Cultivating Weeds in Australia
Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed by decreasing fuel use by field equipment. The largest contribution to reducing emissions associated with farming is made by the reduction of tillage operations which are made primarily to control weeds. By substituting herbicides for tillage, dramatic reductions in fuel use and emissions occur because one herbicide application substitutes for multiple tillage trips. Tillage equipment is also heavier than herbicide sprayers and needs more energy to pull steel implements through the soil. A row crop cultivator requires four times more diesel fuel per acre than an herbicide sprayer. A recent study in Australia calculated the effects on greenhouse gas emissions…..
“In a wheat fallow system in semi-arid subtropical Queensland, Australia, practicing zero tillage reduced fossil fuel emissions from machinery operation by 2.2 million g CO2/ha over 33 years or 67 kg CO2/ha/year (four to five tillage operations with a chisel plough to 10 cm during fallow each year were replaced by one herbicide spray).”
Authors: Ortiz-Monasterio, I., et al.
Affiliation: CIMMYT, Mexico
Title: Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in the Main Cereal Systems: Rice, Wheat and Maize
Source: Climate Change and Crop Production. CAB International 2010.
A lot can be learned about the benefits of pesticides when key pesticides are no longer available for use. In 2007, the only herbicide effective on broadleaf weeds in artichoke fields was canceled in France. A recent report describes the consequences…
“To illustrate the economic damage caused by the lack of plant protection products for weed control in artichoke production in France, we took the specific case study of a farm in the Brittany region. The direct cost and indirect impact of the implementation of an alternative weed control solution, i.e. mechanical weed control accompanied by a manual hoeing, is summarized.”
“At farm level, the lack of registered plant protection products for weed control of artichoke caused a decrease in the net margin of 1,020 €/ha for a culture of artichoke for 3 years. As in France artichokes are grown on 9,000 ha, at the scale of the total artichoke production sector, the direct loss of profit amounts to slightly less than 10,000,000 €. In the long term, farms may not be economically viable because the net margin is too low (1,979 €/ha for 3 years, or 660 €/ha for one year) to allow profitable production from one year to another. Therefore, some farms may disappear due to the lack of profitability. This will affect employment in production, but also in all the downstream activities (packaging, marketing, shipping…).”
“For example, in northern Brittany, 900 growers produce artichoke as principal crop. Most of these producers employ the equivalent of 2.7 FTE (Full Time Equivalent). The absence of chemical herbicides allowed on artichoke therefore threatens the equivalent of 2,430 FTE in this region, without counting jobs indirectly linked to production. Moreover, a majority of producers performs crop rotation associating artichokes to cauliflowers. The difficulty of growing artichoke crops will affect the production of cauliflower. The entire economy of this vegetable producing area could be compromised.”
Publication: Study on the Establishment of a European Fund for Minor Uses in the Field of Plant Protection Products. June 2011.
Project Leader: ARCADIA International
Arkansas is the leading rice-producing state in the US. The average yield of Arkansas rice has steadily increased over the past twenty years. The introduction of new pesticide products, e.g., an herbicide that selectively removes weedy red rice from commercial rice without harming the crop, has played a major role in this increased yield.
“During the past 20 years, the state-average yields in Arkansas have increased approximately 1780 lb/acre (about 40 bu/acre) or 2 bu/acre/year. This increase can be attributed to improved varieties and improved management, including such things as better herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, improved water management through precision leveling and multiple inlet poly-pipe irrigation, improved fertilizer efficiency, and increased understanding of other practices such as seeding dates and tillage practices.”
Authors: C.E. Wilson, Jr., S.K. Runsick and R. Mazzanti
Affiliation: University of Arkansas at Monticello
Title: Trends in Arkansas Rice Production.
Publication: AAES Research Series 581. B.R. Wells Rice Research Studies 2009.