Pesticide Productivity and Food Security- A Review

Pesticide Productivity and Food Security- A Review

Sharad Sachan1 , Nidhi Dubey*2

1Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Lovely Professional University, Phagwara (Punjab), 144411-India

2Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, Lovely Professional University, Phagwara (Punjab), 144411-India

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The present population of 7 billion is projected to grow at the pace of 70 million per annum by the end of 2050. This increase in population will change the demand of food required throughout the world due to change in diet habit. But the main problem which exists is that the land is limited and cannot be increased with increase in food requirement. Any expansion in food demand will put pressure on agricultural land to produce for the extended food demand. Except this more land will be used for bio based commodities. Thus the need to grow more crop per piece of land becomes essential. Sustainable agriculture and production is a urgent need of present. The present review paper emphasize on following points(1) Worldwide crop losses (2) Pesticide related productivity (3) Cost benefit analysis of pesticides (4) Challenge of crop protection industry (5) Approaches to reduce yield losses. Thus the pesticides have a future role in deciding the fate of agriculture throughout the world.


agriculture, crops, fertilizer, Food Security, Pesticide, productivity

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            Food production globally has increased to its twice capacity in recent 50 years as a result of Green Revolution throughout the world in comparison to the world population which has increased twice to reach seven billion from 1960 to the present situation. As per the projection estimated the world population will reach around 9 billion in 2050 with an increase of almost 35 per cent. This increase in the population will lead to rise of food requirement by 70 per cent due to change in diets and habits [11].

            Throughout the world around 20 per cent yield of crops is lost owing to pre-harvest pests [9] and in addition, food products chain losses are high [16]. With the increase in losses agriculture has to cope with the global rising of food and other byproducts. The agricultural land has been limited can be only increased with forgoing of forest area which leads to decrease in population of natural enemies of the pests. As per these limitations, increasing productivity with reducing waste through the whole food chain becomes a key factor. The best possible combinations of resources and technology should be utilized to mark agriculture and its allied activities more productive and profitable in contemporary scenarios. The losses of crop yield are majorly due to pathogens, pests and weeds which are key encounters in the case of agriculture production. [23]. Effective use of pesticides has increased 15-20 times throughout the agriculture sector [22].

            Simple ecosystems have been adopted to meet the growing demand for food has resulted in increasing pest attacks. This resulted in high pesticide use to safeguard the food and its productivity to meet the demand created by population. Thus crops require protection [32]. The outcome of pesticide use provides a clue that its use will play a pivot role to maintain and improving the living standards in the world. There may be many more methods that may be high cost as compared to the application of chemicals. Globally around 40 billion dollar per annum worth of pesticide is used throughout the world as compared to 2 per cent of bio pesticides being used [20]. Thus can better IPM be economically beneficial or any other techniques are required to be discovered. There is the innumerous question that to be answered by scientists in the upcoming years [32].

Crop damages to pests

The crop yield can be improved worldwide by HVY, improvement in water and soil conditions, fertilizers and modified agronomic cultivation and intercultural techniques [31]. An increase in yield of crops is linked with high insect-pest attacks leading to more yield and economic losses [24]. Around 35 per cent of productivity is lost to pests worldwide [22]. In addition, around 35 per cent is lost during packing, packaging, transport, storage, marketing and plate waste loss [16]. In addition to previous terms, reducing waste in the food chain may also play a key role [32]. Various levels of yield losses can be figured out as direct and indirect losses or as primary and secondary losses, thus reliving pest reduce crop yield, farmer’s net return but may affect food supply of the country as well as world altogether.

  • Direct losses

a. Primary losses;

1. Crop yield,

2. Food quality,

3. Cost of plant protection,

4. Cost to harvest

5. Cost to grade,

6. Replanting

b. Secondary losses

1. Contamination

2. Soil-borne disease

3. Cost to control

  • Indirect losses

a. Agricultural Farms b. Rural community c. Exports and trades d. Marketing channels e. Government policies f. Environment [33].

            Weeds also affect crop yield due to the high competition of resources [17]. An analysis of all the pests and the use of chemical pesticides to control pests in vast environmental conditions will be a monumental task. This assessment will be important for decision making for government as well as farmers. Countries released various data regarding crop losses due to pest attack such as in Germany (1929) the cereal loss was 10 per cent, in USA [1900] was less than 10 per cent [19]. The USDA regularly published the data in 1927, 1931, 1939, 1954 and 1965 which became out-of-date due to various changes in the area, production, productivity and technological aspects [8]. The updation in the estimation of crop losses was updated around the 1990’s on the regional as well as sub regional basis by [24].

            Unfortunately, the pesticide use folded two times from 42 per cent through the world in 1965 to 70 per cent in 2010, still doubling the pesticide use the crop yield loss was estimated to be 30 per cent. The main reason behind the above said problem was inefficient management methods of plant protection which were not functional throughout the agriculture sector uniformly [22]. The production and protection systems have changed a lot, in the majority of transgenic varieties has changed the strategies regarding pest control throughout the world. Loss data have been updated by Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaus International’s Crop Protection Compendium for six for 2001-2003 [4,22]. Among crops the losses due to pest vary from 50 per cent in wheat to 80 per cent in cotton production. Worldwide estimations for crop losses in 1996-98 and 2001-03 has variation from publications earlier [8,24]. Resulting to this the old data has been changed by new data. However, the intensity of crop protection has increased since 1990s in Asia and America which is above the global average.

Estimates of pesticide productivity

            The enlarged hazard to crops has be a counter part by improved crop protection either by chemically, mechanically, IPM or farmers’ training [22]. The application of pesticides has increased in the 1960s due to the green revolution on the one hand and on another hand the productivity also increased two-fold for all crops in the majority. This would not have been possible without the intensive use of pesticides. The competition among the farmers will have been reduced if low production and high prices had prevailed for the majority of crops [20]. In those places where the productivity is significantly less the major crop protection deals with the control of weeds mechanically or chemically and losses to insects and pests which accounts for more than 50 per cent of the production [21]. Intensive developments have been done in educating the farmers but the condition in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa is bleak [20].

            Pesticide use may vary with the crops, locality and climate. Plant diseases can be lethal for crop production as well as humans as shown in the Irish Potato famine during 1845-1847. This leads to the development of the phyto pathology [1]. When synthetic pesticides came into existence, they lead to an increase in crop productivity and a decrease in pest incidence for crops. These pesticides have been directly or indirectly used as a key factor in increasing crop productivity [22]. Ensuring food supply, safety and decreased crop losses were by the growth in pesticide use globally. The pesticide market is estimated to be around 3 tonnes and worth of 40 billion USD [32].

The increasing dependency on pesticides is named as pesticide treadmill which involves two responses to pesticide resistance. The first response is to increase the frequency and dose with less effective pesticides which results in pest resistance and the second response is to discover a new pesticide. The pesticide treadmill concept reveals that this concept will continue till the resistant proof pesticide will be found or all the pesticides will be exhausted [11].

Pesticide productivity can be measured in three ways, i.e. partial budget model, the combination of market and budget models and econometric models. Out of three, partial budgeting is widely cited by various authors [26, 27, 28]. These studies estimate the crop loss on each crop with no pesticide, current pesticide use and 50 per cent of pesticide use. The estimated crop loss amounted to 37 per cent of total output in 1986 as compared to 1974 which was 33 per cent [27]. In comparison [8] estimated crop loss to be near to 28 per cent which was quite significant as compared to 37 per cent, which make the [27] study to be questionably high. This kind of model overstates pesticide productivity and ignores short-run, substitution possibilities, human capital and farm operations. Thus studies based on partial budget models tend to misjudge losses of crops.

            Other studies also have tried to predict the pesticide productivity by the combination of partial budgetingmodels with models based on output market [32,37,3]. This model works same as partial budget model with incorporation of per hectare expenses and yield into agricultural commodity models to project pesticide prices and consumption. This model incorporates some substitution possibilities within the farming as well as country’s economy [37]. Commonly pesticide productivity lowers when substitution possibilities are extensive. Agricultural equipment prices have fallen as compared to chemical prices [3]. On the other side, the labour prices have increased, which suggest labour-intensive methods to control pest are becoming less attractive as compared to pesticides. But the main drawback of these estimates is that it does not take considering with other pest control strategies [37].

            It is also conceivable to estimate the pesticide productivity by econometric models where estimate parameters link output with input use. These given models estimate productivity growth and factor productivity. This model includes short run, substitution, farm activities at all regional and national level [12,2,7]. [14] used this model by using crop sales to measure output and expenditure on agricultural inputs. He found that spending extra pesticide worth of 1USD increases the production by 4 USD. He also assumes that production without pesticides is not possible. The assumption which Headly used does not predict a decline in pesticide productivity [18]. [5] developed the dual form of the model-based, which is based on profit maximization and the difference between standard inputs and damage control inputs. Crop losses were estimated to be 9 per cent to 11 per cent in 1987, which was more accurate than others [27, 24].

Cost-benefit analysis of pesticide use

            Cost-benefit analysis assesses the resources management and environment policies. It monetizes all costs and benefits in terms of currencies. Its limitation is monetizing human and environmental risks. Few countries have introduced licensing fees and various other taxes which have reduced pesticide use to some extent. The price elasticity of pesticides is high as compared to these taxes which reduce the effect of these taxes on the reduction of pesticide uses. Suggestions include diverting the revenue to research development in farming to make it more practical [25].

            The toxicity level is different for different pesticides. The tax should be levied based not on volume but by toxicity level i.e. higher toxicity leads to increased taxation. This will not reduce the demand for pesticides but will reduce the effect of pesticides on humans and the environment. This will also encourage the pesticide substitution from high toxicity level to low toxicity level. The main problem pertaining substitution of pesticides is that they possess zero cross-price effect. In the UK the price elasticity of pesticides never increased more than -0.39 which suggested that the farmers might substitute the pesticides [25].

            The polluter pays principle i.e. adding the cost of environment and public health can be the effective approach. To estimate the right tax on pesticides, their negative impact should be determined.  Various studies have been made to calculate public health costs and damage to the environment [28, 30, 27]. The price of pesticides accounts for around 7-8 per cent of the total cost of production. However, this drastically changes from country to country varying from 11 per cent to 4 per cent [32]. The pesticide accounts for about 5-6 per cent of the total cost of cultivation in USA [35]. Generally, farmers have a strong economic reason to use pesticides in crops. Proper use of pesticides may significantly provide socio-economic and environmental benefits. The genetically engineered organism known as the new generation of pest management reduced the pesticides use globally [32]. The pesticide need to be selective in targeting crop or insect of interest. Spray drift is the most significant concerns to non-targeted organisms [29]. The loss from the aerial application is maximum with ground application to be least. Many ways have been developed to reduce this drift such as reducing the drop size and increasing the number of drops per ml of solution [13].

Biopesticides or integrated pest management

            Biopesticides provides high social benefits when compared to the traditional pesticides, then also agriculture is predominately controlled by chemical pesticides. Biopesticides have found their place in agriculture to those limits where it is used to control those pests which cannot be controlled by conventional pesticides [36]. The biopesticides have been considered as chemical clones and not as biological control agents. The numbers of pesticides MNC are jumping into biopesticide manufacturing. Globally, the sales of biopesticides are predicted to be 1 billion dollars which constitutes around 2 per cent of the world crop protection market [32].

            Although the biopesticides are safer to human and the environment, still the manufacturing relies too small and medium size enterprises. It makes the market of biopesticides to be difficult and one company cannot fulfil the research, development and demand of market. Large agrochemical company Syngenta started a project MARGINS in 2009. Managing Agricultural Runoff into Surface Water which was associated with playing key importance in reducing risks associated with pesticides. The main objective of MARGINS was to integrate various aspects of agriculture to increase the crop productivity. During this project, the cost reduced by 15-20 per cent in all aspects [34]. During last two decades, IPM has minimized costs of plant protection in agronomic as well as horticultural crops. Reduction in plant protection crops can be achieved by increasing natural enemies of pests, selection in varieties, intercultural operation etc. However, new discoveries give an opportunity for developing as well as developed countries to reduce yield losses.

Challenges faced by global pesticide market

            The globalization of market has a huge effect on and off the agricultural farms as it reduces the cost and increases the incentives to farmers due to the competition pressure throughout the world [11]. The major point to be considered isthat not only big multinational play a major role but it new companies also which are emerging quickly in world scenario. Overall, generic pesticides make around 30 per cent of total sales [20]. The rise in demand of generic pesticides also shows the lack of regulatory control and IPM policy framework [11]. About 30 per cent of the world pesticides do not match the standards thus posing the hazard to humans [11]. Possible reasons for the lesser quality of pesticides could indulge both poor formulation and production of chemicals and their abrupt selection. Whenever the labelling and packaging aspects are taken into consideration, the proportions in which these poor-quality pesticide products in scenario of the developing countries are even higher. Deceitfully, these declared products which continue to be marketed in huge quantities for years without quality control regimes [11].

            Pesticide industries which also includesproducers for generic pesticides, should be submitting their products for quality valuation to FAO/WHO. Another negative impact of the higher use of pesticides in developing countries is that it results in the loss of exportof horticultural crops to developing countries, as developed countries have tightenedmaximum chemical residue levels. In turn, agricultural lobbyists in industrialized nations may exploit this situation and use environmental standards as non-tariff trade barriers.


            The main reason for the decrease in food is population growth, urbanization and change in climate as well as feeding habit of humans. To increase the food demand, production growth will be accompanied by a rise in productivity, which will be difficult as declining agricultural productivity since 2000. In addition to the reduction of crop losses to pests, the whole food chain needs to be redeveloped. Benefit-cost analysis plays a vital role in the decision making of plant protection. However, there are many challenges faced in measuring the cost-benefit analysis, which makes a fair balance between risk and benefits received while using the pesticides.

            Chemical pesticides play a vital role in pest management due to unavailability of competitive alternatives. Pesticides provide economic benefit to the farmers and prevent crop losses, which show their benefits as compared to their risks. Their side effects can be reduced by improving their application technologies. The correct use and application of pesticides can improve the environmental and socio-economic benefits to the farmers. The justifications of government interventions include the externality of problems associated with effects on human and environment. However, the crop protection products, should measures the information and safe handling of these pesticides for community action to achieve the justifiable use of pesticides.

            Genetically engineered organisms can be a new tool in pest management, which have additional economic contribution to farmers. But genetically engineered crops apply strong selection of pests resistance, thus the use of the transgenic crops will be effective in the programmes related to resistance management. Many biological agents which are beneficial are not accepted by farmers. Their impact evolution should be based on long term period rather than to be a short time period. Even the market of bio pesticides is very less as compared to traditional pesticides. The efforts should be made in research related policies to increase the attractiveness to chemical pesticides.The specific knowledge of modern technologies providing the hugechances for developing countries, to decrease current crop yield losses and the further effects of climate change on the plant’s health

            Total investment done duringpathogen management and thenew advanced discoveries shall be increased to report biological, chemicaland biochemicalresearches which will be applicable to ecological pest management practices. There is less investment in privatesectorresearch becausethe companies are willing to aim at maximizing profit. Thus public sector must act faster on its peeraccountability to available quality and quantity research and education. It willalso be ensuringwell structureddecision making in case of both the sectors i.e. private and public sectors by stressing on interdisciplinary research.


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