What is in this article?:
- Ag chemicals, GMOs critical to increase world food output
- China No. 1 in world pesticide sales
- Herbicides key to soybean yield increases
- Agri-chemicals bring substantial yield increases
Herbicides, insecticides, and GMO crops will be vital to meeting the needs of another two billion people on planet Earth by the year 2020, says Leonard Gianessi, consultant for the CropLife Foundation, Washington, D.C. “Make no mistake about it, these materials are essential for controlling the weeds, insects, and diseases that greatly reduce the world’s food supply,” he said at a Mississippi State University conference.
BRIAN BALDWIN, left, Mississippi State University research scientist, explains uses for giant miscanthus to Leonard Gianessi, consultant to The CropLife Foundation, Washington, D.C., during a visit to the university. — Photo: MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence
China No. 1 in world pesticide sales
“The rice water weevil, first reported in China in 1988, was causing losses as high as 80 percent. Insecticides are now being used on a large scale to attack this pest, which came from the U.S.”
Uncontrolled wheat rust was causing losses of 1.3 million tons yearly in 2002, GIanessi notes. “Now they’re treating 6 million hectares with fungicides and they’re self-sufficient in wheat. “As a result of herbicide, insecticide, and fungicide use, we now see fields free of weeds, insects, and diseases, and China is self-sufficient in rice. That could not have been possible without these technologies.”
China now ranks No. 1 in the world in pesticide sales, expected to reach $10.5 billion yearly by 2021.
India also has traditionally used a lot of hand weeding — “an enormous use of human labor, but it was never adequate. India began using herbicides and is now one of the major markets for these materials, with $400 million in sales in 2010 and increasing 20 percent to 30 percent yearly.”
Pulse crops (beans, mung beans, peas) are a major source of protein for the Indian population, Gianessi says, and the country is the largest producer of pulse crops in the world. “But yields were terrible because of weeds and insects. As people had more income, demand increased and they were importing these crops. Research showed that with herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers they could triple their current production.”
Bangladesh, a small country estimated to have 70 million more people by 2050, was already growing two crops per year on every hectare of farmland, he says, and needed to increase rice production.
“There was a huge gap between what they were producing and what they could grow by using technology. Half the gap was due to poor weed control — 43 percent to 51 percent crop losses. Herbicides increased yields, and lowered costs; net income for farmers using herbicides increased by 116 percent.”
China and India are seeing a huge movement from subsistence living to middle-class living, Gianessi says. “This will put tremendous pressure on the food supply. Meat consumption is growing exponentially,. Beef/pork/poultry production are huge, which is increasing demand for animal feeds. That’s where the U.S. comes into the picture. Our agricultural exports to China have been one of the really positive stories in our economy and in the agricultural sector.
“Soybean exports to China total 895 million bushels yearly, 50 percent of all the soybeans we export, and 25 percent of our total harvest.”