Carbon Footprint of Organic Weed Control Much Higher than Use of Herbicides

Cultivating Grape Vineyard

Cultivating Grape Vineyard

Farmers have a choice for managing weeds. They can apply herbicides or use cultivation to remove weeds. It takes 2-3 cultivation trips to equal the effectiveness of a single herbicide treatment. As a result, organic farmers, who cannot use herbicides, release more carbon to the atmosphere than farmers who use herbicides.

“When it comes to farming, Monterey County winegrape grower Steve McIntyre believes in using the best management practices available. Some are conventional and some are organic. Bottom line: they’re sustainable.

McIntyre, whose office is in Soledad, farms about 800 acres of winegrapes in the county, which is fast becoming one of the state’s premier winegrape growing regions.

“To me, farming organically or biodynamically is like farming in a box. There are too many rules if you don’t have the opportunity to use the latest and best science to lower your carbon footprint.”

McIntyre points to weed control to illustrate his point of where organic farming has its limitations.

“When you cultivate the weeds in the vineyard, new weeds germinate and come roaring back fairly quickly, as opposed to using a good herbicide, which results in the weeds coming back much slower.

“If you cultivate you have to make two or three trips through the vineyard, as opposed to one trip with a sprayer,” he continued. So with conventional farming, you have less equipment, less air pollution, fewer natural resources to build the equipment and power the equipment.

“If you look at weed control with a carbon calculator, there is a huge difference,” he said. “If you look at organic weed control, the carbon footprint for that is two or three times greater than the carbon footprint of a good herbicide.”

Author: Adler, S.
Affiliation: Reporter.
Title: Winegrape grower approaches farming like evolving science.
Source: Ag Alert. April 15, 2009.

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