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Research Tools: California Pesticide Use Summaries

UC IPM developed this database from data from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The database includes summaries of pesticides used on California crops datailed by commodity, pesticide, county, and month. The database has no information about a pesticide or its label.

History of Pesticide Use Reporting
Benefits and Uses of Full Use Reporting
Description of the Summaries Database
Interpreting Summaries
How Are the Summaries Different from the CDPR Annual Report?
Site Categories
List of Site Names by Category
Cumulative List of Site Names in Alphabetical Order with Category Codes
Cumulative List of Pesticide Names in Alphabetical Order
Description of Variables in the CDPR Pesticide Use Database
UC IPM Unit of Measure Changes
About the Reports


The Statewide IPM Program, with data from the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA), Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), has developed the Pesticide Use Summaries Database. The database includes summaries of pesticide use by site, pesticide, county, and month. Data from other years will be added as they become available. No other information about the pesticide or its label is available in this database, but the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Pesticide Regulation maintains a label database.

You can perform queries to the very large California Pesticide Use Summaries Database and produce summaries that will facilitate broad research and analytical uses of these data.

History of Pesticide Use Reporting

Limited reporting. Limited reporting of agricultural pesticide use has been in force in California since at least the 1950s. Beginning in 1969 the California Legislature required anyone who used pesticide use report with the county agricultural commissioner. In addition, pest control operators (PCOs) were required to report all pesticides used, whether restricted or nonrestricted. The county agricultural commissioner was required to report, quarterly to the Director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the types and amount of restricted pesticides for which permits had been issued the previous quarter, and the crop on which the material was used. The Director was then to summarize the information and make it part of the public record.

This reporting system, while providing the only detailed records available documenting pesticide usage for the state over the past 20 years, had limitations. Data on usage were incomplete since reports were not required for nonrestricted pesticides applied by farmers in certain situations, for pesticides applied to federal lands by federal operators, and for small quantities of pesticides sold for use by home owners or home gardeners.

Full use reporting. A new California law came into effect in January, 1990, requiring growers to report all pesticides used on all crops. Use reports are submitted monthly to the county agricultural commissioner, who then submits the data to CDPR. The reports must include the specific site where the pesticide was applied and detail the kind and amount of pesticides used. If the pesticide is applied to a crop, the commodity must be specified. In addition, all pesticides applied on golf courses, parks, cemeteries, rangeland, pasture, and along roadside and railroad rights-of-way are also subject to the expanded reporting requirements, as well as postharvest pesticide treatments of agricultural commodities. All pesticide treatment in poultry and fish production must be reported, as well as some livestock applications. Pesticide dealers also face expanded reporting and record keeping requirements. Structural fumigators, professional gardeners and other nonagricultural PCOs continue to report all pesticide use. Home-use pesticides are exempt from the new regulations.

Access. In recent years the only public access to all reported data was a printed copy of the annual report or by computer tape which was made available on request through CDFA or Cal EPA, and through the Pesticide Data Bank of the Environmental Toxicology Department at UC Davis. Computerized information retrieval services from the Pesticide Data Bank to individuals involved custom programming to access and analyze subsets of the database. The amount of data at the Pesticide Data Bank grew by approximately 80 megabytes (MB) per year, thereby making data retrieval time consuming and costly. With full use reporting, the data sets became so large (approximately 600 MB per year) that data could not be retrieved for ad hoc queries and analyses as in the past. In 1992 UC IPM received 1990 pesticide use data on computer tape from CDPR, stored the "raw" data, and developed the Summaries Database which is accessible to the public. UC IPM has and will add summaries for each year as the data become available.

Benefits and Uses of Full Use Reporting

California is the first state in the nation to require full reporting of all agricultural and governmental agency pesticide use. The expanded reporting system provides researchers in both government and private industry with better data to accurately assess the amount of pesticides applied to crops and other sites. Market surveys and grant proposals could be enhanced with accurate data about pesticide use. The data will help in assessing concerns of overspray, occupational exposure and poisoning, groundwater contamination, the impact of pesticides on endangered species, and human illness clusters. Data can be used in the evaluation of pesticide usage on crops and in assessing the adoption of integrated pest management programs.

Description of the Summaries Database

The Summaries Database is the result of the extraction and summarization of specific data variables from the CDPR database. You can request manageable subsets of the database, based on criteria you specify, and generate a report.


The following definitions will help clarify terms used when describing the Summaries Database.

active ingredient. An agent in a product primarily responsible for the intended pesticidal effects and which is shown as an active ingredient on a pesticide label. (Since adjuvants are regulated as pesticides in California, adjuvants are also included in the Summaries Database.)
any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, or other pests. In California plant growth regulators, defoliants, and desiccants, as well as adjuvants, are also regulated as pesticides.
the registered formulation traceable to a specific registered California or EPA registration number. The Summaries Database includes information on one or more pesticides that make up a product and lists them by their common chemical names. Trade names are not included in the database.

The following variables are included in the Summaries Database.

Amount planted:
The number of planted acres in the specified site, of which some portion was treated with the specified pesticide, in the specified county, during the specified period. This value is available only where the amount planted was listed as acres.
Amount treated:
The amount (number of acres, tons, thousands of cubic feet, or "units") of the specified site which was treated with the specified pesticide, in the specified county, during the specified period.
Information about pesticide use in each county in California is included in the Summaries Database. When the county could not be verified from the original data, the county is listed as "unknown" and included only in statewide totals.
The smallest unit of time for which data are summarized is one month. The first year of data is 1990, with subsequent years added when available.
Number of applications:
Total number of times the specified pesticide was applied to the specified site, in the specified county, during the specified period.
Method of application:
Method used to apply the pesticide (air, ground, other). "Other" may include fumigation, baits, etc. Method of application was not recorded in the original data for nonproduction situations.
Active ingredient or adjuvant, described by the common chemical name, that was applied for the specified period, counties, and sites.
Pounds AI:
The actual amount of the specified pesticide(s), applied to the specified site(s), in the specified counties, and during the specified period, reported in pounds.
The plant, animal, structure or other location experiencing a pest problem and to which the pesticide was applied is called a "site." Sites may be individual or groups of commodities.
Units of the amount treated: A is acres, K is thousands of cubic feet, T is tons, X is mixed units, and O is other than production agriculture, e.g., regulatory, structural, or public health pest control.

Interpreting Summaries

Starting with the 1996 data, DPR performed new quality checks, searching for data records where area treated and pounds applied are excessively large, and likely to be errors. UC IPM has not used these data records flagged as "outliers" in its summaries.

In addition, as you analyze these pesticide use summaries, carefully consider the following limitations of the database.

Sites. Some pesticide uses are reported for very specific sites, while others are for a general grouping of similar sites. For example, "processing tomatoes" includes only uses on processing tomatoes, but "tomatoes" includes uses on fresh market tomatoes and the rest of the processing tomato uses. Uses on almonds may be reported either as "almonds" or included in "nuts, unspecified."

Pesticides. The database includes all chemicals used in California that are regulated as pesticides and that are subject to reporting. "Pesticides" thus include not only active ingredients, but also spray adjuvants, e.g., emulsifiers, spreaders, foam suppressants, wetting agents, and other efficacy enhancers. Approximately 180 of the chemicals in the database are used as a "pesticide" other than an active ingredient.

A pesticide product may include multiple active ingredients and spray adjuvants. A single pesticide application is recorded more than once when the product contains more than one active ingredient or adjuvant. Thus the total number of applications is not necessarily the number of times a product was applied.

A pesticide may be listed as used on a commodity for which the pesticide is not registered. This could be caused by use of stock on hand of a product that has been withdrawn from the market; inaccurate reporting; or problem of a pesticide applied directly to a site to control a pest, but not applied directly to the commodity reported, e.g., application of a rodenticide to a rodent burrow mistakenly reported as applied to the crop.

Number of applications. A count is made of every application of a pesticide. In some database reports, the number of applications is zero. This means that the indicated combination was reported, but quality control checks flagged the specific data as bad. In this case, the specific application is not counted and the amount of AI is ignored.

Planted and treated amounts. For every application of a pesticide, the amount actually treated is added into the summaries. Thus if a particular field is treated twice, the amount treated is included twice. The amount planted is also repeated for all applications, even if applied to the same plot of land, so the amount planted for a particular commodity may exceed commodity acreages published by the California Statistical Reporting Service or other agencies.

"Unknown" sites, counties, months. When UC IPM encounters a problem with the site, county, or month in the raw data, the questionable variable is replaced with "unknown" rather than discarding the entire record, so that the amount of pesticide is included in any summaries. For example, if the county can not be determined, the record is included in statewide summaries and listed in a fifty-ninth "unknown" county. Unknown months are included in annual summaries, but not in any particular month, and unknown sites are included in summaries of all sites. Since pesticides are fundamental to the database, uses of unknown pesticides were discarded.

How Are the Summaries Different from the CDPR Annual Report?

The CDPR Annual Pesticide Use Report that is available in printed form and information from the Summaries Database differ in some ways. Most obviously, the CDPR report is a summary for the entire state for the year and UC IPM summarizes the data monthly by county, if requested. Also, to generate the summaries, UC IPM and CDPR handle the raw data slightly differently.

CDPR completes data quality control and generates its annual summary before supplying the data on computer tape to UC IPM. Then UC IPM:

  1. Extracts the data from the tapes and stores them in a "raw" database.
  2. Quality checks each data field. Changes to data results from: quality checks and the conversion of areas, weights, and volumes.
  3. Rejects or replaces questionable data, based on the results of the quality checks.
  4. Combines or renames some sites and converts amounts planted and treated to simplify reports.
  5. Summarizes the final data by crop, pesticide, month, county, and method of application, then stores the results in a Summaries Database available to the public.

Quality checks. UC IPM designs additional tests to evaluate the values in several data fields and the relationships between some fields.

Site groupings and name changes. CDPR site names were originally based on names used by the US EPA to prepare official labels. Problems arose when the label called a site by one name and the use report used another. UC IPM grouped some sites together and renamed others to make the access more logical, analysis more valid, and the summaries easier to interpret.

The conversion of areas, weights, and volumes. Various units used to record areas, weights, and volumes treated were converted to reduce the complexity of the summaries. Areas are always expressed as acres, volume as thousands of cubic feet, and weight as tons.

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