The Wisconsin economist found that the development of herbicide resistant weeds is a major concern of farmers, and reported that half of corn, soybean, and cotton farmers express that as their primary concern. He says based on current plantings, “if 5% more corn and soybean farmers became concerned about weed resistance because triazine herbicides were not available, these average per acre reductions in value imply an annual average loss of almost $15 million for corn farmers and almost $12 million for soybeans farmers, just from an increase in concern about herbicide-resistant weeds.” And he said that dollar value would double if the percentage of concern was doubled.
Another benefit identified by Mitchell is that of the environmental impact of reduced tillage, which cuts soil erosion by $44 billion annually and use of pesticides by $8 billion annually. With the effectiveness of atrazine in reduced till acreage, Mitchell says research found, “Every year, conventional tillage corn had the lowest percentage of acres using atrazine and no-till corn had the highest percentage, except in 2007 when a greater percentage of conservation tillage corn acres received atrazine than no-till acres. These data demonstrate that in corn production, atrazine is consistently used more often in reduced tillage systems than in conventional tillage systems.” Due to the increasing amount of weeds resistant to glyphosate, Mitchell says the use of atrazine becomes even more important in reduced tillage crops. Otherwise there would be a reversal of a 30 year trend in tillage reduction, just for control of glyphosate resistant weeds, if atrazine were not available.
Atrazine has become a mainstay of many farmers for broadleaf and grass control in corn, even with the use of glyphosate. It has been both a complement and a replacement for glyphosate, particularly in reduced tillage fields. However, benefits allowed by the use of atrazine can exceed $3 billion per year due to increased weed control that allows increased yield. This is not only true in the Cornbelt, but also benefits sorghum, sweet corn, and sugar cane production areas.