China, India, Bangladesh becoming hotbeds of herbicide use

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Some activists claim the U.S. could feed itself using organic; i.e., non-chemical farming practices. But those claims fly in the face of what’s happening in other parts of the world where farmers are being called on to feed larger and larger urban populations with a dwindling labor force. CropLife Foundation’s Leonard Gianessi discussed some of the trends that are occurring in foreign countries in a presentation at the Southern Crop Production Association’s State Affairs Summit in Orlando.

In China, for example, agriculture officials decided 15 years ago that approximately 43 million hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) of its cropland were heavily infested with weeds, and its farmers were losing 17.5 million metric tons of grain annually to poor weed control. The Chinese government began assigning agronomists to specific districts to help growers learn how and when to apply herbicides for maximum weed control.

In India, government policies have meant that millions of laborers have moved out rural areas and into the cities to jobs that provided guaranteed minimum wages. Farmers remaining in those area turned to herbicides to plug the gap in weed control, particularly in rice. As a result, herbicide use doubled in India between 2005 and 2010 and is expected to double again within the next two years.

In Bangladesh, the population has been rising exponentially placing even greater demands on a food production system that was already planting two crops per year on every acre available. “The weed scientists have looked out at this situation and said, ‘well, we’re not growing as much rice in Bangladesh as we could, and why do we have a gap?’ Well, part of the gap is due to poor control of weeds. Thirty percent of the farmers are losing 500 kilograms per hectare of rice due to poor weed control. The studies show farmers net income goes up over 100 percent with the use of herbicides.”

 

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