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

Quick Profits from Organic Sugar: Deforestation is the Way


Organic Sugar Mill, Paraguay

Most organic sugar used in US foods comes from sugarcane crops grown in Paraguay. When converting an existing field to organic, a company needs to wait three years since the last pesticide spray was made before being certified as organic. With a desire for large profits, sugar companies are clearing forests so that sugarcane fields can be immediately certified as organic.

“The Ybytymi hills of eastern Paraguay are crowded with mango trees, palms, and gnarled cacti.

It’s one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, home to jaguars, tapirs, a plethora of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 500 species of birds.

In a remote area known as Isla Alta, the forest abruptly halts at the edge of sugar fields. The land belongs to a company called Azucarera Paraguaya (AZPA), one of the country’s chief sugar producers and the supplier of nearly one-third of the organic sugar consumed in the United States. If you’ve ever eaten a bowl of Cascadian Farm breakfast cereal or had a glass of Silk soy milk, you’ve probably enjoyed some of its harvest.

Organic producers have little incentive not to clear land, says Laura Raynolds, codirector of the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies at Colorado State University.

This dynamic was evident when I visited Paraguay, where AZPA has been looking for additional land to grow more organic cane to feed the American market. Converting its conventionally farmed fields to organic would take three years, during which it would have to use more expensive organic methods on “transitional” crops that must be sold at the lower conventional price. A more attractive approach is to establish new fields where forest once grew; then, the cane can fetch the higher organic price from the first harvest.”

Author: Rogers, H.
Affiliation: Journalist.
Title: Sweet & lowdown organic
Source: Mother Jones. May/June 2010. Pgs. 58-59, 79.

Hurricanes Increase the Need for Insecticides in Louisiana Sugarcane Fields

Fire Ant Killing Sugarcane Borer

Fire Ant Killing Sugarcane Borer

Louisiana is the top producing sugarcane state accounting for 40% of the nation’s sugarcane production. Approximately 3 billion pounds of raw sugar are produced annually by Louisiana sugar mills. The sugarcane borer is the most damaging insect pest of sugarcane in Louisiana. The larvae bore into the plant where they feed on the central tissue. Borers make tunnels up and down the stalk. The size and weight of the stalks are decreased. Sugarcane borers in Louisiana are controlled by an integrated system that consists of spraying insecticides, planting varieties with some resistance and by natural enemies of the borer. The most important natural enemy of the borer is the red imported fire ant. Typically, the predation of fire ants contributes an estimated savings of two insecticide sprays. However, when the sugarcane fields are flooded by hurricanes, the fire ants are negatively affected and insecticide use has to increase.

“On 24 September 2005, Hurricane Rita made landfall on the extreme southwestern coast of Louisiana near the border with Texas as a Category 3 hurricane.

Twelve thousand to 16,000 ha of sugarcane produced in south Louisiana were flooded by saltwater from Hurricane Rita storm surge.

During spring 2006, sugarcane growers and contracted agricultural consultants began observing that flooded areas seemingly had more [sugarcane borer] infestations, which might require earlier and more frequent insecticide applications for D. saccharalis control.

This study showed that growers had to treat more (2.4-fold increase) in zones impacted by the hurricane storm surge.

S. invicta [red imported fire ant] seemed to be negatively impacted 10-12 mo after the areawide habitat disruption caused by the storm surge flooding. When plunged into freshwater, S. invicta individuals gather and form floating clusters that can drift for more than a week without drowning. However… S. invicta is susceptible to saltwater, sinking within 30 min when in 3.5% saltwater (approximately equal to seawater), and within 48 h in 1% saltwater. …Susceptibility to saltwater flood and limited dispersal abilities may explain why S. invicta was negatively impacted by the storm surge and slow to recover back to prehurricane population levels.

This study suggests that Hurricane Rita disturbed the pest management stability between beneficial and pest anthropods for the subsequent production season, requiring additional insecticide applications…”

Authors: Beuzelin, J.M., et al.
Affiliations: Department of Entomology, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
Title: Impacts of Hurricane Rita storm surge on sugarcane borer (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) management in Louisiana.”
Source: Journal of Economic Entomology. 2009. 102[3]:1054-1061.

Organic Sugar Production in Mauritius Derailed Due to Weed Problems

Sugarcane is the major crop in Mauritius. Weeds are usually controlled with herbicides. In the early 1990s, three sugar processing firms in Mauritius decided to grow organic sugarcane without the use of herbicides. However, the weed problems led to the curtailment of organic production. At the time of this article’s publication, there was still one organic producer; today, we have discovered there are no organic sugar companies operating in Mauritius.

“Organic sugar production started in Mauritius in 1992 after it was realized that a demand existed in Europe. … As the use of herbicides is not permitted in fields under organic crop production, manual weeding had to be resorted to. In view of the acute labour shortage and the increasing cost of labour, this item was a major contributor to the costs of production and one of the main sources of discouragement for producers who generally do not like to see their fields infested by weeds. Manual weeding is also known to be ineffective.”

“Although alternative methods of weed control exist, they could not be envisaged in the Mauritian context. Using a flame applicator would represent a fire hazard because of the presence of dry trash in the field, and weeding by mechanical means is not convenient because of the rocky nature of the soil. Weed control in the fields under organic cane was therefore not carried out to the same extent as it is in conventionally grown cane. … Owing to these constraints, producers gradually lost interest in organic sugar and only one estate, out of the three originally, is still involved.”

Author: J Deville
Affiliation: Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute, Reduit, Mauritius
Title: Organic sugar production – the Mauritian experience.
Publication: Proceedings of the XXIII International Society of Sugar Cane Technologists (ISSCT) Congress. February 22-26, 1999, New Delhi, India.