The application of glyphosate allows for no-tillage farming practices and a minimal use of chemical inputs for long-term control of invasive weeds. Recent innovation in precision farming and fast-growing digital agriculture have great potential to help farmers use glyphosate even more precisely and effectively, thus also reducing the volumes of herbicide used.
On the other hand, in a scenario of farming without glyphosate and without time to invest in and transition to modern digital agriculture, farmers would consider reverting to more traditional farming practices that are heavily dependent on tillage, including all the accompanying downsides.
It is estimated that, in the European Union, 20.5 million hectares of land (2016 Eurostat data) would revert to conventional tillage practices if glyphosate-based products were not available. From an economic point of view, such a shift would lead to increased fuel consumption of +15-44 liters per hectare, corresponding to an estimated increase of CO2 emissions by 1.4-3.8 million tons per year.
To find more information on the environmental impact of tillage in agriculture, please visit our page on sustainable agriculture.
A report published in June 2020 by the French Agricultural and Environmental Research Institute (INRAE) and conducted upon request of the French government, analysed the economic impact that a loss of glyphosate and return to traditional tillage practices would have on French arable crops. The report concludes that farmers currently applying glyphosate and adopting no-till practices would face increased production costs of up to EUR 79.83 per hectare, mostly due to increased fuel consumption and labour requirements. A smaller but still remarkable cost increase would be faced by farmers currently adopting other practices (cost increase ranging between EUR 10 and EUR 25 per hectare).
- “Socio-economic value of glyphosate: A review of EU studies assessing the value of glyphosate to the agriculture industry”; L. Garcia-Perez, Harriet Illman, S. Wynn; 13 May 2020
- INRAE, “Alternatives au glyphosate en grandes cultures – Evaluation économique”