Soil is a non-renewable resource that has for long time been degraded by unsustainable practices such as mechanical weed management.

The tailored and localized safe application of glyphosate-based herbicides, in accordance with the label instructions, where weeds occur and compete with planted crops is part of the Integrated Weed Management practices that enable the adherence to the principles of conservation agriculture and a tillage reduction.

To use the words of a report published by Eurostat in August 2020, “Tillage practices refer to the soil treatment of arable land carried out between the harvest and the following sowing/cultivation operation. Intensive ploughing and harrowing can have negative environmental impacts, like pesticide and nutrient runoff, soil erosion, soil compaction and loss of organic matters. In order to prevent erosion and degradation and to preserve soil biodiversity, it is important to reduce soil disturbance through reduced or no tillage.”

Should the use of glyphosate be excluded from farmers’ toolbox for weed control, the area cultivated in Europe in accordance to conservation agriculture could revert to tillage practices. According to Eurostat, in the EU27 in 2016 at least 23.2% of the total EU arable land was cultivated with reduced or no tillage. In practical terms, this would mean that for 20.5 million hectares the return to tillage and to frequent operations on the land with tractors would cause:

  • An increase in fuel consumption of 15-44 l/ha
  • An increase in CO2 emissions (due to the tractors) of 1-2.7 million tons per year
  • An increase in CO2 emissions due to carbon leakage from the soil of 57 million tons per year.

 

(last update: September 2020)

References:

  1. Eurostat, “Agri-environmental indicator – tillage practices”
  2. The World Bank Data, “Arable land (hectares) – European Union”