Farm Progress

Comparing generic vs. name-brand pesticides

UNL research shows with the right management, you can save money and get the same level of weed control by using generic pesticides.

February 21, 2017

5 Min Read
NAME BRAND OR GENERIC? Some generic pesticides may cost as little as 8% of their name-brand equivalents to target the same pest. However, in some cases, name-brand products provide better control.

By Robert Klein and Robert Tigner

Over time, increasing numbers of generic pesticides have become available for use on agronomic crops. Much like prescription drugs, generic products have the same active ingredient as the name-brand products and can perform similarly. Often, the labels of generic and proprietary products are the same.

When selecting between a generic and name-brand pesticide, compare their labels, as products with even slightly different active and inactive ingredients can have varying performances. It is important to note that generics may have a lower or different concentration of active ingredients, which should be factored into the cost of use.

Products in the farm chemical market, like the pharmaceutical market, must be approved by governmental regulating agencies. In the case of farm chemicals, the U.S. environmental Protection Agency approves their use. These approvals are based on strict manufacturing guidelines. Generic products, just like branded products, must meet these guidelines to be legally sold and used.

Savings can be small or large depending on which generic and branded pesticides are being compared. For example, the cost of a generic winter wheat rust fungicide is $1.49 per acre vs. $18.60 per acre for the name-brand product.

In this case, the cost of the generic is only 8% of the name brand, a savings of $17,110 for 1,000 acres to treat rust in wheat. However, if you were targeting fusarium head blight (scab) in wheat, the name-brand product provides better control compared to the generic. Therefore, it's recommended to check the ratings in the Guide for Weed, Disease and Insect Management in Nebraska, EC130, to compare products, performance and ingredients.

Let's now consider an instance when the cost and the concentration vary between the generic and the proprietary products. In the 2017 Nebraska Crop Budgets, a popular generic herbicide lists for $12.50 per gallon, while a seemingly similar name-brand product lists for $32 per gallon. The generic is less concentrated and has 3 pounds acid equivalent (ae) per gallon, while the name brand is more concentrated and has 4.5 pounds ae per gallon. The recommended application rates are 32 ounces per acre for the generic and 22 ounces per acre for the name brand. Using these guidelines, the cost per acre is $3.12 for the generic and $5.50 for the name-brand product. The generic herbicide is 56% less expensive than the branded one.

Websites are another source of pesticide information, offering prices that can be compared with local prices. They also provide information to help you research pesticides and compare prices, potentially saving you thousands of dollars. However, be careful with any new or unfamiliar website until you are satisfied it is secure, the sellers are reputable, and you understand their purchase and delivery conditions.

Your local dealers may be willing to negotiate and offer similar deals if you do not expect much more than the product in return. Your local dealer, as a member of your community, may be open to pricing products based on your expectation of service: full service, partial service, no service. No service would be similar to that provided by an internet purchase.

Just as good for weed control?
Are the generic products just as good for mixing and performance? The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has done numerous field trials at various locations throughout Nebraska, including Concord, Lincoln, Clay Center, North Platte, Ogallala and Sidney. These trials were done using glyphosate-tolerant soybeans and corn.

As a whole, few differences were observed among glyphosate brands; however, with difficult-to-control weed species and dry conditions, differences may exist. Weed species that are susceptible to glyphosate exhibited little or no difference in response. Herbicide rate, environmental factors and costs played a larger role than name brand in product selection.

In 200, a soybean trial near Lincoln compared 18 glyphosate products and found that although conditions were very dry before and after herbicide application, efficacy was similar with all treatments. Although there were some differences in glyphosate brands within a rate, those differences were not consistent across both the half and full rates of glyphosate at either 14 or 28 days after treatment (DAT). No crop injury was observed from any treatment.

These treatments were applied July 3 with a tractor-mounted sprayer at a rate of 10 gallons per acre, a speed of 3 miles per hour and a pressure of 30 pounds per square inch. Air temperature was 96 degrees F, and soil temperature was 95 degrees and very dry. Relative humidity was 44% with a 30% cloud cover and a wind of 4 mph. No rainfall was recorded within the first week after application, but in the second week, there was 0.25 inch of rain. At the time of application, soybeans were about 15 inches high at the sixth trifoliate leaf. Weeds such as common sunflower were 17 to 25 inches with approximately 25 plants per square meter, velvetleaf was 12 to 18 inches tall and dispersed at 2 to 5 per square meter, and the annual grasses, which included yellow and green foxtail and large crabgrass, were 8 to 12 inches tall scattered at 2 to 5 per square meter.

Similar experiments at Iowa State University showed the same results. ISU also did work with metolachlor-based products. Bob Hartzler, ISU Extension weed specialist and one of the authors, indicated that if the differences in active ingredients are considered, the generic products performed similarly to the branded ones.

Klein is a cropping systems specialist and Tigner is an educator, both at UNL Extension. This report comes from UNL CropWatch.


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