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

>In the study, Williams observed that atrazine is applied to two-thirds of the acres of sweet corn in the Midwest, and row cultivation is used on about half of the sweet corn acreage. "When growers didn't use atrazine, they used more row cultivation. And that makes sense," said Williams. "The grower using less atrazine is trying to make up for reduced weed control with row cultivation."

The average total cost of weed management in sweet corn was about $50 per acre, with atrazine accounting for only 9 percent of that cost. "We ran a simple scenario to see what it would cost for growers to switch from using atrazine to broad-spectrum broadleaf herbicide mesotrione and found that it would cost an additional $9.2 million, taking into account all of the sweet corn acreage, not just the 175 fields in the study. This scenario didn't account for the weeds that mesotrione doesn't control and atrazine does it was just replacing one herbicide with another, but at least it gives us an initial, conservative figure of the value of atrazine to the sweet corn grower."

Williams noted that currently a few sweet corn fields get mesotrione, so it's already being used a bit. Of course, the makers of mesotrione recommend using atrazine to improve weed control; this recommendation holds true of similar postemergence herbicides.

Restrictions on atrazine are noteworthy in Wisconsin, where all use is prohibited in certain areas. "Some growers have already had to find a system without atrazine and they're able to grow sweet corn. So it's not impossible," he said.

Williams believes the data from the study can help with long-term planning. "There are several benefits to reduced tillage, but very little sweet corn is grown in no-till. So, if we move away from both tillage and atrazine, what are we going to use to manage the weeds?" Williams' team estimates that over one-half of sweet corn fields are losing yield due to incompletely controlled weeds, eve
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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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