By Janan Lenzy, NFU Intern
Previously on the Climate Column, we have discussed how troublesome weeds can be for agricultural operations, particularly as the climate continues to change. Although tillage can be an effective method of weed control, there are substantial drawbacks that may dissuade some farmers from implementation. One possible alternative to tillage is the application of herbicides.
Herbicides are a chemical application that are toxic to target vegetation. There are various mixes of these chemicals that can be administered to control weed growth at different life stages and growing seasons. Herbicides are fairly flexible and can be used on a variety of sites or types of land, such as gardens, lawns, and crop fields. When applied correctly, they often successfully control weeds, making them a popular choice on operations of diverse types and sizes. However, misuse of this chemical can cascade into undesired consequences.
Weeds are notoriously persistent and highly adaptable, and therefore often difficult to eradicate. One of the significant risks of using herbicides is the tendency of weeds to develop a resistance towards the product if used too frequently. This exacerbates the seemingly impossible task of stunting their growth. To minimize the occurrence resistance, the University of Wisconsin-Madison advises that users rotate out herbicide mixes and identify the weed species to learn its vulnerabilities.
Another disadvantage of using herbicides is the possibility of harmful nontarget effects. This occurs when neighboring plant and animal species are exposed to herbicides and are killed or contaminated. Pollinator populations and wild plants are generally not targeted species, yet they are sometimes harmed by herbicide use. Agricultural producers have suffered as a result of nontarget effects as well; herbicides can decrease production yields and contaminate crops, which can impose risks to human consumers’ health.
Before applying herbicides on your operation, be sure to understand the all-encompassing application techniques and hazards associated with the product. It is essential to mitigate additional manageable stressors to increase land productivity and health in the midst of growing climate change pressures.
What types of herbicides do you use on your land and what has been the most effective way of applying them? Has herbicidal use resulted in any negative impacts? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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