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Statistics on Pesticides Use in Agriculture, 1990 – 2018

 

2020 UPDATE HIGHLIGHTS

  • At the global level, total pesticides use in agriculture remained stable in 2018 with respect to 2017 with a change from 4.15 Mt to 4.12 Mt.
  • Herbicides contribute to more than 50% of the total pesticides applied in agriculture in the 2010s.
  • Asia is the top contributor to global pesticides use accounting for more than 50% of the world total in 2018.
  • Europe increased pesticides use in agriculture in the 2010s as compared to the 1990s by just 5%.  Compared to the rest of the world, Europe has the lowest proportion of pesticides derived from insecticides (12%).
  • The top 10 countries in terms of pesticides use totals in 2018 are China (1774 kt), United States of America (408 kt), Brazil (377 kt), Argentina (173 kt), Canada (91 kt), France (85 kt), Russian Federation (76 kt), Australia (63 kt), Spain (61 kt), and Ecuador (61 kt).

 

BACKGROUND

When used responsibly, pesticides are a key agricultural input that can help to protect seeds and safeguard crops from unwanted plants, insects, bacteria, fungi, and rodents.  At the same time, pesticides can have negative environmental impacts through contamination of soil, water and non-target plants and animals that can decrease biodiversity and, in some cases, reduce crop yield.  Pesticides use in agriculture as an input and the agri-environmental indicator over cropland serve to monitor the use of pesticides across the globe as well as at the regional and country levels.  This Brief presents information on pesticides use in agriculture and relevant pesticides indicators (use per area of cropland), over the period 1990-2018.  

GLOBAL

At the global level, total pesticides use in agriculture remained stable in 2018 with respect to 2017 with a change from 4.15 Mt to 4.12 Mt.  The stability was largely driven by a slight reduction in the use of herbicides from 1.25 to 1.22 Mt.  The worldwide application of pesticides per area of cropland reduced from 2.65 to 2.63 kg / ha from 2017 to 2018. Despite the stability in recent years and in 2018 in pesticides use, total use increased in the 2010s by more than 50% with respect to the 1990s with pesticides use per area of cropland increasing from 1.80 to 2.66 kg/ha.  Figures 1 and 2 show the increasing trend of pesticides use in agriculture both in terms of absolute amounts and pesticides use per ha of cropland, respectively.  The global application of pesticides increased across these two periods for Herbicides, Fungicides & Bactericides, and Insecticides.  The increase was mainly due to increases in Herbicides with increases in the share of total pesticides coming from Herbicides (from 42% to 55%) and reductions in the shares from Fungicides (26% to 23%) and Insecticides (24% to 17%).

As shown in Figure 2, Herbicides is the predominant type of pesticide used in agriculture and accounted for more than half of the total pesticides applied in the 2010s.  Herbicides, together with Fungicides & Bactericides and Insecticides, contribute to more than 95% of the total pesticides applied in agriculture during this period (Two important countries, namely China and India, report only data for pesticides totals.  The shares of total pesticides coming from Herbicides and Insecticides therefore excludes these two countries). The other main pesticides types including Mineral Oils, Plant Growth Regulators, Rodenticides, Seed Treatments, and Disinfectants make up for the remaining 5% of total pesticides applied in agriculture.               

 

 

 

Figure 1: Global Pesticides Use over 1990 – 2018

    

Figure 2: Global Pesticides Use per ha of Cropland over 1990 – 2018

 

 

REGIONAL

Regional trends for pesticides total use (Fig 3a) and for its per area of cropland indicators (Fig 3b) are shown over the period 1990 – 2018.  Asia is the top contributor to global pesticides use accounting for more than 50% of the world total in 2018.  The region applied nearly 2.17 Mt of pesticides to cropland during the 2010s at a mean application rate of nearly 3.72 kg / ha.  Herbicides, Fungicides, and Insecticides were used uniformly with relative shares of 38%, 32% and 29%.  In Figure 4, regional and global pesticides shares are shown by pesticides type for the periods 1990 – 2000 and 2011 – 2018.

Oceania and the Americas had the highest growth rates in total pesticides use from the 1990s to the 2010s with approximately 1.9- and 1.8-fold increases, respectively.  Although Oceania had the highest growth rate of all regions from the 2010s as compared to the 1990s, the region applies the lowest levels, averaging approximately 60 kt of pesticides per year in the 2010s and contributing less than 2% to the global total in 2018.  Oceania applied 1.79 kg of pesticides per ha in the 2010s as compared to 1.37 kg/ha in the 1990s.  The region increased Herbicides use from 21 kt to 41 kt, Fungicides use from 3 kt to 5 kt, and Insecticides use from 7kt to 13 kt per year over the same period.  The Americas had a high growth rate in pesticides use across the two decades and applies high levels of pesticides contributing nearly 1/3 to the global total in 2018.  The Americas applied approximately 3.59 kg of Pesticides per ha of cropland per year in the 2010s up from a mean application rate of 1.97 kg / ha in the 1990s.  The region augmented Herbicides use from 362 kt to 840 kt (+132%), Fungicides use from 93 kt to 178 kt (+91%) and Insecticides use from 159 kt to 184 kt (+16%) per year in the most recent decade as compared to the 1990s.

Africa and Europe had the slowest growth rates when comparing the 2010s to the 1990s.  Africa increased total pesticides use in agriculture by 44% across these two periods and maintained low pesticides use per area of cropland averaging just .27 kg / ha in the 1990s and .31 kg/ha in the 2010s.  In 2018, the region contributed just 2% to the global share of pesticides use.  Africa is the only region with the largest proportion of applied pesticides derived from insecticides – approximately 30% of pesticides used in Africa are insecticides.  Europe increased pesticides use in agriculture in the 2010s as compared to the 1990s by just 5%, most likely due to the stringent European Common Agricultural Policy put in place which monitors and controls the use of pesticides in Europe.  Compared to the rest of the world, Europe has the lowest proportion of pesticides derived from insecticides (12%).  The region has low pesticides use per area of cropland at approximately 1.66 kg/ha in 2018.

Figure 3: Regional Trends in: a) Pesticides Use; and b) Pesticides use per ha of Cropland; over the period 1990 – 2018

 

 

 

 

   

Figure 4: Regional pesticides shares by main pesticides category, over the two periods 1990 – 2000 and 2011 – 2018

 

 

COUNTRY

The world map (Fig 5) shows pesticides use per area of cropland averaged over the period for 2011 – 2018 for countries and shaded according to the application intensity.  The map aids in illustrating those countries that dominate regional totals for pesticides use in agriculture.

Figure 6a shows the top 10 countries for total pesticides applications for agricultural use in 2018. The top 10 countries in terms of pesticides use totals are China (1774 kt), United States of America (408 kt), Brazil (377 kt), Argentina (173 kt), Canada (91 kt), France (85 kt), Russian Federation (76 kt), Australia (63 kt), Spain (61 kt), and Ecuador (61 kt).

Figure 6b displays the top 10 countries for pesticides use per area of cropland for 2018.  The top 10 countries in terms of mean application rates are Mauritius (28 kg/ha), Ecuador (26 kg/ha), Trinidad and Tobago (25 kg/ha), Costa Rica (22 kg/ha), Bahamas (21 kg/ha), Barbados (21 kg/ha), Saint Lucia (20 kg/ha), China (13 kg/ha), Israel (13 kg/ha), and Seychelles (12 kg/ha).  

 

 

Figure 5. Pesticides Use per area of Cropland by Country over 2011 – 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6: Top 10 Countries for: a) Total Pesticides Use; and b) total pesticides use per area of cropland, year 2018

 

 

EXPLORATORY NOTES

The FAOSTAT Pesticides Use domain contains information on the use of major pesticide groups:

 

  • 1. Insecticides (Chlorinated hydrocarbons, Organo–phosphates, Carbamates–insecticides, Pyrethroids, Botanical and biological products and Others not elsewhere classified);
  • 2. Mineral Oils;
  • 3. Herbicides (Phenoxy hormone products, Triazines, Amides, Carbamates–herbicides, Dinitroanilines, Urea derivatives, Sulfonyl urea, Bipiridils, Uracil, Others not elsewhere classified);
  • 4. Fungicides and Bactericides (Inorganic, Dithiocarbamates, Benzimidazoles, Triazoles Diazoles, Diazines Morpholines, Others not elsewhere classified);
  • 5. Seed Treatment-Fungicides (Dithiocarbamates, Benzimidazoles, Triazoles Diazoles, Diazines Morpholines, Botanical products and biological, Others not elsewhere classified);
  • 6. Seed Treatment-Insecticides (Organo-phosphates, Carbamates–insecticides, Pyrethroids, Others not elsewhere classified);
  • 7. Plant Growth Regulators;
  • 8. Rodenticides (Anti–coagulants, Cyanide Generators, Hypercalcaemics, Narcotics, Others not elsewhere classified);
  • 9. Other Pesticides NES (not elsewhere specified);
  • 10. Disinfectants.

Conversion Factors were used to convert data in formulated products to active ingredients in those cases where only data in formulated products were reported. Because the subset of countries where data repair into AI was performed could not be considered representative of their regions, we used global Conversion Factors only, by pesticides type where possible, and a global generic Conversion Factor when not possible (see country notes for actual values used). New addition with the 2020 update:  Gap-filled Pesticides sub categories for the 10 categories listed above are now disseminated along with the Pesticides (total) category. Response Rate and Imputations: The Pesticides Use domain has as a primary source of data questionnaires annually dispatched by FAO to the focal points indicated by the governments of the different countries and territories.  Data are supplemented with international sources such as Eurostat pesticides sales data. Below is the response rate (defined as the number of countries who provide data) for the 2019 dispatch of the FAO Pesticides Use Questionnaire: 

 

 

Region

Response Rate

Africa

11%

Americas

27%

Asia

35%

Europe

69%

Oceania

20%

Global

32%


Below is the imputation rate (defined as the number of imputations over the total number of records) for the Pesticides Use database:

 

 

Region

Imputation Rate

Africa

41%

Americas

33%

Asia

34%

Europe

14%

Oceania

40%

World

29%



 

 

REFERENCES

>         FAO, 2020a. Pesticides Use Domain, available at http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/RP, Rome, Italy.

>         FAO, 2020b. Pesticides indicators Domain, available at http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/EP, Rome, Italy.


This analytical brief was prepared by Nathan Wanner, Francesco N. Tubiello, Giorgia DeSantis and Andrea Alcibiade, FAO Statistics Division, with support from the Environment Statistics team.

Suggested citation: FAO 2020. Pesticides Use Statistics. Global, regional and country trends 1990–2018. FAOSTAT Analytical Brief Series No 9. Rome, FAO.

 

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