sugarcane farmers throughout the main farming regions of Australia. Central and north-western Australia were not covered by the survey and therefore there are no maps available for the Northern Territory. The data were analysed to estimate the total volume of the active ingredient applied in regions known as statistical local areas (SLAs) as used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Estimates of the total volumes by crop were calculated from the same survey data.

What data are available?

The estimated use of each chemical is presented in two forms; a map for the total volume used within an SLA and a table for the total volume used by crop. The panel survey from which the data were sourced has a limited coverage and therefore the database does not provide a complete picture of all types of agricultural chemicals. The focus is mainly on herbicides and is limited to broadacre crops.

When viewing the maps, it should be noted that:

  • Figures mapped are based on the estimated total volume applied within the SLA and have then been grouped into ranges to create the colour key for the map. Based on the limits of the data, exact figures for each SLA cannot be provided.
  • The application volume is reported in kilograms and can vary significantly between crops. Although maps report at the scale of SLAs, it is important to note that this does not imply all land in the SLA was treated. Land within each SLA may have diverse uses and therefore the farming areas to which a chemical was applied may only be a small part of the SLA, however the whole SLA will be coloured.
  • If making comparisons on chemical usage between maps, please note that the scale of the map and colour key varies significantly across years and chemicals.
  • SLAs are not all the same size or composition. Further information on SLAs may be found in the Australian Standard of Geographical Classification (number 1216.0) on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website - See the 2002 and 2003 versions in the Past and Future Releases tab for the relevant maps used in this database.

The average total application for aggregated years is calculated as an average of the years for which data were available. Only two options are available based changes to the survey between 2002 and 2003. Therefore, aggregates are only available for the periods 1997-2002 and 2003-2006, and one cannot query the database on other combinations of years. In addition, it should not be assumed that data were available for the active ingredient for every year or that the application occurred at the reported volume every year. This is of particular importance to note when new chemicals were approved mid-way through the period, the maps should not be assumed to indicate that the chemical was in use in the earlier years.

The estimated total volume applied by crop type is tabulated. This information is the annual total volume of the active ingredient used in Australia or the entire chosen state for the year/aggregated years. When reading the table, it should be noted that:

  • As the database aims to show the total volume of each chemical that was applied to the environment, the application to fallow has also been included in the totals. Prior to 2003, where an active ingredient was applied pre-seeding or to fallow, the use has been attributed to the crop that was later sown or the main crop bordered by the fallow. From 2003, application to fallow has been listed as a separate crop.
  • The data are displayed to three decimal places as a result of calculation and estimation methods. It should not be assumed that the data are accurate to this level as all figures are estimates.
  • The average annual use was calculated using the data that were available in the aggregated year block. It should not be assumed that data were available for the active ingredient in every year or that the listed volume was applied to that crop every year within the block.
  • The percentage use figures have been rounded so that the total of all percentages may not be exactly 100 per cent.
  • The 'Other' crops are the sum of all crops which used less than one per cent of the total.

How can the database be searched?

To search the database you are required to specify both the year or aggregated years and a chemical. The search criteria must be entered in the order they appear on the screen. There are a limited number of combinations for the search results as the data in the database were constrained by the manner in which the survey data were designed and reported. Accordingly one may not query the database for all combinations of variables: data are only available for certain set combinations.

  1. By year or aggregated years using pull-down menus. The database can be searched to return results for an individual year or average results for aggregated groups of years 1997-2002 and 2003-2006.
  2. By chemical name using text or using the search button. When the year or aggregated years is selected, the chemicals with available data are listed. To view this list either type the first few letters of the chemical of interest or click on the magnifying glass symbol to retrieve the complete list and find the chemical name.
  3. By state using a pull-down menu. This is optional. If no choice is made the search will return results for the whole of Australia.

Chemicals are listed by active ingredient. If you cannot find a specific chemical it may be because you are looking for the brand name. Check the product label to ensure you have the name of the active ingredient.

Plans for the database

At this time there are no plans to add further data to the database. The available data already provides a useful snapshot of the changing use of agricultural chemicals on broadacre applications over the period.