PUDS – The Pesticide Use Data System

Access the Pesticide Use Data System

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Introduction

The Pesticide Use Data System (PUDS) contains the chemical usage data published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), in their online Quick Stats Database.

NASS requires U.S. farmers to report the amount and frequency of pesticides applied to crops, typically on a bi-annual basis for fruits and vegetables and periodically for grain and row crops.  In each year and for all crops surveyed, NASS strives to collect data on states that together account for at least 85% of the acres planted nationally to a given crop. This information is downloaded from Quick Stats every year, and incorporated into PUDS.

PUDS Methodology and Data Sources

PUDS data elements are downloaded from two separate components of Quick Stats.  The total acres planted to a specific crop are reported by state and national totals, and are extracted from the Quick Stats crops sector.   All other pesticide use data is reported under the environmental sector.

Key data elements include:

Crop – Crop surveyed by NASS.

Year – Year the crop was surveyed for pesticide use.

State – The state the crop was planted in.  ‘National’ in the state description designates national use of the pesticide.

PC Code – A code for each registered pesticide active ingredient that is assigned by the EPA, and used to link to all EPA data on pesticide toxicity and environmental fate and impacts.

Active Ingredient Type (AI Type) –The active ingredient type designates whether the reported pesticide was used as an herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, or other type of pesticide.  Occasionally, a pesticide may be used as an herbicide in one treatment and a fungicide in another treatment.

Chemical – The pesticides applied to crops are reported according to their PC code and active ingredient name as designated by the EPA. Use of brand named products (i.e. Roundup (glyphosate) or Admire (imidacloprid)) are not surveyed nor reported in Quick Stats.

ConglomerateNASS sometimes reports pesticide use separately for different chemical forms of the same active ingredient (e.g., 2,4-D Diethamine salt and 2,4-D Isoprop Ester). The conglomerate field is used to group all such compounds into an aggregate total for the active ingredient (see below for details).

Total Acres – The total number of acres that is planted to a specific crop for each state and national totals.

Note — In the case of some crops (fruit and nut trees, bushes and vines), USDA may report bearing acres as opposed to planted acres, since these crops are not replanted annually.  In such cases, acres bearing, or acres harvested in a specific year is assigned as the Total Acres Planted value.

Surveyed Acres – The number of acres planted, as reported by NASS within each state.

Note — Surveyed acres is not the same as total acres planted, for two reasons. First, USDA usually surveys up to 85% of the acres of a given crop in each state surveyed. Second, not all states growing a given crop are surveyed. Accordingly, pesticide use tables often will report values for surveyed acres, as well as total state or national acres.  Total state and national pesticide use are estimated by assuming that the percent acres treated and rates per crop year on surveyed acres is the same as on the acres not surveyed by NASS.

Percent Acres Treated – The percentage of total acres within a state that was treated with a given pesticide.  In Quick Stats, this data item is Treated, measured in pct of area planted, avg.

Number of Applications – The number of times a pesticide was applied within a crop year.  The Quick Stats data item is Applications, measured in number, avg.

Rate of Application – The average one-time rate of application per acre for the pesticide active ingredient.  The Quick Stats data item is Applications, measured in lb / acre / application, avg.

Rate per Crop Year – The average rate per acre multiplied by the average number of applications in a crop year. The  Quick Stats data item is Applications, measured in lb / acre / year, avg.

Pounds Applied – The pounds of pesticide applied to the treated survey acres in a state, or nationally.  The Quick Stats data item is Applications, measured in lb.

Calculated Pounds Applied to Surveyed Acres – The pounds of pesticides applied to surveyed acres calculated based on Quick Stats data.

Calculated Pounds Applied to Total Acres – The pounds of pesticides applied to total acres planted of a given state/crop.

Surveyed Year – Designates whether use data of a pesticide was originally surveyed by NASS for each crop/state/AI type/pesticide.

Dealing With Data Gaps

There are instances in Quick Stats where a data element is reported as undisclosed (D), or as insignificant data (Z).  In such cases, there may only be one farmer within a state growing a specific crop, which renders the data undisclosable because of NASS privacy protection policies.

We have developed methods to estimate most unreported values from those data elements that are reported.

In cases in which a pesticide is applied on less than 1% of acreage, NASS sometimes does not report percent acres treated and/or pounds applied. In such cases, we set the percent acres treated at 0.5% and calculate the pounds applied based on other available data.

Conglomerates

NASS sometimes reports the use of an active ingredient that is manufactured and sold in slightly different chemical forms as two or more distinct active ingredients.  In most tables derived from PUDS, all variations of a parent chemical are grouped together and reported as one parent pesticide, what we call “conglomerate” value.  For example, NASS reports 2,4-D Diethamine salt and 2,4-D Isoprop Ester as two separate chemicals.  In such cases, we create a conglomerate set of 2,4-D use data that combines the use of the two separate forms of 2,4-D.

The application rates and number of applications for conglomerate chemicals are calculated using a weighted average approach, based on the percent of acres treated with each individual form of the active ingredient, relative to the sum of acres treated to all forms. Conglomerate pounds applied is simply the sum of all chemical variations.

The key pesticide use indicators in PUDS are described on the Pesticide Use Indicators page.

Dealing With Missing Years

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has collected reasonably comprehensive pesticide use data for major grain, row crop, fruit, and vegetable crops since 1990, and periodic surveys track pesticide use on some major crops going back into the 1970s. PUDS contains the results of all pesticide use surveys conducted by the USDA.

Pesticide applications at the national and state level have been reported since 1990 by NASS for most major field crops; fruit crops have been surveyed in odd years; and, vegetables have been covered in even years.  Because of budget limitations in the last decade, NASS must limit the number of crops surveyed in any given year. For example, soybean pesticide use was surveyed annually from 1990-2002, in 2004-2006, and then not again until 2012 and 2015. Pesticide use on corn was surveyed each year from 1991-2003, in 2005, 2010, and 2014.

The absence of annual survey data for many crops creates gaps in PUDS.  To overcome this shortcoming, a series of methods have been developed to approximate missing data values by interpolating between years with reported values. The default assumption is that pesticide use changes by the same proportional amount year to year between two known values.

The following methodology rules for calculating the missing data values are as follows:

  • Years prior to the first year an AI had reported usage, the data values are set to 0.
  • Years after the last year an AI had reported usage, the data values are extrapolated forward as equal to the last crop/state surveyed year.
  • If an AI did not have significant reported usage in a given year for a crop/state that was surveyed, then it is set to 0 for the year surveyed. (See below for further implications).
  • All other years are interpolated between two known years. In years that are set to 0, it is assumed that a straight-line, phase in/phase out period for the AI was implemented by farmers.  (see below for further implications).

Further Implications

There are cases where Quick Stats does not fully report use data for some pesticide-crop combinations when: (a) the pesticide is applied on less than 1% of acres, (b) a trivial amount of a low-dose active ingredient is applied, or (c) when only one or a few producers reported use of the pesticide, raising confidentiality concerns.  In such cases, the unreported AI’s are accounted for by subtracting the sum of pounds applied of the reported AI’s from the total pounds applied (given by Quick Stats) for each AI type (H/I/F/O) and grouped as ‘Other’ Fungicides/Herbicides/Insecticides/Other Pesticides.

In cases where all the AI’s for an AI type (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, other) are not reported, then all of the pounds applied and percent acres treated are used to fill in the data gap and interpolated using the methodology above.