A summer without sweet corn would be like a summer without sunshine, but that could be in our future if atrazine is eliminated as a weed control.
Granted, sweet corn only accounts for about one percent of all the corn produced in the United States, but it is a high value crop for states like Florida and California, with a farm value of close to a billion dollars annually. According to a Weed Science Society of America study, atrazine is the primary mechanism of weed control in all types of corn, used on about two-thirds of the sweet corn fields they studied just here in the Midwest.
Atrazine is already known to play a central role in field corn weed management systems. This study shows that the herbicide is even more important in sweet corn. Loss of atrazine would have serious consequences, especially to growers whose fields are particularly weedy and to growers moving away from soil cultivation. Moreover, other herbicides registered in sweet corn perform better when applied with atrazine. One alternative, mesotrione, is both more expensive and less effective. Subsequent production cost increases would invariably be passed on to consumers, whose demand for sweet corn has made it one of the most popular crops in the United States. Atrazine is a significant component of sweet corn weed management. Presently, economically viable alternatives to replace atrazine are not well developed or demonstrated.
Of course, atrazine has been registered and used in the United States for more than 50 years but ongoing controversy about the herbicide has prompted the EPA to conduct a reassessment which is on-going. If they decide to eliminate it, this could be the last summer we can afford to enjoy sweet corn on the cob, and that is a sad thought.
But, hopefully, that will not happen. So, as you get ready for summer grilling season, here is a website with tips for tasty grilled corn on the cob. Enjoy!