Over the past 30 years, glyphosate has become the most important herbicide in global agriculture. For farmers, glyphosate herbicides provide simple, flexible and cost-effective weed control as glyphosate helps to remove perennial weeds for several years. At the same time, glyphosate is a herbicide that has a long history of safe use.
Biodiversity is the variability evident among living organisms. As the world’s population grows and demand for food, water, land and energy increases, the preservation of biodiversity poses a major societal challenge. Furthermore, the consequences of climate change and the decline of certain species and their respective habitats is diminishing the ability of ecosystems to adapt to these changes. The use of glyphosate contributes to soil conservation and to reducing the footprint of agriculture on ecosystems through the facilitation of no-till practices and allowing cover crops to grow which avoids bare soils and provides season-long living roots.
Glyphosate has contributed in several ways to change farming practices since it was introduced. By chemically controlling a broad spectrum of weeds and their entire root systems, glyphosate has eliminated or reduced the need for ploughing the soils. These reduced tillage practises allow farmers to plant crop seeds directly into stubble fields.
Glyphosate herbicide products offer a number of benefits to farmers which have contributed to their widespread use within Europe. For example, applying glyphosate before the new crop is planted generally brings up to 30% higher harvests for many of Europe’s major crops.
Glyphosate plays an important role in European crop production. It provides many benefits to farmers and facilitates sustainable agronomic practices such as conservation tillage. There has been growing opposition to the use of glyphosate despite its history of safe use for more than 40 years. But, what would be the cost of losing this herbicide to farmers and consumers?
To protect soil from erosion and compaction, but also to reduce production costs, some farmers are finding alternatives to ploughing and adopting practices that are enabled by the availability of glyphosate. The treatment of stubble fields with glyphosate herbicides has proved extremely effective so that farmers are able to reduce ploughing or forgo it altogether. Instead, they either sow beneath a mulch of plant residues (mulch-sowing) or directly into stubble fields. The no-tillage practises even allow planting into a vegetative cover crop without any prior cultivation (no-tillage). Another reason why these practices in combination with glyphosate have become increasingly popular in Europe is because they enable farmers to significantly reduce production costs and the time required to prepare the soil.