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Atrazine is the main weapon against weeds in sweet corn, with few alternatives
Date:5/19/2010

Life without atrazine would complicate weed management in corn, especially for sweet corn growers. A study at the University of Illinois looked at 175 sweet corn fields in the Midwest to find out just how important this 50-year-old, broad-spectrum herbicide is in sweet corn grown for processing.

"If the use of atrazine was phased out completely, our data indicate the greatest burden would be on those growers who rely on less tillage for weed control, have particularly weedy fields, have early season crop production, and grow sweet corn in rotation with other vegetables such as snap or lima beans," said U of I and USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist Marty Williams. "Vegetable crops have fewer herbicide options and there tends to be poorer levels of weed control in those crops. When more weeds escape, more weed seed are produced, and crops succeeding those vegetables can have challenging weed problems."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed re-registration of atrazine in 2006, but due to controversy over human health and environmental safety concerns, launched a special review and re-evaluation of atrazine last November.

Registered use rates have been in decline for several decades, and atrazine use is increasingly being scrutinized at state and federal levels. Atrazine use in field corn dominates the debate; sweet corn represents only about 1 percent of total corn acres being treated with atrazine. But because atrazine may be far more important in sweet corn production, Williams wanted to assess how atrazine is currently being used by sweet corn growers, and how an EPA ban on atrazine might affect them.

"Atrazine is the single most widely used herbicide in sweet corn, applied to fields before crop emergence, after crop emergence, or at both times," Williams said. "Manufacturers of many of the other herbicides recommend tank-mixing with atrazine to increase their products' effectiveness."

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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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