A panel of academics released a new report on atrazine Wednesday at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention in Kansas City. David Bridges, President of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, University of Georgia, announced the findings and says it's hard to overestimate the importance of atrazine and the triazine herbicides to U.S. agriculture and global food supplies.
"American corn farmers truly depend on atrazine," Bridges said. "Given concerns over herbicide resistant weeds atrazine's value could rise further in the near future. That's why it's hard to overstate the benefits of triazine herbicides."
The paper estimates that their total value to the U.S. economy over the next five years to be between $18 and $22 billion. Atrazine increases U.S. corn output by 600 million bushels per year; triazines prevent up to 85 million metric tons of soil erosion per year; atrazine and the other triazine herbicides help reduce emissions by up to 280,000 metric tons of CO2 per year; and growers are using atrazine to control new herbicide-resistant weeds.
During a panel discussion of the paper, Dr. Michael Owen, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University talked about the role atrazine plays in controlling herbicide-resistant weeds.
"Simply put atrazine controls some of the most important herbicide-resistant, but more specifically glyphosate resistant weeds that American farmers are trying to deal with," Owen said. "Glyphosate-resistant weeds are increasing at an increasing rate across the Corn Belt, the Mississippi Delta and the Southeastern United States. Atrazine provides exceptional control of all of those weeds thus providing incredible benefit, both economic benefit to the grower but also benefits to the general public with regard to food productivity."
According to Dr. Richard Fawcett, a former agronomist at Iowa State University, atrazine also helps the environment by facilitating conservation tillage. Conservation tillage in turn reduces soil erosion and reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, reduces fuel use and carbon emissions and reduces runoff of herbicides.
The third major point that was discussed was how atrazine impacts jobs. Dr. Don Coursey, a professor of public policy studies at the University of Chicago, says with the increased yields that atrazine allows, the monetary value of which is estimated to be between $3 and $5 billion dollars, it translates into between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs.
To listen to the complete panel discussion, use the audio player on this page.