Agro-ecology science relates to economic development but not global pesticide pollution

Kris A.G. Wyckhuys*, Yi Zou, Thomas C. Wanger, Wenwu Zhou, Yubak Dhoj Gc, Yanhui Lu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Synthetic pesticides are core features of input-intensive agriculture and act as major pollutants driving environmental change. Agroecological science has unveiled the benefits of biodiversity for pest control, but research implementation at the farm-level is still difficult. Here we address this implementation gap by using a bibliometric approach, quantifying how countries' scientific progress in agro-ecology relates to pesticide application regimes. Among 153 countries, economic development does spur scientific innovation but irregularly bears reductions in pesticide use. Some emerging economies bend the Environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) – the observed environmental pollution by a country's wealth – for pesticides and few high-income countries exhibit a weak agro-ecology ‘technique effect’. Our findings support recent calls for large-scale investments in nature-positive agriculture, underlining how agro-ecology can mend the ecological resilience, carbon footprint, and human health impacts of intensive agriculture. Yet, in order to effectively translate science into practice, scientific progress needs to be paralleled by policy-change, farmer education and broader awareness-raising.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114529
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Agro-biodiversity
  • Culturomics
  • EKC hypothesis
  • Econometrics
  • Environmental pollution
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Pesticide regulation
  • Sustainable intensification

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