According to Federico Montes, Director of the General Directorate of Agricultural Services (DGSA), at the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, (MGAP), at the Prado 2019 Expo, the use of agrochemicals in Uruguay fell by 29% in recent years, adding that the situation regarding the use of phytosanitary products in Uruguayan agriculture has already changed.
“The use of agrochemicals in the country fell by 29% from 2013-2014, in contrast to the importation of active ingredients, with acquisition data from 2017 still to be updated,” Montes said.
During a breakfast meeting with the media at the expo, attended by Enzo Benech (MGAP Holder) and his team, Montes revealed that between 2013 and 2014, 24,378 tons of active ingredients were imported, adding that this figure fell to 17,322 tons between 2017 and 2018.
"An enormous effort was made to deal with complaints regarding the misuse of agrochemicals, which were described as unfortunate and a tragedy for the country,” he added, noting well-know public cases of pollution that occurred years ago.
He highlighted an example of an agricultural entrepreneur who applied illegal quantities of agrochemicals in La Armonía, Canelones. “This was a case of irrational and illegal use that caused damage to the community, and the largest fine was imposed. But two days after the sanction, the alleged suspect was no longer working in the country,” he recalled.
Montes also mentioned the destruction of bee hives in Salto and Paysandú that happened two years ago, which was not caused by agrochemicals. “Someone decided to kill the hives with toxic bait that must have entered the country illegally, since the active ingredient is prohibited in Uruguay,” he explained.
Montes said that the current use of agrochemicals in the Uruguay’s agriculture has already changed and has been rationalized, recalling that from the start of the country’s agriculture boom to around 2013, several factors jointly contributed to a decline in agrochemical applications.
These factors include the more rational use of products, a fall in the number of areas used for agriculture, the MGAP's policy to promote biological controllers, and the growth in popularity of pasture crop rotation, he added.
Montes, who presented to journalists a satellite system used for monitoring agrochemical applications, noted that Uruguayan agriculture rapidly developed in the mid-2000s, which led to greater imports of active ingredients. This expansion also caused various problems and forced everyone to decide on a future plan and establish a set of rules.
He stressed that 70% of agrochemical products used in the country are herbicides, followed by fungicides and insecticides. He then explained that the fall in the use of agrochemicals is due to the fact that GMO crops require less insecticides, with some being replaced by biological controllers, such as lizards in soybean crops while others have been rationalized by stricter professional standards.
How does the satellite monitoring system work?
The DGSA presented to the media its satellite system, known as, “Application Management and Monitoring (GMA) of Agrochemicals”, which was launched in 2018 through its pilot program for the country’s agricultural heartland, in cooperation with the Rural Association of Soriano (ARS).
Currently, 33 applicator companies (29 terrestrial and four aerial) are using the system, covering around 100,000 hectares of crops. Each machine carries a device that sends real-time information to a company employee and another expert based at the MGAP. Both the company and the device must be authorized by the MGAP.
The device marks the locations where applications are made and identifies the types of crops and products. It also detects possible areas of conflict, since an application must not not be done within 300 meters of a school or populated urban center if terrestrial, and 500 meters if aerial.
"The involvement of both productive companies and farmers is key to the success of the project, and caring for the environment and human health will become a competitive advantage and bring added value," Montes stressed.
“Food production must have three components, which are traceability, certification and the environmental seal. To meet that challenge, the satellite monitoring of agrochemical applications is an environmental added value," Montes said in conclusion.