Good value: Crop protection materials return $19 in production value for each $1

If you stopped the average person on the street and asked if they think a 19-to-1 return on an investment is a good deal, chances are most would say yes. For sure, it beats 1 percent or less on a bank savings account.

That is the impressive return U.S. farmers have achieved on their investment for insecticides — $19 in production value for every $1 spent.

Expenditures for herbicides, fungicides, and other materials have also paid handsome dividends, in sum allowing farmers to produce enough food and fiber to supply our own citizens, with enough extra for millions of others around the world.

Key benefits include increased crop yield and quality; a reduced workload for managing pests; and improved prospects for the long-term sustainability of food production.

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A new study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), The Contributions of Pesticides to Pest Management in Meeting the Global Need for Food Production by 2050, documents not only these direct returns, but the additional benefit of employment arising from the use of the technologies, income generated by the technologies, and contribution of crop protection to trade balances.

State-by-state summaries were created, based on data collected from 18 field, 26 vegetable, and 38 fruit and nut crops. For this subset of crops, crop protection products accounted for an additional $51.4 billion of value in field crops, $18.9 billion in fruit and nuts, and $11.5 billion in vegetables, for a total of approximately $82 billion in added crop value.

For field crops, 36 percent of the total value of production ($51.4 billion of the $141.3 billion) was attributed to the use of crop protection products, with herbicide use having the greatest impact.

The authors (Stephen C. Weller, chair, Purdue University; Albert K. Culbreath, University of Georgia; 
Leonard Gianessi, CropLife Foundation; and 
Larry D. Godfrey, University of California, Davis) point out that more than 800 million people in the world today are food insecure and that the amount of crop yield lost yearly to pests can run upwards of 30 percent.

Because there is little scope for expanding the current arable land area, any real increase in the global food sup- ply will require an intensification of agriculture on currently managed land, the authors say. “Shortages of input resources, labor, and water for irrigation, as well as the negative effects of climate change on crop yields, require compensatory strategies to prevent yield losses coupled with an emphasis on the design of increasingly efficient and sustainable agriculture production systems.”

Pesticides help address these challenges, they note, but they must be used in a diverse manner to lessen development of resistance.

Download a free copy of the report at



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