National Academy of Sciences Credits Herbicides for Adoption of Conservation Measures in the U.S

Tillage vs. Herbicides

Tillage vs. Herbicides

In the early 20th century, American farmland was eroding at an alarming rate. The cause of this erosion was continuous plowing of fields to keep weeds out. When herbicides were introduced to control weeds, farmers could reduce tillage. As a result, there have been major reductions in soil erosion in the United States. The National Academy of Sciences has pointed out that this improvement in conserving the soil would not have occurred had it not been for herbicides…..

“The use of herbicides has reduced the need for growers to cultivate to control weeds and that reduction has led to an increase in the practices associated with conservation tillage. These include no-till, ridge-till, strip-till, and mulch-till—practices that leave at least 30% cover after planting. Leaving cover after planting reduces soil loss due to wind and water erosion up to 90%, and it increases crop residue (organic matter) on the soil surfaces up to 40%. Conservation tillage in the United States has increased from 26.1% of the total acreage in 1990 to 37.2% of the total acreage in 1998. Without herbicides, widespread adoption of conservation tillage would likely not have taken place.”

Author: Committee on the Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture
Affiliation: National Research Council
Title: The future role of pesticides in US agriculture
Source: Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology Commission on Life Sciences. 2000.

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