Pesticide use on arable crops grown in Scotland has declined, according to a new report from the National Statistics Office.

Overall, pesticide applications to Scottish arable crops in 2018 were 4% lower than in the previous survey in 2016.

Within that overall figure, it is worth noting that 98% of arable crops were still treated with a pesticide in 2018. The treated area received on average 3.9 pesticide sprays over the year, with a total combined application weight of ca.1,312 tonnes.

Pesticide use on soft fruit crops was 10% higher in 2018 than reported in 2016. However, the low pesticide application rates reported in 2016 were 'atypical', said the National Statistician, and soft fruit pesticide applications in 2018 were lower than the levels reported in 2014 and 2012. The treated area of soft fruit received on average 11.2 pesticide sprays with a total combined weight of ca. 17 tonnes in 2018. The use of biopesticides and biological control agents has increased since the previous survey for managing insect pests and disease in soft fruit crops as part of an integrated pest management system.

In relation to pesticide use on stored potatoes, 28% of seed potatoes and 13% of ware potatoes were treated with a pesticide in 2018. These proportions are lower than reported in 2016 for seed potatoes and similar than 2016 for ware potatoes.

A reduction in the use of rodenticides used to control rodents on arable farms was also recorded. It was estimated that rodenticides were used on 55% of arable farms in 2018, a reduction from the 78% using rodenticides in 2016. Approximately 49 tonnes of rodenticide bait, containing less than 6kg of active substance, was estimated to have been used. This was 47% lower than in the previous survey in 2016. The rodenticides encountered were almost exclusively second generation anticoagulant compounds. It is likely that the decreased rodenticide usage, increased adoption of non-chemical control and increased uptake of best practice reported in 2018 has been influenced by the introduction of the 2015 industry led rodenticide stewardship scheme.

The figures released were produced by independent statistical staff, free from any political interference, in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.