Research Backs Up India’s Herbicide Boom

Handweeding Rice In India

Handweeding Rice In India

The India herbicide market is experiencing a growth spurt of epic proportions- growing by 35% in 2012. The increased use of herbicides in India is being spurred on by the lack of labor for hand weeding. The younger generation is losing interest in farming due to the availability of higher paying jobs in the fast growing industrial, business and construction sectors. Research by Indian agronomists backs up the positive contribution that herbicides make in terms of labor use, yield and profits.

“The objective of this study was to compare the profitability of farms that are using herbicides as one of their control measures and otherwise… For farms using herbicides, the analysis showed that labour usage was about 43, 33 and 80 hours lower in paddy rice, maize and sugarcane crops, respectively. Yields in farms using herbicides were also higher by about nine quintals in paddy rice, four quintals in maize and 100 quintals in sugarcane. Profits were also higher where herbicides were applied. It was concluded that application of herbicides to control weeds in paddy rice, maize and sugarcane is an efficient way of weed control in terms of labour use, yield and profits.”

Authors: Govindarajan, K., et al.
Affiliation: Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
Title: Impact analysis of integrated weed management under irrigated eco-systems in cultivation of tropical crops in Tamil Nadu, Southern India.
Source: 2nd International Conference on Novel and sustainable weed management in arid and semi-arid agro-ecosystems. September 7-10, 2009. Agricultural University of Athens

African Women Farmers Are Major Beneficiaries of Herbicide Use, USAID Study Finds

Woman Weeding in Africa

Women Weeding in Africa

The burden of handweeding crop fields in Africa falls on women who spend about 50% of their time as farmers pulling weeds out by hand. This enormous amount of time for weeding prevents African women farmers from undertaking other farming activities such as the growing of cash crops. Herbicides would greatly reduce the need for weeding time and empower women to undertake other more lucrative activities.

“…the future of Malian agriculture will be increasingly determined by labor constraints. Herbicide use in Mali has doubled in the last 5 years in part in response to labor constraints and is likely to increase substancialy in the future. Herbicide use has very positive spillover effects on woman’s time and ability to work on their own crops or collect karite nuts. More extension work and agribusiness training is needed, along the lines of USAID’s IPM CRSP’s work in pesticide literacy and safety, to ensure safe and effective use of herbicides.

All labor saving technology, such as herbicide, is likely to have a gender impact not as much in women directly using it, but in it freeing up women’s time for more lucrative activities. For example increased use of herbicide would free up women’s time during the key time of year when they collect karite nuts, July-August, potentially engendering an increase in the production of karite butter and better women’s incomes.”

Author: Jeremy Foltz
Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Title: Opportunities and investment strategies to improve food security and reduce poverty in Mali through the diffusion of improved agricultural technologies.
Source: USAID: MALI. June 16, 2010. Available at:   

IITA Recommends Herbicides for West African Farmers

Laborers Hand-Weeding

Laborers Hand-Weeding

The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) located in Ibadan, Nigeria has been conducting weed control research since its founding in 1967. For many years, the research focused on “low-input” non-chemical methods of controlling weeds. However, the “low-input” methods were never widely-adopted by African farmers who resorted to the centuries-old practice of handweeding their fields. IITA considers handweeding not to be sustainable and recommends that West African farmers use herbicides to control weeds in maize fields.

“Although manual weeding is an age-old practice in West Africa, it is no longer sustainable because of high labor costs and the aging farming population. Judicious use of herbicides is recommended to control weeds effectively and increase maize productivity. We normally recommend the use of postemergence herbicides to kill weeds before land preparation and planting.”

Author: Alpha Y. Kamara
Affiliation: Reporter
Title: Best practices for maize production in the West African savannas
Source: IITA, R4D Review. Issue 9. September 2012.