"Much of the increase is due to increased areas of dessert apples, which are relatively intensively treated, and a combination of increased areas and more intensive usage on crops such as cherries and cider apples," the report concludes.
In all, fungicides accounted for 64 per cent of the total pesticide-treated area of orchard crops in 2014 and 67 per cent of applied pesticides by weight, with insecticides accounting for 12 per cent by area. Captan was the most extensively used fungicide while chlorpyrifos was the most widely used insecticide. There were large increases in the use of the fungicide difenoconazole since 2012, when the survey was last taken, and also in the use of commercially available biological control agent Anthocoris, chiefly against pear sucker. The use of urea as a post-harvest defoliant increased by 64 per cent by area.
The survey also showed geographical discrepancies, with orchards in the South East the most intensively treated, recording 59 per cent of treatments on just 37 per cent of the total orchard area, while those in the South West received the least intensive treatment, with just four per cent of treatments on 14 per cent of the crop area.
In dessert apples, more than two-thirds of fungicide applications were against scab or powdery mildew. Codling moth was the main pest that growers sought to control by insecticide applications, followed by aphids and caterpillars.
Scab was overwhelmingly the main reason given for applying fungicides to Bramley's, cider apple and pear crops, while blossom weevil was the most common target of insecticide applications in cider apples.
Plum rust was given as the main reason for applying fungicides to plum crops, and plum moth the most common specific pest for insecticide treatment. In cherries, Botrytis, brown rot and canker topped the reasons for anti-fungal spraying, while aphids were the target of more than half of all insecticide sprayings.
The survey was carried out over the 2014-15 winter from 2,913 orchards on 283 holdings across the UK, accounting for 35 per cent of the total area of orchard crops grown during the 2014 season.