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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5034

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Method for Estimating Annual Atrazine Use for Counties in the Conterminous United States, 1992–2007

By Gail P. Thelin and Wesley W. Stone


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A method was developed to estimate annual atrazine use during 1992 to 2007 on sixteen crops and four agricultural land uses. For each year, atrazine use was estimated for all counties in the conterminous United States (except California) by combining (1) proprietary data from the Doane Marketing Research-Kynetec (DMRK) AgroTrak database on the mass of atrazine applied to agricultural crops, (2) county harvested crop acreage, by county, from the 1992, 1997, 2002, and 2007 Censuses of Agriculture, and (3) annual harvested crop acreage from National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) for non-Census years. DMRK estimates of pesticide use on individual crops were derived from surveys of major field crops and selected specialty crops in multicounty areas referred to as Crop Reporting Districts (CRD). The CRD-level atrazine-use estimates were disaggregated to obtain county-level application rates by dividing the mass (pounds) of pesticides applied to a crop by the acreage of that crop in the CRD to yield a rate per harvested acre. When atrazine-use estimates were not available for a CRD, crop, or year, an estimated rate was developed following a hierarchy of decision rules that checked first for the availability of a crop application rate from surveyed atrazine application rate(s) for adjacent CRDs for a specific year, and second, the rates from surveyed CRDs within for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Production Regions for a specific year or multiple years. The estimation method applied linear interpolation to estimate crop acreage for years when harvested acres for a crop and county were not reported in either the Census of Agriculture or the NASS database, but were reported by these data sources for other years for that crop and county. Data for atrazine use for the counties in California was obtained from farmers’ reports of pesticide use collected and published by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation-Pesticide Use Reporting (DPR–PUR) because these data are more complete than DMRK survey data. National and state annual atrazine-use totals derived by this method were compared with other published pesticide-use estimates and were highly correlated. The method developed is designed to be applicable to other pesticides for which there are similar data; however, for some pesticides that are applied to specialty crops, fewer surveys are usually available to estimate application rates and there are a greater number of years with unreported crop acreage, potentially resulting in greater uncertainty in use estimates.

First posted April 20, 2010

For additional information contact:
Director, California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6000 J Street, Placer Hall
Sacramento, California 95819

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Suggested citation:

Thelin, G.P., and Stone, W.W., 2010, Method for estimating annual atrazine use for counties in the conterminous United States, 1992–2007: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5034, 129 p.





Data Sources

Method for Estimating Atrazine Use

Estimation of Atrazine Crop Application Rates for Unsurveyed CRDs: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Regional EPest Rates

Application of California DPR–PUR Data

Results and Discussion

Application of County Atrazine-Use Data

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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