Spraying Success Herbicides in Modern Agriculture

Team Chemical Market

08 May 2024

Introduction

In the realm where science meets Agriculture, there exists a potent arsenal wielded by farmers and agronomists alike: Herbicides. These chemical compounds designed for  Weed control target unwanted vegetation, that encroach upon cultivated lands. Yet behind the innocuous facade of Weed control lies a world fraught with controversy, ethical dilemmas, and ecological implications. Agriculture stands as the backbone of any nation. This article delves into the various facets of herbicides.


Types of Herbicides

Outlined below are the common types of herbicides along with their descriptions and constituents that are used in Crop Management :
 
  • Pre-Emergent Herbicide -  These chemical compounds prevent the germination and growth of weed seeds before they emerge from the soil. They form a barrier in the soil that inhibits the development of roots and shoots in newly germinating weeds, effectively suppressing weed growth without harming established crops. Their action is focused on the fragile root tissue of newly germinated seedlings. A few of the active ingredients in Pre-emergent herbicides include atrazine, Pendimethalin, prodiamine, and trifluralin.
     
  • Post Emergent Herbicide -  These types of herbicides are those that control weeds that have already emerged from the soil and are growing. They are applied directly to the foliage of unwanted plants and are absorbed through the leaves, stems, or roots. Their effect is to inhibit specific enzymes or biochemical pathways, crucial for plant growth, resulting in cellular damage and eventual death of the weed. The choice of herbicide depends on the type of weed to be eliminated. Commonly used ingredients for their formulation include Glyphosate, 2-4D, dicamba, and glufosinate.
     
  • Selective Herbicides - These are designed to target specific types of weeds leaving the desired crops or vegetation unharmed. They exploit the difference in physiological characteristics between target weeds and non-target plants. Common examples of active ingredients are 2-4D for broad-leafed weeds in grassy crops like corn and wheat and atrazine for soybean.
     
  • Systemic Herbicides - Systemic herbicides are absorbed by plants and translocated throughout their vascular systems, effectively reaching all parts of the plant, including roots, stems, and leaves. This systemic action ensures comprehensive control of targeted weeds by disrupting essential physiological processes crucial for growth and survival. Glyphosate is perhaps the most well-known systemic herbicide, acting as a broad-spectrum, non-selective weed killer. Other systemic herbicides include imazapyr, picloram, and clopyralid, each with its specific mode of action and target weed spectrum
     
  • Non-Systemic Herbicides -  This type is used to remove all types of vegetation and is particularly useful where no type of plants should grow like fence lines, sidewalk cracks, and driveways. Most types are simple to use, by dilution with water and spraying thereafter.
     
  • Contact Herbicides -  Contact herbicides exert their effects upon direct contact with plant tissues, primarily targeting the foliage. Upon application, these chemicals quickly penetrate the outer layers of the plant and disrupt cellular membranes or metabolic pathways, leading to rapid desiccation, wilting, and eventual death of the treated vegetation. Paraquat, diquat, and pelargonic acid are examples of contact herbicide constituents commonly used to control weeds in various agricultural, horticultural, and non-crop settings.

Other Aspects

There are various Herbicide application methods. However,  usage of herbicides must be conducted in a controlled manner along with caution to maximize efficacy. Some considerations include :
 
  • Wind - The direction and speed of wind are to be considered during application. Ideally when wind speeds are low. The susceptibility of nearby crops should also be taken into consideration.
  • Livestock must be kept away from areas where the crops have been sprayed.
  • Avoid using the same equipment for spraying insecticides and herbicides.
  • Effective control is best achieved when spraying during sunny weather.
  • Herbicides could cause skin irritation. Thus contact between the solution and body parts must be prevented.
  • Maintain constant pressure during spraying.
  • Solutions should be prepared in glass or enamel containers to prevent unwanted reactions.
  • Moisture and ambient temperature can affect the efficiency of herbicides. They work best with warm temperatures with favorable RH ( relative humidity) conditions. Note that dew will cause dilution and runoff.

Market Scenario

Herbicides are integral to modern agriculture and have contributed to weed control thereby increasing crop yields. The introduction of GM ( Genetically modified) crops and herbicide-tolerant varieties will become key components in the future of agriculture.
 
India Crop protection typical market trends

India Crop protection typical market trends (Courtesy : Mordor Intelligence)


The above illustration shows the market trends of Crop protection in India. The herbicide market is presently estimated at Rs 2900 Crores for the year 2024 and is likely to reach Rs 4500 Crores by 2029 with a CAGR ( Compounded Annual Growth Rate) of  9%. The bulk of the herbicides (47%) are used in grains and cereals like rice, wheat, maize etc. Commercial crops are the fastest-growing segment. The leading players in the herbicide market are Bayer AG ( 17.62%) and UPL Ltd ( 13.2%), Syngenta, Dhanuka Agritech, and PL Industries.   The year 2020 saw a boom in the consumption of herbicides. There is a thrust towards sustainable organic farming, which poses a challenge to chemically synthesized herbicides.

Conclusion

The Environmental impact of herbicides is well known. It is a tale of human ambition and its consequences. The legacy of herbicides is not merely one of triumph, but a cautionary tale that reminds us of our inherent responsibility as stewards of the earth. In the end, the true measure of our civilization will not be found in the conquest of nature, but in our capacity to co-exist with it in harmony.

 

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