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


Europe Could Learn a Lot from US farmers about Using Fungicides on Corn Crops

Eyespot Disease on Maize Leaves

Eyespot Disease on Maize Leaves

Recently in the US, farmers have increasingly used fungicides on corn crops with a noticeable yield increase. There is significant corn (maize) acreage in Europe, but hardly even any research on fungicides. Recently, a European researcher experimented with fungicides and discovered the great potential of using fungicides for this overlooked problem.

“Since 2008, fungicide trials have been carried out by both the Danish advisory service (Knowledge Centre for Agriculture) and University of Aarhus to test the impact of fungicides on control of leaf diseases. In several of the trials, significant levels of diseases have occurred and significant yield responses have been obtained.

In 2009, a severe attack of northern corn leaf blight (E. turcicum) developed and 50% yield increases were accomplished from fungicide treatments in a number of trials. In 2011, a severe and early attack of Eyespot (K. zeae) developed in several trials and in that season yield increases between 50 to 60% were also achieved in grain maize crops in fields with minimal tillage with maize as the previous crop.

Based on good efficacy trials, the first fungicide epoxiconazole plus pyraclostrobin (as Opera) was authorized in Denmark for control of the leaf diseases in maize between detection of 3rd node and the tassels appearing at the top of the stem (BBCH GS 33-51).

For scientists, advisors and farmers, it was a surprise that yield reducing leaf diseases could play such a major role in the production of maize. When looking around Europe for information on this subject, we were slightly surprised that very little information on the use of fungicides was available. When looking around we also realized that in many countries no fungicides are authorized for control. Looking across to the US, which has long experiences with foliar diseases, there seem to be more knowledge available on disease management, including experiences from use of fungicides.”

Author: Jorgensen, L. N.
Affiliation: Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Title: Significant yield increases from control of leaf diseases in maize – an overlooked problem?!
Source: Outlooks on Pest Management. August 2012. Pgs.162-165.

To Increase Income and Competiveness, Public Policy Should Educate African Maize Farmers About the Benefits of Using Herbicides

Weedy Maize Field: Africa

Weedy Maize Field: Africa

Maize consumption is a major source of calories for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa. Within the next few decades, the majority of people in Sub-Saharan Africa will be living in cities. Countries in eastern and southern Africa are increasing imports of staple foods, including maize. In order to be competitive, African farmers need to reduce the cost of producing a unit of maize. Herbicide adoption would greatly reduce costs of growing maize and lead to greater yields and farmer income and competiveness.

“Rural smallholder production remains highly labor-intensive. On average, family labor accounts for 62% of the total cost of maize production in Zambia’s small- and medium-scale farm sector. Promoting the identification and adoption of practices and technologies that save labor and/or identifying labor-productivity-enhancing technologies through research and development will therefore help to make Zambian maize more competitive and allow farmers to maintain profitability even at lower producer prices.

Although only 3% of fields had herbicides applied, regression results suggest the benefits of its use are quite high. All else equal, applying herbicides increases gross margin between ZMK 363,700 to ZMK 376,300 per hectare planted… The magnitude of this effect is fairly large compared to the national average margin of ZMK 1,108,542 (in other words, at the mean, herbicide use would increase gross margins by roughly a third). …these results indicate that public policy measure should be considered to educate farmers about the benefits of herbicide application, as its contribution to smallholder income growth and regional competitiveness may be comparable to and highly synergistic with increased fertilizer use.”

Authors: Burke, W. J., et al.
Affiliation: Zambia Food Security Research Project (FSRP)
Title: The cost of maize production by smallholder farmers in Zambia
Source: Food Security Research Project. Working Paper 50. March 2011. Available at: 

China Warns of Famine Without Pesticides

Over the past several decades, China has become self-sufficient in basic foods such as wheat, maize, and rice. In addition, Chinese production of many fruit and vegetable crops has soared. The widespread use of pesticides has had a key role in this vast expansion in food production and without their use…

“China would ‘undergo famine if pesticides were not used’. The warning has come in a recent Ministry of Agriculture document entitled ‘pesticide residues in agricultural products and related safety issues’, reports the national newspaper, the AgriGoods Herald.”

“China has more than 1,700 types of plant disease and insect pests, with major pest outbreaks occurring on over 400 million hectares annually. Laboratory findings released by Chinese agrochemical company Beijing Yoloo Pesticide showed that rice production would be reduced by more than two-thirds if pesticides were not used, and wheat production would be halved.”

Authors: Agrow staff writer
Headline: China warns of famine without pesticides.
Publication: Agrow. 2012. No. 642, June 20.

Italian Farmers Realize Profits from Herbicide Applications

In Italy, herbicides to kill weeds in crop fields have been routinely used on almost all the acres for the past 30 years. Is the cost of the herbicide application justified considering the levels of weed infestation? Italian researchers examined the record…

“The frequency distribution of yield loss due to weeds in winter wheat, sugar beet, maize and soybean has been studied using the available data of weed control trials undertaken in north-central Italy in the last 30 years. The breakeven yield loss and the probability of obtaining a positive net return from chemical weed control were calculated, considering different treatment options and different weed-free yields.”

“In winter wheat the probability of a positive net return from chemical weed control is high, between 80.5 and 97.3%. … As far as other crops analysed are concerned, the probability of a chemical treatment being profitable is >80% in maize and soybeans and >95% in sugar beets.”

“The profitability of chemical weed control depends on the density, composition and time of emergence of the weed flora, on the competitiveness of the crop and on the chemical used. In most cases, however, it is profitable to spray; in other words in the Po Valley there is a high degree of probability that the weed density is sufficient to bring about a yield loss greater than the treatment cost.”

Authors: G. Zanin¹, A. Berti² and M. Giannini³
Affiliation: ¹ Instituto di Agronomia Generale e Coltivazioni Erbacee, Padova, Italy; ² Centro per lo Studio dei Diserbanti del CNR, Padova, Italy; ³ ESAV, Venice, Italy
Title: Economics of herbicide use on arable crops in north-central Italy.
Publication: Crop Protection. 1992. 11:174-180.