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Pesticides Reduce U.S. Reliance on Foreign Oil and Migrant Labor

The Tomato Magazine
August 2006

Pesticide use significantly reduces U.S. reliance on foreign oil and migrant labor, according to a newly released study by the CropLife Foundation.
The study shows that by using herbicides to control weeds, U.S. farmers have:

• Saved 337 million gallons of diesel fuel that would otherwise be needed each year for farmers to use mechanical tillage to replace chemical spraying
• Preempted the need for 7 million additional migrant workers to pull weeds by hand
• Reduced soil erosion by 356 billion pounds each year as a result of not having to plow weeds under the soil during field planting preparation
• Increased crop production by 20 percent, equal to 296 billion pounds of food and fiber
• Reduced the cost of farming by $10 billion a year

The study reports that farmers spray 215 million crop acres with herbicides every year, applying 349 million pounds of chemicals at a cost of $7.1 billion.

“If farmers relied on tillage rather than herbicides, they would have to make twice as many trips through each field, and every tillage trip requires four times the fuel of an herbicide application,” said Nathan Reigner, a coauthor of the CLF Study.

Corn production would suffer the greatest loss without herbicides, a reduction of 2.7 billion bushels. This loss would eliminate the entire projected U.S. capacity to produce ethanol which is being developed as an alternative fuel to petroleum. Corn is the major feedstock for ethanol production.

Coauthor Leonard Gianessi said “One reason that the acreage of organic crops is less than one percent of all crop acres is the high cost and difficulty of controlling weeds without herbicides.” The report concludes that there is a very limited future for organic crop growing in the U.S. due to the requirement for large numbers of laborers to pull weeds by hand.

The study, The Value of Herbicides in U.S. Crop Production, is available at http://www.croplifefoundation.org/cpri_benefits_herbicides.htm.

© 2006 Columbia Publishing

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