Increasing Weed Resistance to Glyphosate

25 May

Humans continue to think that they can outsmart nature. Guess what… it hasn’t happened yet and I  don’t think it will ever happen. We started using glyphosates, or broad spectrum herbicides, to prevent weeds from growing in our gardens and farms. According to the Pesticide Market Estimates, in the US, 5-8 million pounds are used every year on lawns and yards and 85-90 million pounds are used annually in US agriculture. According to a NGO sponsored study the amount of glyphosates used on soybean, cotton and corn crops saw a 15 fold increase in the amount of glyphosates applied from 1994 to 2005.  This increase was attributed to the production and marketing of “Roundup Ready.” Roundup Ready is for no-till crops. Tilling crops reduces the number weeds without herbicides. Roundup Ready promises to reduce costs and increase yields, therefore increasing the profit margin for farmers.

However as the amount of Roundup Ready applied to crops has increased the number of “superweeds” has also increased. Superweeds are weeds that are “immune” (not affected) by Roundup Ready.  These weeds are currently found in 2.4 million acres of land in the United States alone. Examples of these crops include pigweed in Missouri.

As superweeds become more prevalent farmers have switched to more toxic chemicals to rid their fields of weeds. One example is 2,4-D. The amount of 2,4-D applied to soybeans more than doubled from 2002 to 2006. It was a component of the Vietnam War defoliant, Agent Orange.

Roundup is not a carcinogenic. It is widely agreed that alone Roundup is not a threat for humans. However,  the EU classifies Roundup as R51/53 Toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term adverse affects in the aquatice environment. Roundup gets washed away and enters waterways as runoff.

Another common herbicide that has been adapted, since Roundup Ready is less affective is Atrazine. The use of this chemical is linked to the decline in frog populations around the world. The irony is that a single frog can consume 10,000 garden/farm pests in a single growing season.

Frogs are free, I’d like to see Roundup beat that price.

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Posted by on May 25, 2009 in Sustainable Agriculture


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