The increasing importance of herbicides in worldwide crop production


Correspondence to: Leonard P Gianessi, CropLife Foundation, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA.


Herbicide use is increasingly being adopted around the world. Many developing countries (India, China, Bangladesh) are facing shortages of workers to hand weed fields as millions of people move from rural to urban areas. In these countries, herbicides are far cheaper and more readily available than labor for hand weeding. History shows that in industrializing countries in the past, including the United States, Germany, Japan and South Korea, the same phenomenon has occurred—as workers have left agriculture, herbicides have been adopted. It is inevitable that herbicide use will increase in sub-Saharan Africa, not only because millions of people are leaving rural areas, creating shortages of hand weeders, but also because of the need to increase crop yields. Hand weeding has never been a very efficient method of weed control—often performed too late and not frequently enough. Uncontrolled weeds have been a major cause of low crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa for a long time. In many parts of the world, herbicides are being increasingly used to replace tillage in order to improve environmental conditions. In comparison with tillage, herbicide use reduces erosion, fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient run-off and conserves water. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry