Ploughing or spraying? Protecting Europe’s soil with minimized soil disturbance
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.
The fact that the soil is left largely undisturbed improves the soil structure, facilitating better drainage, improving the water-holding capacity and reducing the extremes of water logging and drought. The Mediterranean region is particularly prone to water erosion because it is subject to long dry periods followed by heavy bursts of intense rainfall. The use of glyphosate for weed control, combined with a reduction in soil cultivation and the use of cover crops, has considerably reduced soil erosion in Mediterranean vineyards and orchards.
Approximately 44% of total arable land in the UK and Germany is now under farming systems with reduced ploughing. Glyphosate plays a very important role here, especially in the coastal and eastern regions. 80% -100% of all crops such as maize and sugar beet are grown using reduced tillage systems and are treated with glyphosate 6.
Last update: 03 December 2014