I write in response to your article regarding the increased use of pesticides and fungicides in soft-fruit industry (Shocking rise in toxic pesticide use, News, October 13).

The Scottish Government report referred to draws conclusions that require refinement and careful interpretation and should not be taken as an indication of a trend of excessive or increased use of pesticides by growers.

The survey was not undertaken among all Scottish soft-fruit farms; it only represents 32% of crops grown in Scotland. Of the holdings surveyed, nearly half were from very small producers with less than five hectares. The results are therefore biased towards very small producers which do not generally use protective crop covers.

The vast majority of the soft fruit grown in Scotland is under protective covers, which reduce the application of fungicides to control problems such as botrytis mould, which is caused by wet weather. Scotland had one of its wettest years on record in 2012 so these results are showing an exceptional inflation versus 2010.

Pesticide usage in the UK is heavily regulated. Commercial soft-fruit growers take advice from industry-leading BASIS qualified agronomists and remain committed to using the most environmentally friendly methods of controlling pests and diseases available to them. This is evidenced in the 200% rise in the use of biological controls from 2010 to 2012 highlighted in the survey. Growers are increasingly using commodity substances such as baking powder and sulphur, a naturally occurring substance, to minimise the use of agrochemicals.

Laurence Olins

Chairman, British Summer Fruits

The article reported an increase in the amount of chlorpyrifos applied per hectare of crop. However, as the total soft-fruit crop decreased the actual area treated with chlorpyrifos was 11% less in 2012 than in 2010. You also omitted to mention that Scottish soft-fruit growers are increasingly adopting the use of non-chemical pesticides. The area treated with biological pesticides, consisting of living organisms such as nematodes and predatory mites, more than tripled in 2012, to an estimated 1712 hectares.

All pesticides used in the UK have gone through a rigorous assessment procedure and, if approved, a consent is issued which states how the pesticide can be used. The pesticide use reported in this survey was in accordance with these approvals.

Dr Jacqueline Hughes

Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture