The Benefits of Atrazine

It is impossible to overstate the importance of atrazine to U.S. and global food supplies. Atrazine is critical to weed control in production agriculture, playing a vital role in the management of resistant weeds, the adoption and continued use of conservation tillage by U.S. farmers and the reduced environmental footprint of corn and sorghum.

Crop Productivity

Atrazine plays a vital role in U.S. food production. Without atrazine, farmers would see a huge drop in yields of major crops such as corn, sorghum and sugarcane. Costs to keep weeds at bay would increase, causing a ripple effect throughout agricultural and food production industries that hurts farmers and consumers alike.

Atrazine helps farmers produce more food using less land, less water and less energy — resources which continue to be impacted and threatened by environmental factors like climate change.

Weeds are the most significant threat to global food production, and atrazine is one of the most effective and versatile herbicides to keep them from destroying the food supply. While yield-reducing weeds such as common waterhemp, giant ragweed and pigweed have all developed resistance to other herbicides, they continue to be controlled effectively and efficiently by atrazine.

Corn

  • Because of atrazine, U.S. corn production is the most robust agricultural system in the world.
  • Corn farmers who use triazine herbicides could lose 14-37 bushels per acre of yield without them, depending on the region of the United States. With more than 90 million acres of U.S. corn, that is a loss of more than 1.2 billion bushels each year.
  • That loss would affect not only the production of corn-based foods, but also beef, pork, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs and ethanol.

Sorghum

Sugarcane

  • The value of U.S. sugarcane surpasses $1 billion annually.
  • Nearly 98% of Florida’s sugarcane crop and one-third of Louisiana’s sugarcane crop are treated with atrazine. Between 1.6 to 2.6 million pounds of atrazine are used on sugarcane every year.
  • Alternatives to atrazine would increase U.S. sugarcane grower costs $5 to $13 an acre and reduce revenue 2% to 17%, depending on the state.

Reduced Erosion

Soil erosion has been a main source of water pollution in our streams and rivers. The use of atrazine herbicides reduces aggregate soil erosion by 56 to 85 million tons per year.

  • Food productivity in the United States and around the world would decline by as much as 20% without herbicides like atrazine.
  • No other herbicide available today could replace atrazine in complex weed control combinations. It is compatible with all registered corn herbicides, among others. Some herbicide-resistant weeds like pigweed now only respond to herbicides mixed with atrazine.
  • Without atrazine, farmers would have to increase tillage and mechanical weeding, adding time, cost, and harming human health and the environment.

Environmentally Responsible

Atrazine enables U.S. farmers to grow more crops with less of everything — less land, less water, less labor, less energy and less carbon released into the atmosphere. Conservation tillage and related practices, made possible in part by atrazine and other triazine herbicides, have led to a 34% decrease in soil erosion from U.S. farmland over the past three decades. Stewarding natural resources helps support climate resiliency and keeps farmers productive, profitable, and sustainable.

Less Land Lost

The use of triazine herbicides reduces aggregate soil erosion by 56-85 million tons per year, providing $210 million to $350 million in benefits, annually. Thanks to atrazine and related herbicides, an estimated 210,000-310,000 acres of U.S. land can be used for purposes other than growing crops. These non-cropped acres contribute not only to reduced soil erosion and less pollution from input use, but they also improve habitat for birds and pollinators.

Safe Streams

From 2002 to 2012, concentrations of atrazine decreased in more than one-half of 60 U.S. streams and rivers studied, and increased in only about one-third of these streams, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Program. The streams and rivers are in a range of land-use settings.

Overall, the atrazine stream concentrations trends were mainly downward between 2002 and 2012, with some sites showing upward trends. Nationally, the amount of harvested corn acres increased from 2002–2012 by >60,700 km2 (15 million acres). The growth in corn acres was likely in areas not historically dominated by corn acres and is reflected in the scattered streams that showed upward trends in atrazine stream concentrations.

Clean Air

Atrazine and other triazine herbicides reduce consumption of diesel fuel for tillage by 18-28 million gallons per year, implying a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions of 180,000-280,000 metric tons per year.

Economic Development

The U.S. economy benefits from the use of the triazine herbicides in corn and sorghum by an estimated $4.3 to almost $6.28 billion per year through lower prices for meat, eggs, dairy products and ethanol used for fuel. For many farm families, the productivity boost supplied by atrazine makes the difference between keeping the farm and losing everything. Without any weed management, corn and soybean growers in the United States and Canada would lose about half their crops, costing growers about $43 billion annually. Atrazine’s value extends beyond farmers and the small businesses they support to the tax base of rural communities, schools, teachers, law enforcement and firemen. In all, atrazine accounts for approximately 85,000 American jobs. Triazine herbicides contribute significantly to U.S. export competitiveness for corn. Compared to the other large corn export countries of Brazil and Argentina, the U.S. has the highest cost per acre for production, but the United States’ cost per bushel is lower because of substantially higher corn yields.

Each year, triazine herbicides contribute the following economic benefits to American agriculture:

Drone shot of a green fields and clear skies

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