Atrazine Brings Environmental Benefits to Kansas Corn Farms

By: Sue Schulte, Communications Director
KCGA and KGSPA

Many farmers spent Earth Day in the fields planting corn. Kansas Corn Commissioner Ken McCauley, White Cloud, said his family has made good progress planting corn this spring. McCauley uses no-till farming methods on his family farm. Atrazine makes those environmentally friendly methods possible.

“Without atrazine, our ability to use no-till methods would be severely hampered,” McCauley said. “Atrazine has played a big role in our success with no-till farming because it works so well in with other crop protection tools.”

McCauley explained that small amounts of atrazine help to make his crop protection tools more effective, and that allows him to apply less herbicides overall. He said atrazine is also important because it has a different “mode of action” that helps keeps weeds from becoming resistant to herbicides. Without effective weed control, no-till farmers would have to resort to cultivation and other tillage practices.

According to the Conservation Tillage Information Center, atrazine was applied to more than 60 percent of conservation tillage and no-till corn acres in 2008. No-till farming practices reduce soil erosion by up to 90 percent.

Atrazine-enabled no-till agriculture provides major environmental benefits:

· Preventing soil erosion: No-till agriculture dramatically lessens the loss of soil and its nutrients, and prevents the kind of soil run-off that clogs streams and waterways.

· Preventing erosion protects aquatic ecosystems and preserves water quality.

· No-till agriculture reduces soil erosion by as much as 90 percent when compared to intensive tillage .

· United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ranks sediment runoff as the number one pollutant in our nation’s waterways.

· Conserving water: Because crop residue from previous harvests (stalks, husks, etc.) is left on the ground, and the soil is not plowed up, evaporation is limited and more water stays in the soil.

· Cutting fuel costs to famers: Less plowing means lower production costs and reduced emissions because of fewer equipment trips across the field.

· Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions: the constant plowing up of agricultural land required by old-style agriculture to control weeds results in the massive release of CO2 into the atmosphere from decomposing organic matter in the soil. No-till keeps that CO2 trapped in the ground. Switching to no-till promotes the storage of about 600 pounds of carbon in an acre of soil each year, according to research done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

· Because of its vital role in weed control and popularity in more than 60 countries around the world, atrazine has been carefully studied for years. World-renowned institutions including the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) all have studied atrazine and found no health concerns when used as directed.

The Kansas Corn Growers Association represents growers in regulatory and legislative issues. For more information on KCGA, visit http://www.ksgrains.com.

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