NPLK14006U Pesticide Use, Mode of Action and Ecotoxicology

Volume 2017/2018

MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Environmental Science


The rationale behind the development of pesticides, their use and their regulation is the frame of references of the course. The importance of mode of action and site(s) of action of pesticides will be stressed and linked to chemical properties, uptake, translocation and metabolism in target and non-target organisms. The principles of assessing pesticide selectivity will be an integral part of the course. We deal with formulations of pesticides and use of adjuvants to enhance efficacy, either by the manufacture or by the end user. Various reference models to assess joint action of pesticide mixtures are taught and the implication to their use is validated and side effects are described. We focus on aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicology in relation to pesticide loads, intentional and not intentional discharge in the environment and also the ecotoxicological effects of pesticides on populations and communities. Risk assessment of the pesticide use is evaluated in relation to ecotoxicology, and the national and international registration systems. An excursion to Cheminova (, the only Danish pesticide producing factory and the private field and laboratory testing company Agrolab ( is an integral part of the course

Learning Outcome

The students should know about the scientific principles of chemical, physical and biological properties of pesticides, their use in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, public land and households and their ecotoxicological side effects. The curriculum encompasses the advantages and disadvantages of pesticide use, the knowledge of which is instrumental for those who wish to work with pesticide development, their management and use in industry, agriculture, horticulture, forestry and on public domains, their legislation and registration.

- Describe chemical and physical properties of pesticides and know the site and mode of action of exemplary pesticides representing the most used pesticide groups

- Know the principles of pesticide use in crops and for non-agricultural purposes (pest and vector control) including their effects on both target and non-target organisms
- Summarise the rationale behind pesticide development and registration
- Classify pesticides and reflect about their impact in relation to use, load and ecotoxicology

- Statistical analysis and biological interpretation of dose-response data from bioassays with various organisms and endpoints

- Analyse and interpret data from mixtures toxicity experiments
- Assess efficacy/toxicity of herbicides and recognise characteristic symptoms in the field and greenhouse.
- Evaluate toxicity data in a regulatory context
- Apply quantitative methods to assess pesticide load, drift and fate in organisms and environment.

- Evaluate pesticide applications to target and non-target organisms in the terrestrial and aquatic environments
- Put various theories and principles of pesticide action into perspective and make sound judgment of impact of pesticides on different environments
- Discuss pesticide use from a scientific stand in view of its controversial issue in the public
- Put into perspective the effect of manipulating agro-ecosystems on sustainability in relation to food production

The exact editions will be written on Absalon.

Examples of course literature:

Stephenson G.R. and Solomon K.R, Pesticides and the Environment, CNTC Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres.


Cedergreen, N. 2017, Manual for laboratory and theoretical exercices

Basic knowledge in chemistry, biology, plant physiology and statistics
Lectures will outline the theoretical background for pesticide chemistry and physical properties, their use and effect on target and non-target organisms and the environment. These lectures are supported by practical and theoretical exercises. The practical exercises are in greenhouse and in growth chambers and will address the topics: herbicide application and symptom development over time, assessment of efficacy, species selectivity, systemicity, effect of exposure duration, use of non-lethal endpoints, pesticide uptake, mode of action, recovery and mixture toxicity. The test organisms are terrestrial and aquatic plants, crustaceans, earthworms and pathogenic fungi. Standard OECD and ISO guidelines and other setups will be used. The theoretical exercises will deal with proper statistical analysis of data from the practical exercises by the use of dose-response curves, calculations of spray applications and pesticide load, simple models to assess fate of pesticides in the environment, calculations of uptake and translocation of pesticides in plants, calculations and discussions of environmental impact of pesticides, risk assessment and legislation needs. The excursion will take place in the first part of the course, giving an introduction to practical pesticide use, use-principles in the EU and practical testing of pesticide efficacy and safety.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 5
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Lectures
  • 20
  • Practical exercises
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Project work
  • 10
  • Theory exercises
  • 20
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Written and oral feedback is given for all reports on a report-group basis. All reports thereafter have to be re-submitted. Peer-feedback is given on the final presentation, with different groups being asigned to give feedback on the individual presentations. All students are encurraged to ask questions to practical and theoretical exersises during the course and can be expected to recieve feedback on their questions and enquiries.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min
Oral examination in reports and curriculum, 20 min. preparation
Exam registration requirements

All exercise reports are submitted and approved

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal censor

If the requirement is not met, the student has to follow the course the following year as the laboratory exercises need to be followed.

Criteria for exam assesment

See description of learning outcome