Reports from a new study, which for the first time will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the economic and societal benefits of neonicotinoid insecticides in North America, will be released over the next few months. Conducted by independent agricultural economists and scientists with AgInfomatics, LLC, this research documents the value of neonicotinoids to agriculture as well as residential and urban landscapes, and the significant implications if these products were no longer available.

The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the United States and Canada. Research included commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, sorghum and canola, specialty crops such as citrus, vegetables and grapes, plus turf, ornamental and landscape uses.

As the largest selling insecticide class in the world, some have questioned the value of neonicotinoids. This study was undertaken to provide reliable, objective evidence of the benefits these products bring to modern pest management systems. 

Research results prove that neonicotinoids add billions of dollars to the economy, and benefit entire communities, not just individual growers.

In addition, research shows a loss of neonicotinoids would force growers to rely on a few, older classes of insecticides. More foliar sprays of broad-spectrum insecticides would be used in place of targeted seed or soil treatments. Across selected commodity crops evaluated, the study found that each pound of neonicotinoid lost would be replaced by nearly five pounds of older insecticides. The consequences of this change would result in reduced crop yield and quality, disrupted pest management practices impacting beneficial insects including honey bees and, in some cases, catastrophic damage due to a lack of suitable alternatives to manage invasive pests.

Researchers surveyed over 22,000 growers, consumers and applicators in the United States and Canada, reviewed in-depth pesticide use information from leading data providers, and conducted a meta-analysis of yield performance involving thousands of observations. The team also conducted listening sessions in eight locations across North America to gain user insights and complement the quantitative data results.

“Although many people know intuitively that this class of chemistry is highly valued within the industry, we now have a comprehensive, science-based analysis that documents the magnitude of this value,” said Dr. Pete Nowak, emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and AgInfomatics principal. “The studies were conducted with a level of rigor necessary to meet the stringent standards of peer-reviewed publications.” 

AgInfomatics, LLC, is an agricultural consulting firm established in 1995 by professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Washington State University. The research was jointly commissioned by Bayer, Syngenta and Valent, with additional support from Mitsui on the turf and ornamental studies. 

The first three reports from the research to be released are:

  • a qualitative perspective of the value of neonicotinoids from farmers and other agricultural professionals based on eight listening sessions,
  • a case study of neonicotinoid use in Florida citrus, and
  • a case study of neonicotinoid use in mid-South cotton.

Subsequent reports will provide a more quantitative assessment of the costs and benefits associated with neonicotinoids across agricultural, municipal, ornamental and home settings.