Pesticide Use and Associated Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Sugar Beet, Apples, and Viticulture in Austria from 2000 to 2019

The production of synthetic pesticides is energy intensive and can emit even more greenhouse gases (GHG) per kg than the production of synthetic fertilizers. However, this aspect is largely neglected when it comes to agriculture’s contribution to GHG emissions. Using official pesticide sales data from Austria from 2000 to 2019, we analyzed (i) trends in insecticide, fungicide, and herbicide use and calculated production-related GHG emissions, and (ii) the share of pesticide-related versus fertilizer-related GHG emissions in three agricultural crops with different pesticide intensities: sugar beets, apples, and grapevines. We found that between 2000 and 2019, insecticide amounts increased by 58%, fungicide amounts increased by 29%, and herbicide amounts decreased by 29%; associated GHG emissions showed similar patterns. During the same period, acreage under conventional arable crops, orchards, and vineyards decreased by an average of 19%, indicating an increase in management intensity. In intensive apple production, GHG emissions associated with pesticide production and application accounted for 51% of total GHG emissions, in viticulture 37%, and in sugar beets 12%. We have shown that GHG emissions due to pesticide production and application can be significant, especially for pesticide-intensive crops. We therefore recommend that these pesticide-derived GHG emissions should also be attributed to the agricultural sector.


Read the full article here: