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Understanding Fungicide use in food crops in Bristol and Devon

Our project

Agricultural azoles are a type of chemical fungicides used to protect food crops from a range of fungal diseases. Improving the quality and yield of crops, they enable farmers to increase food production, however this has led to higher levels of fungicide use; in 2016, fungicides accounted for 39% of total pesticide use in the UK, most of which were azoles.[1] Over time, azoles accumulate in soil and water bodies posing ecotoxicological threats to drinking water, food security, aquatic life, and human health. Recent studies indicate water pollution from agricultural azoles may contribute to the emergence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) fungi.[2][3] As a result and due to new UK and EU legislation,[4] farmers are under increased pressure to produce more food using fewer pesticides, while faced with new fungicides to slow resistance. While occurrence and risks of azole antifungals in wastewater and meat industry have been studied, their presence in surface water and potential threats to water quality are underexplored. Our initial scoping project was funded the Cabot Innovation Fund, the second stage of this research is funded by GW4 generator fund. Our project helps us to co-produce novel academic research by working with farmers, farming associations, agronomists, water companies, and river trusts.

A core value of our research is to work with various organisations and individuals to approach issues relating to fungicides and their environmental impact from holistic perspectives. We regularly host workshops with out stakeholders to create opportunities for discussions and collaboration with our project and with one another, we have also commissioned the creation of teaching materials based on our project aimed at 11-18 year olds raise awareness of issues relating to fungicides and show them the dynamic ways that collaborative research can be conducted. We will be using these materials to run sessions with local schools about fungicides and our research. The interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and co-productive approach we have developed in this research continues to build foundations for this novel research area, and is beginning to receive attention from organisations, universities, and funders at the local, national, and international levels.

Please get in touch with us about our research by emailing Andy Jones ( or by Twitter

[1] Pesticide usage survey report (2016). National Statistics, UK

[2] Review on Antimicrobials in agriculture and environment: Reducing unnecessary use and waste (2015).

[3] Genesis of azole antifungal resistance from agriculture to clinical settings (2015).  J. Agric. Food Chem.

[4] Farming with fewer pesticides: EU pesticide review and resulting challenges for UK agriculture (2012). Crop Protection