Glyphosate, a tool for conservation practises
Regular deep ploughing to control weeds not only damages the soil structure, it also releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when soil carbon is oxidised. Soil in Europe contains around 75 billion tonnes of carbon, or 7% of the total global carbon budget and approximately 0.6% of the organic carbon content lost to the atmosphere every year in England, France, Austria and Belgium. Scientists estimate that if Europe used only conventional tillage, the carbon dioxide emissions from cultivated soil would double 6. This is without taking into consideration the greenhouse gas emissions released from the fuel and energy consumed by ploughing machinery.
Conservation practices should leave at least 30% of crop residues on the soil surface. Plant residues can act as a protective cover, preserving soil moisture and ground-dwelling organisms (© Uschi Dreiucker / pixelio.de).
Glyphosate in combination with minimal-tillage agriculture has also become a very useful tool for promoting soil protection, with plant residues from natural vegetation or from the previous crop left on the field. The fact that the ground is covered with crop residues (soil conservation practices should leave at least 30% of crop residues on the soil surface) preserves moisture but also encourages the development of a richer soil life, which can improve nutrient recycling. For instance, leaving the soil undisturbed results in a higher number of earthworms and increased levels of organic matter in the long run.
Last update: 21 January 2015