Measuring pesticides for their potential effects on health and the environment

Evaluation of pesticides based on knowledge of their potential risks to human health, environmental fate and environmental impact has several benefits.

2018.04.16 | Janne Hansen

Data from the indicator "Pesticide Load" can be used for a number of purposes. Photo: Colourbox

For years the concept ”Treatment Frequency Index” was applied as the official risk indicator for pesticides. It expresses how many times a field is sprayed. The concept did not take environmental effects or effects on human health into consideration. Another weakness in the system was that the figures were based on sales figures and not actual treatments in the field. 

New indicator measures pesticide effects on several fronts

The concept ”Pesticide Load” has been used in recent years. This concept is based on risk indicators for human health, ecotoxicology and environmental fate. Pesticide Load is based on actual applications of compounds, which is possible because farmers in Denmark are obligated to upload information on their pesticide use once a year. 

- The obligation of farmers to upload information on their pesticide use once a year has provided the Danish authorities with very detailed information on pesticide use. It has eliminated some of the flaws of the previous system, which was based on sales figures, such as the effects of stockpiling due to price changes or products being withdrawn from the market, says Professor Per Kudsk from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University. 

Another advantage of the new system is that farmers’ data cover the period from August 1 to July 31 and thus reflect pesticide application in the growing season in contrast to the sales figures, which are reported by calendar year. 

Data can be used in several ways

Pesticide use data can be used for several purposes. 

- Combining pesticide use data with the new pesticide indicator provides very detailed information on the risk of adverse impacts of the use of pesticides and gives the authorities knowledge that potentially could allow them to single out ‘hot spots’ and target pesticide monitoring and activities, says Per Kudsk. 

In addition, agronomic information can be deducted from the data, such as mapping of the use of various modes of actions and thereby the risk of resistance. 

- Gathering pesticide use data is not necessarily just a tool for authorities to monitor pesticide consumption. It could also become a valuable tool for the farming community in supporting implementation of integrated pest management (IPM). This is important at a time with a steadily decreasing number of new modes of action coming on the market, Per Kudsk points out. 


You can also read the scientific article ”Pesticide Load – A new Danish pesticide risk indicator with multiple applications”. 


For more information please contact: Section manager, Professor Per Kudsk, Department of Agroecology, email: per.kudsk@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8096, mobile: +45 2228 3382


Sustainable Pest Management is one of the research areas in which the Department of Agroecology is particularly strong and from which results are delivered in line with national and global societal challenges and goals.

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