Pesticide Use & Markets

U.S. crop producers use a variety of practices to reduce yield losses to pests, such as scouting fields to determine whether and when pesticide applications might be required (see the topic on Crop & Livestock Practices). Genetically engineered (GE) insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops are also available for conventional producers (see the topic on Biotechnology) for more information on the adoption of GE seeds). Producers of certified organic crops are much more reliant on production practices that bypass synthetic chemicals, such as crop rotation, adjustments to planting and harvesting dates, and the use of beneficial organisms (see the topic on Organic Agriculture). Many such methods are also widely practiced by conventional producers. Factors influencing cropping practice decisions, such as the availability of GE varieties, the profitability of adopting organic practices, and the cost effectiveness of precision agriculture technologies all influence the sector-wide use of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides.

ERS research on pesticide use on 21 selected crops finds that use more than tripled from 1960 to 1981, but has since declined from 632 million pounds to 516 million pounds in 2008, partly due to more efficient active ingredients, Integrated Pest Management, and GE seeds. See the ERS report for details: