Many people like to believe that agriculture in the UK is very green and eco, they believe the romanticised idea that all UK farm as clean and healthy when it comes to the use of chemicals.
It is no secret however, that almost all aspects of farming rely on some kind of chemical treatment, due to sheer size and scale of farming operations, chemicals are needed especially for crop farmers. Chemicals can be used in almost all stages of growth and development of crops and have different functions.
- Herbicides (To target weeds)
- Insecticides: (To kill bugs)
- Fungicides: (To target disease)
- Soil fumigants, desiccants and harvest aids
- Natural pesticides: Pesticides are not limited to conventional agriculture.
Firstly herbicides and insecticides can be used with varying frequency during the growth stages of crops, in order to keep the crops free of weeds and bugs. Weeds compete for space and soil nutrients in the field, so these have to be eradicated. And bugs obviously pose problems for crops, usually because the bugs want to eat them. Next, there are fungicides, which like the name suggests, can rid the plants of funguses and other diseases that could otherwise affect or even destroy the crops.
Then there are soil fumigants that produce gas in the soil to kill bugs that may live there as well. Desiccants and harvest aids are used in the final stages of the crop’s life cycle, right before harvest to make the crop easier to collect. The desiccants quite literally dry the crops out and other harvest aids work in the same way.
On The Rise
Although farmers claim that pesticide use has dropped since 1990, this in fact only refers to the weight of pesticide. In fact, the landmass in the UK treated by pesticides has increased, the frequency that crops are treated increased, the variety of chemicals used on crops has increased and most importantly the toxicity of pesticides has increased.