Study: Atrazine Still An Economic Driver

Sorghum crop

According to a new economic study by Paul D. Mitchell, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the herbicide atrazine benefits U.S. corn, sorghum and sugar cane farmers by up to $3.3 billion annually, thanks to increased yield, decreased cost and reduced soil erosion.

Mitchell presented the findings of his paper, “Economic assessment of the benefits of chloro-s-triazine herbicides to U.S. corn, sorghum, and sugar cane producers,” Wednesday at the 2011 North Central Weed Science Society Annual Meeting in Milwaukee.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Atrazine and the other chloro-s-triazines (simazine and propazine) produce $3 billion to $3.3 billion in value annually.
  • Atrazine and its sister triazine herbicides are worth an estimated annual yield benefit and net cost savings of $343 million for U.S. sorghum growers, $210 million for U.S. sweet corn growers and up to $120 million for U.S. sugar cane growers.
  • Atrazine and its sister triazines provide substantial weed control and encourage conservation tillage and no-till farming, which reduce soil erosion and improve water quality.

“There is no good substitute for atrazine. It’s an off-patent, affordable and well understood product,” said Mitchell. “Atrazine significantly increases yields and is a vital tool for controlling weeds in corn, sorghum and sugar cane.”

Though it has been more than 50 years since the herbicide was first introduced, the continuing importance of atrazine, along with simazine and propazine, to U.S. agriculture and global food supplies cannot be overstated. In addition to managing weeds, atrazine and its sister triazines are critical to support conservation tillage practices that improve soil conservation in row crop production.

Mitchell grew up on his family’s farm in Iowa and received his doctorate from Iowa State University. Before coming to University of Wisconsin-Madison, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University. His current research and outreach programs focus on the farm-level economics of crop production, emphasizing pest management, risk management and specialty crop economics.

Syngenta, the principal registrant for atrazine, provided resources and support for Mitchell’s research. His paper is part of a broad assessment by Syngenta to examine the value of atrazine in today’s agricultural economy. Other papers include:

  • “Estimating soil erosion and fuel use changes and their monetary values with AGSIM: A case study for triazine herbicides,” also by Mitchell.
  • “A biological analysis of the use and benefits of chloro-s-triazine herbicides in U.S. corn and sorghum production,” David C. Bridges, Ph.D.
  • “The importance of atrazine in the integrated management of herbicide-resistance weeds,” Micheal D. K. Owen, Ph.D.
  • “Efficacy of best management practices for reducing runoff of chloro-s-triazine herbicides to surface water: a review,” Richard S. Fawcett, Ph.D.

For more information about atrazine, visit www.atrazine.com.

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