The Usage and Handling of Plant Protection Products – Pesticides (Most Widely Used and Obsolete) During the Last Decade in the Republic of Slovenia, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Abstract

The purpose of the article is to present the actual condition in the field of using different varieties and amounts of plant protection products – pesticides in the Republic of Slovenia.  The methods used in this observation were the collection of all available data, the calculation of the average annual consumption of plant protection products – pesticides on farms and locations and the preparation of figures and tables. The results are presented in the figures and tables using consumption amounts of plant protection products preparations – pesticides per hectare in private agriculture on small farms and in social agriculture on big farms. Data is provided for the years 1999 to 2009. The results also present an overview of national monitoring of plant protection products – pesticides in food agriculture. Although the Republic of Slovenia is a relatively small country (20.000 km2 and around two million citizens) there are many problems to change regarding the stated situation that has existed for the last twenty years. The paper also presents the efforts of official state institutions to solve the residues of obsolete pesticides, the amounts of which are problematic in comparison to others countries in the region present a great cause for environmental pressure in Slovenia.

Key words: plant protection products – pesticides, monitoring, management with obsolete pesticides

 

  1. Introduction

In the Republic of Slovenia (20,273 km2, 2,010540 inhabitants), the <0}{0>Značilno za Slovenijo je poraslost z gozdom (preko 50%), nekaj manj kot 40% ozemlja je namenjenega kmetijski pridelavi, ki pa se v zadnjih letih zmanjšuje.<}0{>chief characteristic is its forestation (over 60 %). Less than 30 % of the area is intended for agricultural production, which has been decreasing in the last few years. <0}{0>V nižinah je manj kot četrtina vse kmetijske zemlje.<}0{>In the lowlands, less than 25 % is agricultural land. <0}{0>Kmetijstvo v slovenskem gospodarstvu predstavlja okoli 5% BDP in manj kot 10% zaposlenih.<}0{>Agriculture represents approximately 5 % of GDP and generates less than 10% of the employment for the Slovenian economy. <0}{0>Povprečna posest meri približno 4 hektarje in ima nizko produktivnost.<}0{>An average estate comprises approximately 4 hectares and has a low productivity rate. <0}{0>Več kot 90% kmetijstva je v privatni lasti.<}0{>More than 90 % of all agricultural facilities are private. <0}{0>Večina kmetovalcev (10% zaposlenih) se ne preživlja izključno s kmetovanjem, ampak tudi z dopolnilnimi dejavnostmi.<}0{>Most of the farmers (10 % of the employees) are not engaged in agriculture exclusively, but are also involved in other complementary activities. <0}{0>Kmetijska dejavnost je pogosto namenjena  pridelavi za lastne potrebe posestnikov.<}0{>Agriculture is often only intended for production for the landowners’ personal needs. <0}{0>Slovenija je neto uvoznik hrane in kmetijskih proizvodov.<}0{>Slovenia is a net importer of food and agricultural products. <0}{0>Najpomembnejša kmetijska panoga je živinoreja, ki predstavlja več kot polovico bruto vrednosti kmetijske proizvodnje.<}0{>The most important agricultural branch is stockfarming, which represents more than a half of the gross value of total agricultural production.<0}

 

  1. Short description of agriculture in the Republic of Slovenia

 

Compared to other countries in Middle and Eastern Europe, the macro economical importance of agriculture in Slovenia is relatively low. The GDP share of agriculture, fishing and forestry has been consistently decreasing in the past decade (5.5 % in 1990, 4.5 % in 1995, 3.4 % in 2000 and 3.0 % in 2002). Agriculture employs approximately 9.65 % of the working population and the share is decreasing. Despite these facts, it is still of great social importance as a developmental, social and political factor, as one can see in GDP statistical data  – Table  1 (1).

 

Table 1: Real GDP growth rate in EUR million and per capita in Slovenia from 1993 to 2008

(Eur) 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
GDP per capita 5450 6115 8101 8431 9034 9715 10486 10858
GPD in mil. 5989 7732 10294 11866 13508 14969 16807 18481

 

(Eur) 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
GDP per capita 11441 12281 12900 13599 14369 15467 17123 18367
GPD in mil. 20654 23128 25114 27073 28750 31050 34568 37135

 

Natural conditions for agriculture in Slovenia are relatively unfavourable. Approximately 60 % of Slovenia is covered with forests and 75 % of agricultural land is in areas with limited factors for agricultural production. There is a large share of grasslands and a small share of fields in the land structure for farm use. Less than 25 % of all agricultural lands are on the planes and in fertile basins. In Slovenia, 8 % of the territory has a protected area status (4.2 % as national parks). Based on natural conditions, approximately 30 % of the territory should be protected  (2).

 

Fragmentation of agricultural land and small parcels are typical for Slovenian agriculture. Agriculture structure reflects political and economical circumstances of the socialism period. Two very distinct forms of agricultural production appeared: social agriculture on big farms and private agriculture on small farms. The average farm size is approximately 6.2 hectares (ha) and only 15 % of farms are bigger than 10 ha. More than 77,000 small family households, to whom agriculture is mostly a supplementary activity with additional income, own at least 94 % of agricultural land and produce 75 % of entire agricultural products. Agricultural companies are managing less than 6 % of agricultural lands (3).

 

The average farm size is increasing, from a size of 5.6 ha in 2000 to a size of 6.2 ha in 2003. In 2000, the average land size of agricultural companies was 288 ha. Until recently, the sizes of private and agricultural companies have not been enlarged.

 

Almost 60 % of the territory is covered in forests and, in the past years, its share has been increasing. Because of forestation and urbanization, agricultural land is being reduced. In the past decades, about 140,000 ha of land has been overgrown with forests. This process is most intense in southern and in western Slovenia.

 

The most important focus of Slovene agriculture is livestock breeding. Its share in final agricultural production in 2000 was 71.9 %. The main branch of Slovene livestock is cattle farming, which encompasses more than one third of production. Poultry farming represents 12 % and pig farming 11 %. Sheep farming has been rapidly increasing in the past few years. Other structural shares of agricultural production in 2000 are: farming 14.1 %, fruit orchards 7.1 % and winemaking 6.9 %. In the past years, an increase of olive groves has been noted (3).

 

  1. Plant protection products and registered active substances in the Republic of Slovenia

 

Each year, a list of registered plant protection products is published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia. On the first list from January 2004, there are 212 active substances registered for use and 372 registered plant production products. This list is relatively the same until 2011.  Non-active substances, such as exscipients and growth regulators, are also on the aforementioned list. Table 2 shows the 372 registered plant protection products in groups as listed by category. Figure 1 shows the manner in which these plant protection products are used.

 

Table 2: Number of registered plant protection products by categories (4)

 

Plant protection products Number of registered plant protection products                        %
Acaricides 7 1.88
Fungicides 151 40.59
Herbicides 94 25.27
Insecticides 85 22.85
Regulators/activators of growth 7 1.88
Rodenticides 9 2.42
Other pesticides 19 5.11

 

Figure 1: The manner of using of plant protection products (4) (INSERT FIGURE 1 HERE)

 

In 2001, plant protection products registered in the Republic of Slovenia contained 215 active compounds. The method of applying these products is important, as well as the quantity. In 2001, there were nine authorised organisations registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food to test devices for the use of plant protection products on the ministry’s behalf. These organisations performed 3668 inspections (2382 inspections of sprinklers, 1277 inspections of spraying and sprinkling devices, and 9 inspections of motor sprayers and sprinklers), producing 3614 written reports on inspections performed (4).

The annual consumption of plant protection products on farms totalled 3.4 kg/ha of cultivated land. The highest use is on hilly lands, 9 kg/ha, and much less elsewhere: 2 kg/ha on plains, and 1 kg/ha in highlands and Karstic land. Half of all agricultural holders used up to 1 kg/ha of plant protection products. Agricultural holders used 110 different plant protection products; eight of these were particularly used in great quantities.

A major problem for farmers on family farms is a lack of information and a lack of knowledge regarding sprinkling on cultivated land. Thirteen percent of farmers simply act according to their own experiences while 20 % of farmers act according to their own experiences and advice from specialists, with approximately half following the instructions from producers and sellers of plant protection products. Only 78 % of private farmers answered correctly when asked about the expiry date for plant protection products; 31 % of farmers on family farms did not use personal protection equipment when sprinkling, 17 % used protective clothing, and 17 % used just a mask. Approximately one-tenth of private farmers disposed of unused plant protection products by pouring it into land or running water.

Use of plant protection products has been relatively constant in the past years with minor fluctuations. Compared with data from 2002-2003, the use of plant protection products somewhat increased because of fungicides. After this stabilized, the trend in usage has continued to remain consistent with a slow decline in the years after 2004. In 2007, we recorded the lowest plant protection products usage since our monitoring began. In 2008, the usage was again slightly higher but still considerably less than in previous years. Based on plant protection products usage structure, fungicides still represent more than two-thirds of all plant protection products in Slovenia and, among them, the largest share is represented by sulphur based inorganic fungicides which are less aggravating for the environment.

 

From 2000 to 2007, the use of plant protection products per hectare of agricultural land had been slightly increasing until 2004, from 6.8 kg of active substances per hectare in 2000 to 7.5 kg in 2004, and it returned to 6.9 kg in 2005. In 2006 and 2007, aggravation of agricultural land additionally decreased more than one kg, to 5.74 kg of active substances per hectare, which is the lowest figure to date or in the time since we officially began monitoring the sales of plant protection products. In 2008, the usage increased to 5.9 kg per hectare. In the past three years, usage of fungicides has been reduced the most and they still represented more than two-thirds (69.5 %) of all used plant protection products in 2008 in Slovenia. Compared to the past three years, the use of herbicides is again lower and can be compared to 2004 with 1.44 kg per hectare. This is considerably less than the years 2000-2003 when the usage had been an average of 25 % higher. After seven years of fairly constant usage of insecticides, which was between 0.45 kg of active substances per hectare in 2000 to 0.53 kg in 2007, we have recorded over 50 % lesser usage in 2008, only 0.2 kg per hectare (5, 6, 7). With professional use of insecticides, this must be the consequence of mostly adverse weather conditions in the past year for pests to develop.

 

  1. National monitoring of plant protection products in food

 

The National Food Monitoring Program represents the coordinated, regular and systematic monitoring of plant protection product residuals in food and is one of the forms of official control (inspection). The purpose of official control is efficient protection of public interests in the sense of ensuring customer protection and following the pesticide regulations.

 

In 2001, residues of different substances were determined in the official food monitoring. The presence of pesticide residues up to maximum limits (MaxRLs) were determined in 69 samples of food products (41.1 %) and in 33 samples of agriculture products (21.9 %).MaxRLs were exceeded in 1 % of food products (1 sample bread) and in 5 % of agricultural products (8 samples, lettuce and potato) – Figure 2. INSERT FIGURE 2 HERE.

Fig.  2.  Pesticides residues in foodstuffs and in agricultural products in 2001 (8)

In 2008,a total of 1297 samples of food were analysed with the inclusion of 22 enforcement and 1275 surveillance samples. Enforcement samples included: 2 samples of cereals, 6 samples of processed products of plant origin and 14 samples of vegetables, fruits and other plant origin (9).

Surveillance samples included: 30 samples of animal products, 103 samples of baby food, 16 samples of cereals, 73 samples of processed products of plant origin and 1053 samples of vegetables, fruits and other plant origin. There were 730 samples without detectable residues, 547 samples with residues below or at minimal residue limits (MinRLs) and 20 samples with residues exceeding the MinRLs (9).

409 samples were originated from domestic produce, 563 from other EU Member States, 311 from Third Countries and 14 were of unknown origin.

Samples of animal products were analysed for the presence of up to 191 pesticides. From 30 surveillance samples, 28 (93.33 %) samples were without detectable residues and 2 (6.67 %) with residues below or at MinRLs (9).

Samples of baby food were analysed for the presence of up to 222 pesticides. From 103 surveillance samples, 99 (96.12 %) samples were without detectable residues, 3 (2.91 %) with residues below or at MinRLs and 1 (0.97 %) with residues exceeding the EU-MinRLs (9).

Samples of cereals were analysed for the presence of up to 192 pesticides. From 16 surveillance samples, 11 (68.75 %) samples were without detectable residues, 3 (18.75 %) with residues below or at MinRLs and 2 (12.50 %) with residues exceeding the MinRLs (9).

Samples of processed products of plant origin were analysed for the presence of up to 196 pesticides. From 73 surveillance samples, 57 (78.08 %) samples were without detectable residues and 16 (21.92 %) with residues below or at MinRLs.

Samples of vegetables, fruits and other plant origins were analysed for the presence of up to 196 pesticides. From 1053 surveillance samples, 525 (49.86 %) samples were without detectable residues, 512 (48.62 %) with residues below or at MinRLs and 16 (1.52 %) with residues exceeding the MinRLs.

  1. Review of the old stocks of plant protection products – obsolete pesticides containing POPs

Among the pesticides containing POPs substances from the list of the Stockholm Convention, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT, C14H9Cl5) was mainly used for controlling the Colorado beetle (Leptinotarsadecemlineata), pests in orchards (Quadraspidiotusperniciosus) and other pests in storage facilities in Slovenia. The consumption of DDT was the most extensive between 1957 and 1962, when the resistance of the Colorado beetle to DDT was established in the territory of southeastern Slovenia. After 1962, the consumption of DDT was in decline. For controlling of the vole (Arvicolaterrestris) in fenced orchards, approximately 1.000 litres of endrin (C12H8Cl6O) were used annually until 1989 in Slovenia. Chlorinated camphene, (C10H10Cl8), was mainly used for controlling mice. Dieldrin (C12H8Cl6O) and aldrin (C12H8Cl6) were mainly used against pests in soil and storage facilities, but less extensively compared to DDT. Products based on chlordane(C10H6Cl8), heptachlor (C10H5Cl7), hexachloropentadiene dimer (mirex, C10Cl12)  and hexachlorobutadiene (C4Cl6) were not used in agriculture in Slovenia (10, 11).

Due to their negative characteristics, possible old stocks of plant protection products containing POPs represent a potential danger in the environment and the health of individuals. With regard to the fact that Slovenia did not have accurate, but only approximate, records and estimates of old plant protection products – obsolete pesticides, since they were also used in the time when Slovenia was still a part of former Yugoslavia, it was necessary to prepare an inquiry on the remaining quantities of these substances. The Republic of Slovenia does not have a record of all stocks of the plant protection products that were in use between 1945 and 1991. For this reason, the survey on the recording of stocks of plant protection products that also contain POPs was performed.

This was done by means of a questionnaire intended for traders who market these substances and a questionnaire intended for agriculture producers.

Results of the questionnaire on record keeping plant protection products – pesticides containing POPs owned by traders of pesticides (12)

The process of using the questionnaire intended for traders of plant protection products containing POPs was carried out in March 2004. There were 239 registered traders to whom the questionnaire was delivered (current data of the Office for Plant Protection of the Republic of Slovenia). Of the questionnaires sent out, 50.8 % (121) were returned completed, although just 45.6 % (109) were completed correctly. For the period 1985 – 2004 the respondents indicated the use or sale of the following plant protection products: aldrin, dieldrin, γ -benzene hexachloride (lindane, C6H6Cl6) and endrin. They indicated that, for the most part, they sold these preparations until 1989, when the use of these substances was prohibited in the Republic of Slovenia.

The result of the questionnaire showed that the existing traders in 2004 do not have preparations containing substances included in the list of POPs of the Stockholm convention on stock.

Results of the questionnaire on record keeping plant protection products –  pesticides containing POPs  in agricultural holdings (12)

At the end of April 2004, the questionnaire in the survey was addressed to farm owners in Slovenia. It included a list of plant protection products containing POPs registered in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. In addition to these, the list also included agents containing thiodan or endosulfan (C9H6Cl6O3S) and dicofol (C14H9Cl5O), which have characteristics of persistent organic pollutants, but are not included in the list of POPs of the Stockholm Convention. Due to the transparency and effectiveness of the questionnaire, the list of plant protection products did not include individual concentration variations of the preparations.

The survey including both the questionnaire and letter was sent to approximately 68.000 agricultural holdings in Slovenia – i.e., to all addressees in the register of beneficiaries of subsidies of agricultural products. With regard to the extent of the people included in the questionnaire, we have estimated that 95 % agricultural holdings were included, i.e., the most active agricultural holdings.

Agricultural advisers were informed of the objective of the survey and they offered help in filling in the questionnaire.

Of all the questionnaires sent, 26.4 %, or 17.926 were returned. Of the returned, 3.9 % of the respondents reported  consumption or stocks of plant protection products from the list of the questionnaire. This is shown in Table 3.

The surveys were not filled in by those who did not use plant protection products from the list of the questionnaire.

Table 3: The successfulness of the survey (12)

Number of returned surveys (of 68.000 sent)  
Surveys with no consumption reported 15.277 22,5 %
-of this, not filled in 1.153 1,7 %
-no. of surveys will filled-in data on the consumption/stocks 1.496 2,2 %
TOTAL returned surveys                                          17.926                                                   26,4 %

 

1,136.75 litres of fluid and 6,019.96 kilograms of powdered plant protection products containing POPs were recorded. Regardless of the actual quantity of substance reported in this survey, the ration between individual preparations was realistic. The survey has shown that, of the available preparations, mostly those containing the active substance DDT were used, with endrin and lindane following it.  The analysis of data reported in the survey has shown that mostly plant protection products based on DDT (86 %) were used in Slovenia, with HCH (hexachlorohexane, C6H8Cl6) (10 %) and endrin (4 %) following them. The consumption of other preparations containing other POPs was lower than 0.1 %. Mirex was not used in Slovenia. The distribution of POPs on stock is similar, as shown by the inspection of the plant protection products used containing POPs (DDT – 81 %, HCH – 9 %, endrin – 10 %), whereby the stocks have a slightly higher percentage of preparations based on endrin, which is reasonable, since this substance was the last to be taken out of circulation.

Since the survey was not anonymous, the producer of the survey has completed data on the owners of the stocks that need to be removed. Due to the possible misunderstanding of the names and, consequently, incorrectly indicated data, these data need to be checked.

Within the framework of such limited results included in the survey, a favoured use of mixture with 25 % DDT in all regions was confirmed, with lindane and mixture with 50 % DDT following it. In this analysis the Ljubljana region showed a relatively high consumption of plant protection products containing POPs if compared with other regions, especially with regard to the Prekmurje (northeast part of Slovenia) and Maribor regions, which have a high percentage of agricultural areas. Concerning the consumed percentage of DDT, the Dolenjska (southeast part of Slovenia) region is the most exposed; however, the large quantity is the result of two questionnaires, in which a total of 200 kilograms of this agent (consumed by 2003) was documented. The result of such analysis would have to be examined by experts with experience in the field of the consumption of plant protection products in Slovenia.

The total stock of plant protection products containing POPs reported in this survey in Slovenia was over 1000 litres and over 6000 kilograms. Certainly, these are not actual quantities of plant protection products containing POPs that are in stock nowadays in agricultural holdings. The number is much higher. It only represents a relation between individual preparations; and, with regard to the number of the filled-in questionnaires, we concluded that the number is at least 20-times higher.

  1. Conclusions

 

The article presents the available data in the field of consumption plant protection products in the years from 2000 to 2009 in the Republic of Slovenia.

It is evident that during some years the used amounts of plant protection products were increased, but in the last years, after the new legislation acts were accepted in National Parliament, the situation has improved and the use of plant protection products has decreased.

Monitoring of pesticide use by type and quantity on private farms as well as on social agricultural land has shown that in Slovenia the quantity used per hectare exceeds the European Union average. In 2001, the national monitoring of plant protection products in food began. It was carried out on 69 samples, whereas in 2008 it was carried out on 1297 samples. The results of both monitoring activities showed that only a small number of samples contained residues of plant protection products.

The last monitoring was based on a questionnaire survey in order to obtain information on the quantity of obsolete pesticides containing POPs substances, which the registered traders and the agricultural holders have.

Two hundred thirty-nine questionnaires were sent to the registered traders and 68 000 to agricultural holders. From the returned and properly completed questionnaires (50.8 % from the traders and 24.4 % from the holders), the quantity of obsolete pesticides, including POPs, was calculated. This amount was too low and for that it has been decided to repeat this operation. The purpose of collecting this information has been and will be to collect quantities of obsolete pesticides and to destroy them properly.

The purpose of all the monitoring activities was for the responsible ministry to prepare documents, such as the international obligations of Slovenia (EU membership), signed and ratified international conventions and protocols, adopted legislation and national implementation plan for the management of reasonable use of pesticides.

 

References

Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, Statistical Yearbook 2009. Accessible on: http://www.stat.si/eng/pub.asp [5.12.2010]

Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Report on environmental situation -agriculture2001. Accessible on: http://www.mkgp.gov.si

http://www.echo-o.org/pdf.files/Report-Agriculture and use pesticides in Slovenia 2004_PAN_ECH02.pdf

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia, Environmental programme of slovenian agriculture. Accessible on: http://www.gov.si/mkgp/slo/skop/slovenija_in_slovensko_kmetijstvo/2_3.html [7.12.2010]

Slabe, Anamarija. (2001). Organic farming in Slovenia. Accessible on:

http://www.organic-europe.net/country_reports/slovenia/default.asp [8.12.2003]

Pesticide Use in Slovenia, Pesticide Action Network Germany in cooperation with Association Agrolink 2004, Principal Author:Organisation ECHo ecology cultural diversity health, Edited:Susanne Smolka

Environmental indicators in Slovenia, Use of Plant Protection Products, Institute of Agriculture of Slovenia, Ljubljana 2006

Irena Rejec Brancelj, Agricultural Environmental Pollution in Slovenia, Landscape Aspects of Agricultural Pollution from Dispersed Sources, Institute of Geography, Ljubljana 2001

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia, Phytosanitary Administration. Personal communications, January 2010

The Merck Index, Eleventh Edition, An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs an Biologicals, Published by Merck&Co., Inc. Rahway , NJ., U.S.S., 1989

Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, Sixth Edition, Edited by Irwing Sax, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York, 1984

B. Druzina, M. Ciraj, V. Ternifi, Z. Bolta, V. Skerlavaj, H. Leskovsek-Sefman, Environmentally sound management (ESM) practices on cleaning up obsolete stockpiles of pesticides for Central European and EECCA Countries, Proceedings of 8th International HCH and Pesticides Forum, 26-28 May 2005, Sofia, Bulgaria, Edited by: Nanna Schulz, Ivan Atanassov and John Vijgen

 

 

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