Comparing Generic Versus Name Brand Herbicides

Comparing Generic Versus Name Brand Herbicides

October 27, 2008

Darrel Siekman, Extension Educator
Lowell Sandell, Weed Science Extension Educator

Added profit: Minimum of $5.50/acrea
aBased on $16.00/ac brand name glyphosate versus generic glyphosate.

Use of generic herbicides continues to increase for many agronomic crops. In most situations generic products have the same active ingredient as brand name products and will perform identically; however, differences in the inactive ingredients could affect product performance. Often the labels of generic and proprietary products are the same.

The farm chemical market could be compared to the pharmaceutical market. Before pesticides can be sold, they must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), much as pharmaceutical products must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being sold. Both approvals are based on strict manufacturing guidelines.

Many of us buy aspirin, ibuprofen and other generic drugs to save money. You may do the same with generic herbicides. Just as the FDA assures generic drugs meet their standards, the EPA assures the quality of pesticides. The savings from buying generics can be significant.

In our survey Roundup WeatherMax sold for about $93.00 per gallon while generic glyphosate with a surfactant sold for about $42.00 per gallon. Even with a lower rate of 22 oz rather than 32 oz per acre, the Roundup WeatherMax is $16.00 per acre compared to $10.50 per acre for generic glyphosate. The generic product can create a $5.50 per acre savings or profit.

Price Survey

Herbicide prices are based on responses to an annual UNL survey of pesticide distributors. For more information on prices used in this series of stories, see
  • Prices Used in Developing 2009 Budgets.

Internet sites like provide product price information that can be compared to local prices. Using the Internet and other information sources to research herbicides and compare prices could potentially save you thousands of dollars. Be careful with any Web site until you are convinced it is secure and the sellers have been properly checked and are reputable.

Your local dealers may offer similar deals if you do not expect much service if a problem is encountered. Prices may be based on three levels of service from a lot of service, to some, to about none. None would be similar to that provided by an Internet purchase.

Use the Guide for Weed Management in Nebraska (EC130) or the software “WeedSOFT” ( to compare products, performance and ingredients.

UNL Tests and Compares Generic Pesticides

Are the generic products just as good for mixing and performance? The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has done numerous field trials at Concord, Lincoln, Clay Center, North Platte, Ogallala, and Sidney. They used ghyphosate-tolerant soybeans and glyphosate-tolerant corn.

As a whole, they found few differences among glyphosate brands; however, with difficult to control weed species and dry conditions, some differences may be evident. These differences, however, are not consistent. Species that are easily susceptible to glyphosate exhibitlittle or no difference. Herbicide rate, environmental factors and costs will play a larger role than brand name in product selection. (For further information on these studies, see the 2002 and 2003 North Central Weed Science Society Abstracts 57:81, 58:107, 58:21.)

Also see:

A 2001 soybean trial near Lincoln compared 18 glyphosate products and found that although conditions were very dry before and after herbicide application, efficacy was good with all treatments. Although there are some differences in glyphosate brands within a rate, those differences were not consistent across both the half and full rates of glyphosate at either the 14 or 28 DAT rating. There was no crop injury observed from any treatment.

Postemergence treatments were applied July 3 with a tractor-mounted sprayer at 10 gpa, 3 mph and 30 psi. Air and soil temperatures were 96°F and 95°F, with very dry soil conditions. Relative humidity was 44% with a wind of 4 mph and 30% cloud cover. No rainfall occurred within the first week after application and 0.25 inch fell during the second week. Soybeans were 15 inches high at the sixth trifoliate leaf. Common sunflower height was 17-25 inches with a density of 25 per square meter. Velvetleaf was 12-18 inches tall with a density of 2-5 per square meter. Annualgrass species include yellow and green foxtail and large crabgrass. The grass was 8-12 inches tall with a density of 2-5 per square meter.

Iowa State University researchers had the same results in a comparable study. ISU also discussed the equality of metolachlor-based products. If the differences in active ingredients are considered, the generic products will work fine, according to Bob Hartzler, extension weed specialist, Iowa State University Department of Agronomy.

Generics Represent Savings

Remember, name brand 2,4-D and atrazine are becoming hard to find, so why not take advantage of generic products. In some cases, however, there may be reasons for not using generic products, including: dealer and manufacturer service, ease of mixing (only add one material), quality of product and product confidence. You could try the generic product on a single field before you use it on all your acres.

Savings on generic products do not need to stop at herbicides. The same strategy can be used for tires, fuel, parts, antifreeze, oil, seeds, etc. In these cases a generic brand may not always be available, but there may be a good quality, but less expensive brand. Remember, we do not all drive Cadillacs. There are other brands of transportation.


  1. Generic products are less expensive.
  2. Generic products can work just as well as name brand products.
  3. Check out your generic product before applying or using to be sure it mixes well and doesn’t burn plants, etc.

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