Breaking down the use of glyphosate in the U.S.

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Ramiro Ferrando/For Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

This map shows the estimated percentage of glyphosate each state used on crops in 2016.

Glyphosate is the most used pesticide on U.S. agricultural crops, with the nation using an estimated 287 million pounds in 2016, according to an analysis by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

And sales continue to grow, with market researchers predicting the glyphosate market to grow to $8.5 billion to $10 billion annually by 2021 up from $5 billion now.

Of 400 pesticides used on agriculture crops across the U.S, glyphosate is used at least three times more than all others, according to an analysis of data estimates from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The second-most used weed killer in the U.S. is atrazine – with 75.4 million pounds used on U.S. agriculture crops in 2016.

In 2016, the Midwest used 65 percent of the nation’s total agriculture glyphosate use on crops. The U.S. Census defines the Midwest as a 12-state area including: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

All total – the Midwest used 188.7 million pounds of glyphosate on crops and cropland in 2016 – up from 4.6 million pounds in 1992.

Click on the map to see the most used pesticides by state in the Midwest (continues)

The standard rate of glyphosate use on crops is .75 pounds per acre; however, as weeds grow taller, manufacturers recommend as much as 1.5 pounds per acre, according to Dupont Pioneer.

While estimates show the largest corn and soybean producing states hovered around that rate, the states with smaller soybean and corn crops used much more.

Illinois planted the most soybean acres in 2016 – at 10.1 million acres, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Iowa planted 9.5 million acres of soybeans in 2016, followed by Minnesota, which planted 7.5 million acres of soybeans.

An analysis of the data estimates:

  • Illinois used 139.9 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016; up from 91.9 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.

  • Iowa used 130.1 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016; up from 96.8 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.

  • Minnesota used 123 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016; up from 94.6 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.

  • Nationwide, Alabama used the most glyphosate per 100 acres of planted soybean crops in 2016 – 168.3 pounds; up from 107.4 pounds per 100 acres in 2006. The state planted 420,000 acres of soybean crops in 2016.

At 13.9 million acres, Iowa planted the most corn in 2016, according to USDA data. Illinois planted 11.6 million acres of corn, followed by Nebraska at 9.8 million acres of corn.

An analysis of the data shows:

  • Iowa used 83.8 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2016; up from 26.5 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres in 2006.

  • Illinois used 89.8 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2016; up from 34.2 pounds per 100 acres in 2006.

  • Nebraska used 129.1 pounds per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2016; up from .66 pounds per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2006.

  • Nationwide, the largest user of glyphosate per acre of planted corn in 2016 was Louisiana. The state, which only planted 620,000 acres of corn, used 182 pounds of glyphosate per 100 acres of planted corn in 2016; up from 128.4 pounds per 100 acres of planted corn crops in 2006.

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed state level data from the U.S. Geological Survey using the dataset: Low Estimate Agricultural Pesticide Use by Crop Group 1992 to 2016, in addition to using planted-crop acreage reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service.

This is the most recent data available.

Pesticide-use data compiled by proprietary surveys of farm operations located within Crop Reporting Districts (CRD) were used in conjunction with annual harvested-crop acreage reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to calculate use rates per harvested crop acre, or an ‘estimated pesticide use’ (EPest) rate, for each crop by year (Thelin and Stone, 2013).

The estimates are from data is collected through surveys of farms and may be high in some cases. However, the estimates provide an overview over decades on how dramatically use has increased.

As a caution, the Midwest Center reviewed data with low estimates of pesticide use on crops and crop fields to avoid overestimation. And not all crops can be sprayed with glyphosate. Therefore, the rate applies only to crops engineered to survive the pesticide This analysis was confirmed as sound with an official at the USGS.