High Quality Scotch Whisky Depends on Fungicide Use


Scotch Whisky

Scotch malt whisky is made from two key ingredients: barley and water. To be Scotch Whisky, the spirit must mature in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years. Barley is affected by a range of diseases that can cause considerable damage and loss of yield and quality. More than 90% of Scotland’s barley acres are treated with fungicides. Policymakers in the EU have developed new rules regarding the use of pesticides which is reducing the number of active ingredients available for farmers to use. Reduced availability of fungicides for Scottish barley farmers threatens the Scotch Whisky industry.

“Recent research on the prospects of the Scottish malting barley sector as perceived by a variety of actors in the supply chain, including plant breeders, growers, merchants, maltsters and distillers, has shown that pesticide legislation and environmental concerns are expected to negatively influence the competitiveness of the malting barley sector in Scotland, particularly in the mid-term future (2020/2025).

It is not inconceivable that tighter regulation regarding pesticide approval and use may also result in greater demand from the whisky industry for imported malting barley of high quality in order to meet the industry’s demand for malting barley, especially during shortfalls in the supply of Scottish barley. Concerns about the possibility of an increasing reliance on imported barley have been raised by Scottish politicians and in the media, carrying a notion of pride associated with the idea that Scotch malt whisky should be ‘100% Scottish’.

If some or all pesticides were banned from use, farmers in Scotland would struggle to produce the same amount and quality of barley. Therefore, more barley would have to be imported.”

Authors: Glenk, K., et al.
Affiliation: Scottish Agricultural College
Title: Preferences of Scotch malt whisky consumers for changes in pesticide use and origin of barley.
Source: Food Policy. 2012. 37:719-731.

Paying Farmers to NOT use pesticides Stalls Increasing Food Production


With 2 billion more people inhabiting the earth in the next 40 years, food production must increase. Some countries, such as Switzerland, have adopted policies to encourage farmers to not use pesticides. The non-use of pesticides is slowing down increased food production. Policymakers need to be aware of these consequences.

“We analyze trends in crop yields and yield variability of barley, maize, oats, rye, triticale and wheat in Switzerland from 1961 to 2006. It shows that there have been linear increases in crop yields since the 1960s. However, yields of barley, oats, rye, triticale and wheat have leveled off in Switzerland since the early 1990s, which contrasts linear trends in cereal yields that is usually assumed for Europe. We show a relationship between the introduction of agricultural policy measures towards environmentally friendly cereal production that fostered widespread adoption of extensive farming practices and the observed leveling-off of crop yields. Thus, this paper emphasizes that agricultural policy can be an important reason for slowing crop yield growth.

Recent declines and leveling-off of yields are attributed to the adoption of an environmental program that aims to reduce the environmental load of agriculture as well as to decreasing crop prices.

In Switzerland, agricultural policy reforms in 1992 introduced ecological direct payments for extensive cereal production and led to major changes in production patterns… In this ancillary payment scheme no application of fungicides, plant growth regulators, insecticides and chemical-synthetic stimulators of natural resistance is allowed.

…the share of the cereal production area under this ecological direct payment scheme to the total area under cereals (except maize) was 37% in 1992, increased to 54% in 1997, but remained stable at about 50% since then.

The adoption of extensive cereal production in the framework of ecological direct payments leads to crop yield reductions in different ways: crop yields in extensive farming systems are smaller than for intensive management, simply due to the non-use of agro-chemicals.

Author: Finger, R.
Affiliation: Agri-food and Agri-environmental Economics Group, Zurich, Switzerland.
Title: Evidence of slowing yield growth – the example of Swiss cereal yields.
Source: Food Policy. 2010. 35:175-182.