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Modifications of the ‘Pressure on aquatic life from crop protection agents’ indicator

Issue 07-02-2014The ‘pressure on aquatic life from crop protection agents’ indicator has been for many years one of the set of environmental indicators that are regularly monitored by MIRA. The indicator weights the quantity of the active substance in each crop protection agent sold each year in terms of its toxicity for aquatic organisms and persistence in the environment, and is expressed as the sum of the dispersion equivalents (Seq). It is therefore a measure of the risks for aquatic life associated with the use of crop protection agents.

In a recent study carried out by the Laboratory for Phytopharmacy of UGent on behalf of MIRA, the Seq indicator was modified in three respects to bring it more in line with reality. First, the method of application is taken into account. Tree spraying, for example, poses a greater environmental risk than field spraying. Second, the method used to calculate the usage figures is modified. The use of crop protection agents in agriculture is no longer calculated on the basis of sales figures, but on the basis of the results from the Agricultural Monitoring Network (LMN) of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Monitoring and Study Division (AMS).  These data are extrapolated based on the agriculture census (Directorate General Statistics and Economic Information, ADSEI), allowing a picture to be built up for the whole of Flanders. The data for non-agricultural applications for private and public entities are determined on the basis of sales figures and data obtained via Phytofar and VMM respectively.  Finally, also the most recent toxicity data are incorporated into the calculations. This new indicator, Seq+, was determined for the usage years 2009-2011.

In spite of the short period over which Seq+ was determined, a marked decrease in the pressure on aquatic life from crop protection agents appears to have already taken place between 2009 and 2011. This decrease can be attributed mainly to the sharp decline in the use of endosulfan, an insecticide whose use has been banned by law since June 2007.

Read the English summary of the Dutch report ‘Modifications of the 'Pressure on aquatic life from crop protection agents' indicator’

Study commissioned by MIRA, the Environment Reporting Unit
Research report MIRA/2013/11

researchers: Pieter Spanoghe, Davina Fevery, UGent

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