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Herbicide guarantees: Here to stay?
by Bob Hartzler
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October 29, 1997 --  One of the more controversial aspects of herbicide marketing is the use of performance guarantees. These marketing strategies essentially state that if a grower uses a product according to label, the herbicide will control all weeds listed on the label. In situations where effective control is not obtained, the manufacturer typically will pay for the cost of respraying the field to control the escaped weeds.

Shell is frequently blamed for starting the guarantee business back in the mid-80's with their marketing of Bladex. In recent years, the finger is frequently pointed at DuPont for carrying on the tradition of guarantees; however, almost all herbicide manufacturers have gotten into the guarantee business in one way or another. I recently came across the following advertisement in a 1971 issue of Weeds Today (a now defunct magazine published by the Weed Science Society of America) promoting a guarantee program for Treflan, indicating that these programs date back way prior to the Bladex days.

At first glance people might wonder what is wrong with guaranteed performance - almost everything else we purchase carries this type of consumer protection. In my view, the worst aspect of guarantees is that they relieve growers of much of the responsibility for weed management. Although modern herbicides are wonderful tools, they still are highly variable in performance due to the great variability in the environment. In the absence of guarantees, growers probably would be more likely to supplement herbicides with non-chemical tactics, rather than depend on the chemical company to bail them out of problems. Herbicide guarantees have also led to unrealistic expectations for herbicide performance.

Although I don't like the concept of herbicide guarantees, I don't see how this marketing strategy can be stopped in a free market economy. Since it is unlikely that herbicide manufacturers will get together and agree to stop this tactic, the only means of eliminating guarantees is through regulation. I doubt if there are many people in the agriculture industry who would welcome more regulation of pesticide use.


Prepared by Bob Hartzler, extension weed management specialist, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

For more information contact:
ISU Extension Agronomy
2104 Agronomy Hall
Ames, Iowa 50011-1010
Voice: (515) 294-1923
Fax: (515) 294-9985
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Common chemical and trade names are used in this publication. The use of trade names is for clarity by the reader. Inclusion of a trade name does not imply endorsement of that particular brand of herbicide and exclusion does not imply nonapproval.