Application of the Danish pesticide load indicator to arable agriculture in the United Kingdom

Kathy Lewis, James Rainford, John Tzilivakis, David Garthwaite

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Pesticides are an important component of worldwide agriculture systems and have contributed to significant increases in crop quality and yields and therefore to food security. However, despite their societal benefits, pesticides can be hazardous to humans and the environment. Therefore, effective pesticide polices are needed that balance the societal and economic benefits with the unintentional and undesirable environmental and health impacts. As a result, there has been consistent policy interest in pragmatic and practical techniques that are suitable for assessing the environmental and human health implications of agricultural pesticide use from a national perspective for assisting in the development of policy initiatives and for communicating policy outcomes to the public. The work described herein explored the appropriateness of the Danish Pesticide Load Indictor for assessing agricultural pesticides applied in the United Kingdom from 2016 and 2018. The findings for the two datasets appear broadly comparable, suggesting that the overall environmental load from pesticides on the U.K. environment remained relatively constant during this period. Regional differences in environmental load and the major contributing substances were identified. Where large differences between the two years were seen, regulatory interventions appear to have been the cause. Overall, the indicator behaves as expected and appears to be sufficiently responsive to changes in pesticide use. However, various concerns were identified that may lead to modifications in how the indicator is calculated and what parameters are included to make it better able to deliver U.K. policy objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1110-1122
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Agriculture
  • Pesticides
  • Risk indicators


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