Stevia First Corp., an agricultural biotechnology company based in California’s Central Valley growing region and focused on the industrial scale production of stevia, advised that the results from the 2014 growing season include significant advancements in the area of herbicide use in Stevia leaf production and continued momentum towards increasing U.S. production.

During the 2014 growing season, the company supported the USDA IR-4 program implementing Stevia crop safety trials located at several sites that included a variety of important herbicides commonly used in the western United States. These trials are critically important to increasing North American Stevia leaf production based on conventional practices. Conventional growers will use herbicides during Stevia leaf production and the favorable IR-4 trials with plots in California and Oregon exhibited no visible herbicide injury, and fresh leaf mass did not differ between untreated and treated plots.

“The IR-4 program results follow the excellent 2014 crop performance observed in our organic fields and help strengthen our cost assessments. When Stevia is effectively mechanized and grown perennially, farmers can quickly recoup establishment costs and become profitable over multiple years of production,” states SF Corp. Agronomist Jeremiah Mann.

Increased pressure from governments for sugar reduction is creating additional incentives and driving consumer awareness for Stevia. A new report issued by the U.S. government’s top nutrition advisory panel determined that Americans are overconsuming sugar-sweetened drinks and that the lawmakers should consider the use of tax and economic policies to reduce citizens’ intake of such beverages. Campaigners against sugary drinks have opened a new front in California with a proposal to label the drinks with warnings about obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.