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By The Numbers: Glyphosate Use In The Midwest For Corn, Soybeans

Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota led the Midwest in 2016 in soybean acreage.(DARRELL HOEMANN/MIDWEST CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING)

Glyphosate is the most-used pesticide on U.S. crops, an estimated 287 million pounds in 2016, according to an analysis by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Midwest saw 65 percent of the nation's total agriculture glyphosate use on crops, a 12-state territory that includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.

In 1992, the Midwest used 4.6 million pounds of glyphosate; in 2016, it was 188.7 million pounds. The second-most used weed killer in the U.S. is atrazine, with 75.4 million pounds used on crops in 2016.

The standard rate of glyphosate use on crops is .75 pounds per acre; however, as weeds grow taller, manufacturers recommend as much as 1.5 pounds per acre, according to DuPont Pioneer.

While estimates show the largest corn- and soybean-producing states hovered around that rate, the states with smaller soybean and corn crops used much more.

Soybean data

Illinois planted the most soybean acres in 2016: 10.1 million acres, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was followed by Iowa (9.5 million acres) and Minnesota (7.5 million acres).

An analysis of the estimates shows:

  • Illinois used 139.9 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016; up from 91.9 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.
  • Iowa used 130.1 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016; up from 96.8 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.
  • Minnesota used 123 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016; up from 94.6 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.
  • Nationwide, Alabama used the most glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016 – 168.3 pounds; up from 107.4 pounds per 100 acres in 2006. The state planted 420,000 acres of soybean crops in 2016.


Corn data

At 13.9 million acres, Iowa planted the most corn in 2016, according to USDA data. Second was Illinois with 11.6 million acres, followed by Nebraska at 9.8 million acres.

An analysis of the data shows:

  • Iowa used 83.8 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2016; up from 26.5 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.
  • Illinois used 89.8 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2016; up from 34.2 pounds per 100 acres in 2006.
  • Nebraska used 129.1 pounds per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2016; up from .66 pounds per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2006.
  • Nationwide, Louisiana was the largest user of glyphosate per acre of planted corn in 2016. The state planted 620,000 acres of corn, but used 182 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted corn in 2016; that's up from 128.4 pounds per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2006.


Explaining the data

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed state-level data from the U.S. Geological Survey using the dataset: Low Estimate Agricultural Pesticide Use by Crop Group 1992 to 2016, in addition to using planted-crop acreage reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This is the most recent data available.

Pesticide-use data compiled by proprietary surveys of farm operations located within Crop Reporting Districts were used in conjunction with annual harvested-crop acreage reported by NASS to calculate use rates per harvested crop acre, or an "estimated pesticide use" (EPest) rate, for each crop by year (Thelin and Stone, 2013).

The estimates from data is collected through surveys of farms, and may be high in some cases. As a caution, the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed data with low estimates of pesticide use on crops and crop fields to avoid overestimation. And, not all crops can be sprayed with glyphosate. Therefore, the rate applies only to crops engineered to survive the pesticide. This analysis was confirmed as sound with an official at the USGS.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit, online newsroom offering investigative and enterprise coverage of agribusiness, Big Ag and related issues through data analysis, visualizations, in-depth reports and interactive web tools.

Visit us online at www.investigatemidwest.org

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