Less Soil Erosion Through Conservation Tillage
Atrazine is a popular corn herbicide in conservation tillage — farming methods which reduce or eliminate plowing and tillage that would otherwise control weeds.
"Atrazine and simazine are especially valuable in conservation tillage systems in corn because they provide excellent residual control, and are not tightly adsorbed to surface crop residue, but wash easily from residue to the soil. Atrazine also provides postemergence activity, helping to control emerged weeds...The importance of atrazine to conservation tillage farmers is illustrated by the preferential use of atrazine in conservation tillage. Atrazine was used on 61.7% of conventional tillage corn in 2004 and 84.1% of conservation tillage corn. If atrazine and simazine herbicides were not available, farmers could be expected to increase tillage to control weeds in the absence of effective herbicides."

Fawcett, Benefits of Triazine Herbicides in Reducing Erosion and Fuel Use in U.S. Corn Production, Proceedings North Central Weed Science Society, 2006.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that atrazine was used on approximately 70 percent of no-till and conservation tillage corn acres in the U.S. in 2004, making it the most widely used herbicide for such systems. Conservation tillage can be an economical option for farmers, plus provides a number of potential environmental benefits:
  • Reduced plowing makes cropland much less vulnerable to soil erosion: conservation tillage reduces soil erosion by as much as 90 percent, compared to systems using intensive tillage.
  • Farmers currently use no-tillage or conservation tillage on almost 44 million acres of corn in the U.S. That figure could decrease significantly without atrazine.
  • Reduced soil erosion decreases sedimentation in nearby waterways, which helps protect existing aquatic ecosystems.
  • Conservation tillage, buffers and filter strips protect water quality by reducing the runoff of crop nutrients and pesticides applied to farm fields by 70 percent or more.
  • Conservation tillage cuts farmers' overall use of fuel. This reduces exhaust emissions from agricultural equipment and decreases agriculture's consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels. Farmers are currently saving 306 million gallons of fuel annually due to adoption of conservation tillage, or the equivalent of 23,000 tanker trucks of fuel every year.
  • Conservation tillage helps build organic content in the topsoil by keeping a layer of crop residue near the soil surface. As organic matter increases, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is sequestered in the soil, reducing global warming concerns. Switching to no-till promotes the storage of about 600 pounds of carbon in an acre of soil each year.
  • No-till fields provide better wildlife habitat. For example, in a North Carolina study, quail chicks found their daily food needs in one-fifth the time in no-till fields, compared to tilled fields.