Atrazine: Defending Wildlife
Atrazine benefits wildlife in many ways.
- Soil runoff is the enemy of aquatic creatures. It buries fish and crustacean habitats. It reduces sunlight, starving plants and algae of light, undermining food chains.
- Sediment also carries ammonium nitrogen, toxic to fish, as well as nitrate and phosphate, which depletes oxygen in water.
Atrazine-enabled “no-till” agriculture helps aquatic wildlife by cutting this soil runoff, reducing sedimentation and toxicity. The result? Cleaner water, healthier rivers and streams.
Atrazine delivers similar benefits on land, where row crops can crowd out birds and other wildlife. In the Midwest today, thanks to atrazine and no-till, scientists are finding high densities and large varieties of birds nesting in fields.
Since no-till farmers make fewer passes over their fields, birds are nesting again, especially species like the Ring-necked Pheasant that raise a brood a year.
Conventional farming buries waste grain and weed seeds. With no-till, fields begin to resemble the original prairie and forest soils rich in organic matter, teaming with insects and other food for birds.
Small mammals, such as deer mice, are also coming back with no-till.
One Iowa agronomist says: “When I was a kid, you would never see wildlife on a farm, but today you do. The wildlife is back.”
Thanks to the intensification of farming by atrazine, farmers have set aside millions of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program.
These buffer zones are often next to streams or woodlands. As a result, wild species that have been scare for years are returningotters, wild turkeys, coyotes, deer, bobcats. In Iowa, prairie flowers that greeted the first settlers are spreading across the landscape.
And summer ponds are loud with songs of bullfrogs.