Weed Control Costs Rising

Date Posted: 21 Aug, 2013
The latest ICAC survey on the cost of cotton production indicates that weed control is becoming increasingly expensive. Weed control costs include manual/mechanical weeding, thinning (also supplement weeding), hoeing and herbicide use. Expenditures on weed control rose from 9 cents per kilogram of lint production in 2000/01 to 21 cents per kilogram in 2009/10 and to 31 cents per kilogram in 2012/13. (These cost estimates are not adjusted for inflation.)
 
As a percent of the net cost of cotton production, expenditures associated with weed control rose from 11% in 2000/01 to 20% in 2012/13. (Net costs are total costs excluding land rent and the value of cottonseed.) Weed control costs emerged as the most expensive component of the net cost of cotton production in 2012/13, more expensive even than harvesting and ginning.
 
Effective weed control is critical to achieving high yields. If weeds are not removed quickly, they consume inputs and crowd out cotton plant growth. If allowed to stand all the way through the season to harvest, weeds also interfere with picking and cause increased trash and staining.
 
Dr. Rafiq Chaudhry, Head of the Technical Information Section of the ICAC Secretariat noted that the adoption of herbicide tolerant Roundup Ready and Roundup Ready Flex cotton varieties may be contributing to higher expenditures on weed control. Dr. Chaudhry explained that the existence of the herbicide tolerant trait encourages herbicide use. He further observed that with herbicide tolerant biotech cotton, farmers tend to apply herbicides as cotton is growing, whereas without biotechnology farmers are compelled to use pre-emergence weed control measures. He noted that herbicide use in non-biotech cotton is expanding very little.
 
Survey results indicate that the costs associated with cultural control and manual weeding also seem to be increasing, along with the use of herbicides. There is a possibility that the use of biotech insect resistant cotton varieties is lowering insect control costs and making more resources available for weed control.
 
(The full study of the cost of cotton production will be presented to the 72nd Plenary Meeting of the ICAC in Cartagena, Colombia from September 29 to October 4, 2013.)
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