Assessing the Value of Glyphosate in the South African Agricultural Sector

This study assessed the value of glyphosate in the South African agricultural sector with focus on the 2012/13 agricultural season. Glyphosate is the most used herbicide in South African and in 2012 more than 23 million litres of glyphosate was sold at an estimated value of R641 million. Glyphosate is a highly effective broad spectrum herbicide and the only herbicide on the market with a systemic mode of action. Glyphosate is considered to be, based on numerous scientific studies environmentally and toxicologically safe when used according to label instructions. Glyphosate is marketed under more than twenty trade-names in SA and is extensively used in the timber, horticulture, sugar and viticulture industries. The main users of glyphosate in SA are however maize, wheat and soybean farmers and in 2012 these farmers used 65% of all glyphosate sold in SA. Making use of ‘with and without glyphosate’ scenario comparisons the assessment showed that glyphosate is immensely valuable to the agricultural sector. In monetary terms and depending on rather conservative yield assumptions the value of glyphosate in the maize sector was estimated to be between R525 million and R2.203 billion in 2012 with genetically modified herbicide tolerant and stacked gene maize farmers enjoying the biggest benefit. Assuming a yield loss of 10% in a withoutglyphosate scenario for only farmers who make use of herbicide tolerant maize varieties, the value of glyphosate is estimated at R1.328 billion. Glyphosate’s value for wheat farmers was estimated to be between R123 million and R485 million with the higher adoption usage rate (75%) and 10% potential damage scenario presenting a realistic value estimation of R335 million for the 2012 season. Soybean farmers making use of conservation tillage practises value glyphosate highly and under a withoutglyphosate scenario stand to lose between R148 million and R693 million with the most probable value estimated at around R412 million. Adoption of conservation tillage practises have increased considerably in SA since the introduction of glyphosate tolerant soybeans in 2001 and maize in 2003. Implementation of different degrees of reduced tillage practises have brought about substantial environmental benefits not only infield (soil) but also in the decreased emission of greenhouse gasses. The study showed that by using glyphosate instead of mechanized weed control, maize and soybean farmers (and wheat farmers to a lesser extent) where able to save about 23 million litres of diesel with a yearly CO2 emission equivalent of 12 thousand average cars. Determining the socio-economic impacts of glyphosate us in SA requires a larger and more in-depth assessment. However, the majority of the surveyed large-scale farmers planting HT maize and soybeans indicated the ease of weed control and management as the main benefit. A study of smallscale HT maize adopting farmers also showed the ease of weed control to be a major benefit with especially female household members being able to spend less time doing arduous manual weeding. The confirmed immense value glyphosate has as a production tool in the South African agricultural sector serves as backdrop to the problem of weed resistance to glyphosate. Worldwide 31 weed species have been reported to be resistant to glyphosate. Three of the 31 reported glyphosate resistance weeds occur in South Africa and resistance has been proven in parts of the Western Cape. With increased adoption of glyphosate tolerant crops and increased sector wide use of glyphosate due to its environmental safety, relative affordability and efficacy, responsible use and stewardship have become even more vital to preserve glyphosate’s value for the future.


Issue Date:
2014-11
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/206520
Total Pages:
46




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-28

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