Fungicides Continue to Play Important Role in Yields

Latest study from the Crop Protection Research Institute (CPRI) finds that U.S. growers gain $14.60 in increased production value for every dollar spent on fungicides and their application. Compiled by staff

Published on: Sep 13, 2005

"For every dollar spent on fungicides and their application, U.S. growers gain $14.60 in increased production value. If left untreated, yields of most fruit and vegetable crops would decline by 50% to 95%. Growers gain $12.8 billion in increased production value from the control of plant diseases with fungicides," says Leonard Gianessi as he released the latest study from the Crop Protection Research Institute (CPRI), "The Value of Fungicides In U.S. Crop Production."

The study, funded by CropLife America and endorsed by 38 grower and commodity groups across the United States, examines the economic impact of plant diseases on 50 crops grown in the United States.

The CPRI study estimates that American growers spray 108 million pounds of fungicides annually, at a cost of $880 million; 18 million acres of cropland are sprayed with fungicides.

The study reports that fungicides have been used on most of the nation's fruit and vegetable acres for over one hundred years. The first fungicides were sulfur and copper. Prior to the use of fungicides, a huge portion of the nation's fruit and vegetable crops rotted in the field or in storage every year. Modern synthetic chemical fungicides were introduced in the 1940's and were used at significantly lower use rates than copper and sulfur. The study reports that there was a 67% decline in the volume of fungicide use in the U.S. due to the switch to synthetic chemicals (-200 million pounds per year).

The CPRI report estimates the impacts of fungicide use on crop yield by state and crop based on yield loss estimates in reports issued by the American Farm Bureau Federation and USDA. Coauthor Nathan Reigner notes that "CPRI verified the yield loss estimates with an extensive literature review. The estimates are consistent with the historical record and with experimental data"

Without fungicides, 95% of the U.S. grape crop would rot and 86% of the apples, 62% of the watermelons, and 54% of peaches would also be destroyed by pathogens. In the aggregate, CPRI estimates that 97 billion pounds of food and fiber is attributable to fungicide use including: 18 billion pounds of potatoes, 14 billion pounds of citrus, and 4 billion pounds of tomatoes.

Growers in California benefit the most from the use of fungicides ($5.5 billion/year), followed by Florida and Washington ($1.9 and $1.5 billion/year, respectively). Seven additional states gain over $200 million per year in production value increases.

Organic production, too, is dependent upon the use of fungicides. "Modern organic growers continue to apply the elemental fungicides (copper and sulfur) to protect their grapes, apples, and strawberries, among other crops," added co- author, Nathan Reigner.

The CPRI study is a comprehensive documentation of the role that fungicides play in U.S. crop production. Gianessi summarized the study by commenting: "U.S. crop production would be considerably lower without the use of fungicides. Fungi are an implacable foe and chemical fungicides protect plants from infections and prevent the huge losses in yield that were common before fungicides were developed."