< http://www.geo.uzh.ch/microsite/geo878projects/Group1/index.html> Global pesticide use



Welcome to our webpage!
This project is part of the geography masters course Geovisualisation at the University of Zürich

Figure 1: UN sustainable development goals.

In September 2015, the member states of the UN adopted seventeen goals to ensure sustainable development. The topic of our project relates to the following goals:

  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Life on land
  • Zero hunger
  • Industry innovation and infrastructure
  • Clean water and sanitation
Pesticides are chemical applications commonly used in agriculture, whose compounds control pests such as insects, weed, fungi and other pathogens. The increased applications of pesticides is strongly connected to intensive farming, which started in Europe and North America with the green revolution in the 1960s. Countries of the global south, especially emerging nations such as China or India, started later with the green revolution which modernized and intensified their agriculture.

Pesticides ensure the high yields in current agriculture, lower work effort and thus keep the prices for our food low. But when the applied chemicals discharge from the fields or are imprecisely applied, they have hazardous impacts on the environment, where they pollute the air, soils, ground- and surface waters. Once in the system, the toxic compounds can have severe impacts on non-target organisms and human health (Aktar et al 2009). Despite the advantageous effects of pesticides on economy, it is of utmost importance to lower the today’s applied amounts to make agriculture more sustainable and to minimize human exposure.


Figure 2: The global Pesticide use over the years as well as that of some selected countries.

Figure 2 shows the global pesticide use and that of some selected countries. We can see, that the global pesticide use had it’s peak in 2007. The decline is probably due to a higher awareness of farmers and consumers and in some countries because of a higher percentage of gene-modified plants, which use fewer pesticides. China is the country, which applies the highest amount of pesticides per area farmland. In contrast to the United States, China’s numbers increase continuously over the years. Figure 2 also shows the pesticide use of Brazil and Argentina. The numbers for both countries increase over time, so as to Brazil reaches in 2005 the same amount of applied pesticides as the United States. This increased use of pesticides in Brazil and Argentina is most likely due to the intensive production of soy, wheat and cotton for export (Cardoso 2001).


Please click on a country of interest to see the absolute number of pesticides used within the selected year.

Possible improvements:

Unfortunately the map responds very slowly to changes in the timeslider. According to the shiny support, this problem can have several reasons on different levels: On the application performance, the server performance or the network performance. Since our map reacts slowly on different computers in different networks, we suggest that the issue is within the application. A possible solution to that is to optimize the code by using profvis.

There are a few problems with the data shown in the map. Some countries were spelled differently on the map layer and the data layer. Therefore they were not connected and the corresponding countries show no data. This is for example the case for the United States and Russia. By the time the error was recognized the app was allready running and online. The mistake was corrected but due to technical issues the proper app couldn't be uploaded onto the homepage.

Furter, the map shows no differentiation in zero pesticide use (very low) and no data. Such a differentiation is important, because otherwise the visualization implies that all light yellow colored countries use a very low amount of pesticides, which is wrong information.


We used the Pesticides Use database from FAOSTAT. The data was collected from nearly all countries to their use of pesticides from 1990 to 2015. Nevertheless there are a lot of countries which are missing data in some years. The original dataset is divided into the major pesticide groups (Insecticides, Herbicides, Fungicides, Plant growth regulators and Rodenticides). Our map shows the total pesticide use. The provided data is already normalized on each country's agricultural area.

The map was created in Rshiny as a web app.

Colors: All the colors used stem from Colorbrewer.

Image: UN sustainable development goals. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/ [28.05.2018]

R packages: shiny, leaflet, rgdal, RColorBrewer, geojsonio, ggplot2

Shapefile: The shapefile with the country borders is called TM_WORLD_BORDERS-0.3 and stems from thematicmapping.org

Website: This website is based on a template from w3.css


Aktar, W.; Sengupta, D. and Ashim, C. (2009): Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: their benefits and hazards. Interdiscip Toxicol.

Cardoso, L. A. (2001): Analysis of Brazilian Export Policies. A comparison of some of the most important Latin America’s economies.

Worldatlas 2017: Top Pesticide Using Countries. , access: 28.05.2018.


Anna Lüthi, student in Environmental und Natural Resources at the Zürich Univeristy of applied sciences.


Ursina Morgenthaler, student in Physical Geography at the Univeristy of Zürich.