Term refering to chemicals used in agriculture
Agrochemicals includes broad catagories such as herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
The term pesticide covers insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides.
Sales of chemical controls for weeds and pests was valued at US$ 31.25 billion in 1998
Source: Agrochemicals: Executive Review 1999, published by Allan Woodburn Associates Ltd
Nitrogenous synthetic fertilizer became available after the discovery of the Haber-Bosch Process patented in 1910, in which atmospheric nitrogen gas is converted to nitrates.
Nitrogenous compounds are also needed to make gunpowder and other explosives. Before the invention of the Haber-Bosch Process the West relied on imported nitrates mined in the atacarma desert in Northern Chile for making gunpowder and fertilizer.
The Haber-Bosch Process released Germany from its dependance on imported nitrate for fertilizer and munitions production as so was a significant factor in the run up to the first world war
In 1939 Paul Muller of Geigy Pharmaceutical in Switzerland (later Ciba-Geigy, later Novartis) discovered the effectiveness of DDT as an insecticide he was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology in 1948 for this discovery.
DDT was the first organic pesticide to be widely introduced into farming.
Please note that the term organic refers to organic (or carbon) chemistry and not to the organic food movement. The twin meaning of the term organic is ironic and can be confusing.
Many people consider the modern environmental movement to have started with the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson's classic Silent Spring which aledges DDT to be both harmful to wildlife and to humans. There is still debate over the benefits and pitfalls of DDT which was banned in the USA in 1972.
The widespread use of argrochemicals is a very recent development in the history of agriculture which only really began after the second world war. A few inorganic chemical treatments do predate this such as the Bordeaux mixture dating from 1885.
However intensive farming with agrochemicals is today commenly considered traditional farming where as organic food production is seen as a new idea.
In reality the opposite is true.
There is growing public concern over the use of agrochemicals due to their detrimental effects on ecology such as eutrophication as well as their effect on human health