A new study of North American corn, soybean and canola farmers conducted by independent agricultural economists finds that the value of neonicotinoid seed treatments is among the highest of all insect management practices. The detailed research examined the pest management operations of farmers in Canada and the United States, including the use of non-monetary factor analysis and econometric methods, to estimate a total farmer value of $1.4 billion in these crops – surpassing the value of alternative practices.

Insect pest management in many North America crops has been transformed by the use of genetically engineered plant-incorporated protectants and, more recently, by neonicotinoid seed treatments. The rapid and widespread adoption of these technologies suggests a value to farmers well beyond any potential increase in profitability. To better understand the adoption of neonicotinoid seed treatments in corn, soybeans and canola, researchers conducted more than 1700 interviews with growers to assess the value of their pest management practices and how these values relate to non-monetary factors.

Factors investigated included reduced risk of pest losses, increased flexibility, convenience, simplicity of pest management, and reduced human or environmental risks. The survey collected details on each farmer’s operations in 2013, including key pests, alternative pest management and consulting practices, production costs, yields, and perceived value. Farmers ranked the importance of twenty factors affecting their pest management decisions, which were incorporated into established agricultural econometric models.

Although genetically modified Bt corn was the most frequently used management tactic in 2013, neonicotinoid seed treatments were identified as a leading application method for insect control in North American corn, soybeans and canola. Across all three crops, soil insecticide use was less common, as were foliar insecticide applications.

The study showed a commonality among all farmers when it comes to rating the importance of the many non-monetary factors considered in their pest management decisions. All growers viewed human and environmental health risks, such as family and worker health, public safety, water quality, and wildlife and beneficial insect protection to be highly important in selecting a pest control method. Corn growers tended to view the importance of plant performance (crop health and stand) and yield risks (consistency and residual insect control) differently by region, while soybean and canola farmers shared a similar view of these factors.

The researchers compared farmer value estimates of different management practices for pest control in these crops and found that neonicotinoid seed treatments provided significantly higher value than did either soil or foliar applications. In the U.S., the value was estimated to be $7.56 and $5.32 per planted acre in corn and soybeans, respectively, compared to foliar insecticides, which delivered a value of $0.85 and $2.18 per planted acre. Soil insecticides provided their lowest value in corn ($1.83 per planted acres). No comparisons were made for soil insecticides in soybeans, as there are no registered soil products. Farmer value in Canadian canola was $11.20 per planted acre, compared to $2.55 per planted acre for foliar sprays.

The total farmer value was determined by multiplying the estimated value per planted acre by the total planted acreage for each crop, and then summing all three crops. Neonicotinoid seed treatments were the most highly valued insect management practice in North American corn, soybeans and canola, with a total farmer value of $1.4 billion. Bt corn was second, with $1.3 billion, followed by foliar insecticides ($306 million) and soil insecticides ($175 million). These results clearly demonstrate the substantial value neonicotinoid seed treatments bring to North American agriculture.

Report References

The Value of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in North American Agriculture: Value of Insect Pest Management to U.S. and Canadian Corn, Soybean and Canola Farmers
This report is one of a series that will be released over the next few months as part of a comprehensive evaluation of the economic and societal benefits of neonicotinoid insecticides in North America. The research was conducted by AgInfomatics, a consulting firm of independent agricultural economists and scientists, and jointly commissioned and sponsored by Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Valent U.S.A. For questions or information concerning this research and reports, please contact the Porter Novelli address identified below.
All reports will be published online at: http://GrowingMatters.org/case-studies/.