Crop Protection & Climate Change
Modern crop production in the United States has made significant progress toward reducing its environmental footprint over the past several decades. One way in which this has been achieved is through the use of herbicides, which remove and prevent the growth of weeds. Herbicide usage allows for conservation tillage, which conserves both labor and fuel resources. This has a positive impact on the environment by reducing soil erosion, increasing organic matter in soils, and improving water quality - all while using less energy.
Before the development of herbicides, farmers had to till fields far more often, using heavy cultivators. This meant high fuel consumption and carbon output as the result of running the tilling machinery, and also impacted the environment in other ways, including the acceleration of soil erosion.
- USDA data shows that the average crop acre receiving any tillage erodes at a rate of 3 tons higher than an acre where weeds are controlled by herbicides instead of by tillage.
- With 60 million American farm acres in no-till, the reduction in erosion due to herbicide use is at least 360 billion pounds/year.
- A single herbicide application substitutes for two cultivation trips, which would require four times the fuel of an herbicide application.
- While reducing the need for fuel has a direct result on climate and the environment, reducing tillage also results in less carbon output.
- Each time land is tilled, soil releases carbon into the atmosphere. By using herbicides, farmers can till less or not at all, resulting in less carbon being released, which mitigates environmental effects