Chemical crop protection is a worldwide industry with the primary aim to protect and secure safe food production. It is all inclusively referred to as the plant science industry. Products in this industry are commonly referred to as pesticides or agrochemical products, which play a vital role in controlling the pests and diseases that threaten our food supply. The global market for agrochemicals is estimated in the order of $33 390 million. This page (crop protection) is mostly about chemical crop protection.

Biological control uses a pest or disease’s own natural enemies to control the pest or disease. Agents such as friendly fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes or parasitic insects are used to control pests and diseases in both high value, intensive crops and in field crops. This is a rapidly growing area of crop protection and several agents are produced locally in South Africa. Find the “Biocontrol” page.

One of the selling points of Conservation Agriculture is weed control. It sees good crop canopy, soil cover and minimal disturbance as contributing 97% of what it takes to control weeds. Find the “Conservation Agriculture” page.

International business environment

Local business environment

Although the South African chemical crop protection market by far the largest is in Africa, it only comprises less than 2 percent of the world market.

The breakdown of chemical crop protection is estimated as follows:

Herbicides 39
Insecticides 27
Fungicides 22
Other 12

In South Africa the plant science industry is presented by CropLife South Africa. Companies importing, manufacturing and distributing agrochemicals are members of CropLife and support the aims of sustainable agriculture: to produce sufficient food and fibre economically and in an environmentally and socially sensitive manner, maintaining the natural resource base for future generations. The industry is committed to Integrated Pest Management as an economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable approach to crop protection.


Initiated by the international crop protection industry, a programme called Operation Pollinator is helping farmers in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific boost the number of pollinators on their farms by creating habitats tailored to native insects. Refer to

The South African Pollinator Forum, established in 2014, is steering efforts to protect pollinators under the leadership of the office of the registrar of pesticides in collaboration with representatives from the South African Bee Industry Organisation (SABIO), the crop protection industry, Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and others.

Top 10 ways farmers can protect pollinators


  • Look at labels. Follow crop protection product instructions, including using the recommended dose, preventing drift of sprays and dusts (e.g. in cocoa plants), not applying in windy conditions or when there is a danger of drift to non-target areas.
  • Get real. Only use genuine crop protection products. Counterfeit and illegal products have unknown impacts and could potentially harm humans, animals and the environment.
  • Spare the spray. Apply crop protection products within an Integrated Pest Management program, only using them when necessary. For sprays, consider spot-spraying (just applying to infested areas). In places where there are Spray Service Providers, consider using their services.
  • Bust dust. Minimise distribution of dust from treated seed by carefully pouring it out of bags, avoiding seed spillage (cleaning it up otherwise), disposing of seed bags and unused seed properly, and regularly cleaning seed equipment.
  • Use a clean machine. In cases where planting machines are utilized, choose those that eliminate or minimise dust production and ensure they are regularly cleaned.
  • Mind the time. Avoid spraying when bees are foraging and plants are flowering.
  • Protect liquid assets. Avoid contamination from spray liquids by being cautious when mixing and loading, properly disposing waste and other used materials, and cleaning up any spills appropriately.
  • Empower with flowers. Protect pollinator habitats by supplying a constant source of nectar and pollen and creating healthy, diverse gardens that beautify the environment and serve as a food source.
  • Communicate at the farm gate. Communicate and educate farmers on when and how to use crop protection products. Farmers should inform local beekeepers when they are going to apply crop protection products so nearby hives can be moved or otherwise protected.
  • “Bee” responsible. Beekeepers also need to follow good management practices with good hygiene, disease control, proper feeding, access to water, genetic diversity and moving hives out of areas to be sprayed.
Source: “Pollinator Protection Vital to Crop Production”, a pamphlet by CropLife Africa Middle East
Photo used courtesy of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)

For the newcomer


Record keeping at farm level is important to ensure traceability. It is advisable for the producer to draw up a table for accurate record keeping at farm level. Suggested entries include:

  • Information about the crop including cultivar, hectares and date of agrochemical application.
  • Information on herbicide sprays or control remedies for a pest/ disease including provider’s AVCASA (Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa) number, concentration applied and reason for the agrochemical application.


  • It is important to note the directions on the label regarding the registration of agricultural chemicals for the control of a particular weed, fungus or pest.
  • Except for the lot number, it is also advisable to preserve the date of manufacture of the containers.
  • Pay special attention to poison that remains from a previous crops.
  • The influence of type of nozzles, time of application, spray delivery, use restrictions, compatibility with other products and general safety precautions must be taken into account.

Agrochemicals must also have an L-number, which means the product has been registered for use in South Africa. The producer must also insist on a “Safety data sheet” (SDS) or “Material Safety Data Sheet” (MSDS) from the supplier. The MSDS provides extensive information about the product, even the kind of first aid or emergency relief procedures that can be applied. The MSDS is provided free of charge with the purchase of agricultural chemicals.

Recommendations by agents

Always insist that all recommendations regarding agrochemical applications are made in writing. Make sure the agent or representative who makes the recommendations complies with the necessary requirements, such as prescribed by AVCASA.

If applications are handled by an agrochemical advisor, make sure this person’s name and P-number appear on the recommendation. The P-number is issued by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) after the advisor has undergone the necessary training. The operator’s P-registration must also be in the relevant field of application, for example weed control, fumigation and aerial are all separate registration fields.


National strategy and government contact

Read “Regulatory requirements for the use of drones for aerial application of agricultural remedies” at

In South Africa all chemicals used for the control of any pest or disease on a plant must be registered for such use under Act 36 of 1947 (the Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act). An amendment to this Act (No R.1716 of 26 July 1991) prohibits the acquisition, disposal, sale or use of an agricultural remedy for a purpose or in a manner other than that specified on the label on the container. Additional legislative and policy framework documents include Act 36 of 1983 (the Agricultural Pests Act) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)

  • Registrar: Act No. 36 of 1947 Tel: 012 319 7303 MalutaM [at]
  • Directorate Plant Health Tel: 012 319 6529 DPH [at] In co-operation with Provincial governments they administer laws relating to plant health, including the aspect of the control and eradication of pests and diseases. They run control programmes and issue regulations to protect and improve plant health.
  • Find “Agricultural Inputs Control” under the Branches menu option at The Policy for managing locust problems in SA document can be found under “Resource Centre”.
  • Directorate: Land Use and Soil Management Tel: 012 319 7685/6 DLUSM [at] Redbilled Quelea (Quelea quelea sp.), a bird species, is an agriculturally important migratory pest to small grain crop-producing farmers of southern Africa. The policy for managing the Redbilled Quelea problem was established in 1994 under Act 36 of 1983. The Directorate: Land Use and Soil Management enforces this Act.

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) 2020-2029 baseline warns of the reliance by South Africa on imported agricultural inputs (machinery, chemical fertilisers, ingredients for animal feed and plant protection chemicals). The country becomes vulnerable on account of supply availability and cost. Previous baselines and government’s Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) have also raised this issue. Find the baseline at

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Role players


Associations involved

  • CropLife SA Tel: 011 805 2000
  • Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) Tel: 011 372 3600 The EWT Birds of Prey Programme is responsible for investigating  incidents of vulture poisoning.
  • Nematological Society of Southern Africa
  • Plant Science Consultants Association (PSCA) The Plant Science Consultants’ Association has over 40 members offering services in product development and the registration of crop protection products and associated remedies to local and foreign companies. Members can conduct field trials on almost any crop grown in the country. Others specialise in the management of product registration programmes and the compilation of product registration dossiers for submission to the regulatory authorities, i.e. Act No. 36 of 1947.
  • SA Aerial Applicators’ Association Tel: 058 303 5261 / 082 829 5749
  • South African Bioproduct Organisation (SABO)
  • South African Pest Control Association
  • Southern African Weed Science Society
  • Southern African Society for Plant Pathology
  • The Timber Industry Pesticide Working Group (TIPWG)


Training and research

For more information on the courses below, contact ACropLife SA on Tel: 087 940 4168.

  • Plant Science Course. This is a seven-module correspondence course. All sales personnel of member companies are required to pass this course in order to be allowed to give advice and sell crop protection products. However the course is open to anyone wishing to learn more about crop protection and the products used in the industry.
  • Responsible Use Training Course. Through this course, stewardship and sustainable agriculture are promoted by addressing issues such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), container management and disposal of obsolete stocks. This also contributes towards the Good Agricultural Practice as required by GlobalGAP as well as the upliftment of small-scale/emerging farmers and to the protection of the environment.
  • Aerial Applicators Course. This AgriSETA-accredited course covers the effective and responsible aerial application of agrochemical products. It is recognized by the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Civil Aviation.

Agricultural Colleges do short courses on the handling of pesticides and herbicides. Find contacts in the “Agricultural education and training” article.

ARC-Plant Protection Research

Tel: 012 808 8000


Courses are offered in integrated pest management (IPM), developing agricultural systems, as well as against specific pests like the Fall Army Worm. The monitoring and management of pests and weeds relevant to the particular crop e.g. maize or viticulture is an element in courses given by the other ARC campuses. The ARC has also facilitated Plant Health Clinics in Limpopo, providing expert advice and skills development in pest and disease management for small-scale farmers.


Agriskills Transfer

Tel: 012 460 9585


Cape Penisular University of Technology (CPUT)

Agricultural Management

Tel: 021 864 5217/3


Pest Control Industries Training Academy

Tel: 012 654 7708


Included in the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)-accredited qualifications is “Apply effective and responsible integrated pest, disease and weed control”. Find the Qualifications and Learning Material option at


Stellenbosch University

Department of Plant Pathology

Tel: 021 808 4799

Department Conservation Ecology and Entomology

Tel: 021 808 3728


University of the Free State

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension

Tel: 051 401 3765

Department of Plant Sciences

Tel: 051 401 2514


University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)

Department of Plant Pathology

Tel: 033 260 5525

Department of Crop Science

Tel: 033 260 5515


University of Pretoria

Dept of Plant Science

Tel: 012 420 3770

Dept of Microbiology & Plant Pathology

Tel: 012 420 4100

Read about the South African Herbicide Resistance Initiative (SAHRI) at


Villa Academy

Tel: 011 396 2233


Walter Sisulu University

School of Applied and Environmental Sciences

Tel: 047 502 2311 / 047 502 2186


A certificate and diploma are offered in pest management


Wildlife Poisoning Prevention

Tel: 082 802 6223


Training to prevent unforseen results of using chemicals


Companies: suppliers

Find a list of companies with their contact numbers and websites at


Companies: distributors

Find a list of companies with their contact numbers and websites at


See also the “Biocontrol” page.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.

  • Several publications are available from CropLife SA including Responsible Pesticide Use: A Guide for Operators (available in 11 languages) and Guidelines to the RSA Classification Code and Labeling of Agricultural Chemicals and Stock Remedies.
  • Registered chemicals in South Africa are published in guides such as A Guide for the Control of Plant Diseases, Pests and Diseases issued by the DALRRD on a regular basis. Contact 012 319 7141 or write: Resource Centre, Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001. Several shorter documents (Info Paks) can be found under “Resource centre” at Examples of these include “Managing weeds, pests and diseases” and “Pesticides – storing agrochemicals and stock remedies”.
  • CD Roms from the ARC-Plant Protection Research include: (i) Crop Pests, vol. 1: Deciduous Fruit, Grapes and Berries (ii) Crop Pests, vol. 2: Citrus and Other Subtropicals (iii) Crop Pests, Vol. 3: Potatoes and Other Vegetables (also available as a book) (iv) Crop Pests, Vol. 4: Field Crops and Pastures (v) Crop Pests, vol. 5: Flowers and Other Vegetables (also available as a book) (vi) Medically Important Spiders and Scorpions of Southern Africa. Also available are several posters including: Herbicides and weeds: how to prevent or delay resistance/Onkruiddoders en onkruide: hoe om weerstand te vermy of te vertraag as well as several books and posters on spiders and scorpions. Write to booksales [at] or infopri [at]
  • Also available from ARC-Plant Protection Research are The Kleynhans Manual. Collecting and Preserving Nematodes. PPR Handbook No. 16 and Plant Nematodes in South Africa.
  • Available from ARC-Grain Crops in Potchefstroom is the revised Common Weeds in Southern Africa (Algemene Onkruide in Suidelike Afrika in Afrikaans). Call 018 299 6199 or visit The excellent Maize Information Guide (MIG) includes notes on crop protection. Download it from the same website.
  • The ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij has a series of pamphlets covering diseases and pests in deciduous fruit crops. To order these, call 021 809 3100.
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] for the following publication, available from the ARC in Silverton: (i) Mechanisation basics: Sprayers and spraying techniques (Training manual) (ii) Small-scale chemical sprayer
  • Find the African Arachnid Database (AFRAD) at An expert on-line database (AFRAD) was initiated by the ARC PPRI, which provides vitally important information about arachnids– a major component of agro-diversity, both as a major pest of crops and as beneficial predators in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes (countries south of the Sahara).
  • Find the Information Core for Southern African Migrant pests (ICOSAMP) pages on
  • Bacterial Diseases of Plants in South Africa by Teresa A Coutinho, Teresa Goszczynska, Cheryl Lennox and Stephanus Venter. ISBN 978-1-920146-023. This book provides information on bacterial diseases of agricultural crops, ornamentals and forest tree species. It is distributed by Briza Publications (
  • Find the Maximum Residue Limits and Recommended Withholding Period for Deciduous Fruit Intended for Processing Purposes list on, website of the SA Canning Fruit Producers’ Association (CFPA).
  • Included in the videos for the deciduous fruit sector by SA Orchard is one on weed control. Find it at


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