Does glyphosate increase production in farming systems?

I often hear that we won’t be able to feed the world without herbicide use and GM crops. On the other side of the equation, I hear that productivity of GM crops is no better now than before their introduction.  These charts may give some understanding to a complex set of factors.

This is a specific study of US agriculture. I stand to be corrected, here’s my interpretation.

Chart a. In 1992 8% of soybean was ‘Round up ready’ and treated with glyphosate to control weeds. By 2014, 95% was glyphosate treated.  In terms of acres, glyphosate coverage has increased from less than 5 million acres in 1992 to over 80 million in 2014.

Chart b. Soybean production can be affected by a range of climatic factors, pests and disease and as well as cultivar developments.  Chart b shows variability and I really can’t determine if the glyphosate had any effect.  What is does show is that the exponential increase in the use of glyphosate has not resulted in any proportionate increase in yield.

Chart c is interesting as it shows that the rate of application of glyphosate since 1992 has more than doubled, the number applications have increased from 1 to 1.6 and for a few years glyphosate was practically the only herbicide used.  Since 2008, as a percentage of herbicides used it has decreased, but this doesn’t mean less usage.

Chart d reinforces Chart c. Herbicide use since 1992 per acre has doubled and the number of herbicides being used in 2014 is within cooee of 1992, glyphosate is having less effect and herbicide resistant weeds are requiring additional types of chemical treatment to manage.

In summary for the Soybean records in US agriculture demonstrated in these graphs, GM round-up Ready Soybean has resulted in no fewer number of herbicides being used, a doubling the quantity per acre on 75 million more acres with perhaps a 20% increase in average yield.

In 1992 my eldest daughter was 2, in 2014 my youngest daughter was 16.  They do not know life without GM crops and glyphosate exposure in industrial food.  It remains to be seen the consequences of this exponential increase in glyphosate load has on my unborn grandchildren.  Personally, I can’t see the benefits in yield and necessity that the chemical and GM seed manufacturers would have us believe.

Thanks for reading,
Jeremy Winer.

AusEcoSolutions Toxicology Risks in Wetlands

Thermal Weed Control to Remove Toxicology Risks in Wetland Environments.

“With hydrothermal technology added to our kit bag for weed management we need to move away from the low cost “it’s cheap and quick poison” approach. Thermal technology has numerous potential as well as demonstrated economic benefits and removes toxicology risks associated with Roundup and glyphosate products for people (particularly horticultural and conservation workers), flora and fauna.

Adopting fresh no chemical approaches such as hydrothermal weed management serve to support stressed ecosystems to regenerate themselves without residual off target toxicological effects.”

Click here or on the image to download the report.

Hi-Tech Aloe Vera

Take an in-depth look at how we helped Hi-tech Aloe Vera develop a holistic, sustainable weed management plan for their organic farm.

We cover the problems they were facing, the steam weeding set up we used, the plan we developed together and the impact that had on their business.

Background.

Hi-tech Aloe Vera is based in Bundaberg, QLD and, as you can probably guess, they specialise in growing Aloe Vera.

They had a problem with Kikuyu grass continuously growing over their weed mat at the base of their Aloe Vera plants. As they’re an organic farm they used whippersnipping and hand weeding to deal with the weeds, however, this was a costly process. Not only did they cause physical damage the Aloe Vera but it was very time consuming adding to the production costs, they’d have to go weeding with three employees every two weeks!

The Set Up.

Adrian, the owner of Hi-tech Aloe Vera, went all in and purchased the SW900. He used it to run two hand-held applicators or two 40cm Rowtech heads. He also bought the mini-skid and attached the SW900 to the front of his tractor using a fork setup.

He then set up the water tank in a trailer behind the tractor and, using a sureflow electric pump, transferred the water from the tank to the SW900 up front. Adrian created hydraulic arms to mount the Rowtech heads onto his tractor.

You can check out the set up below.

Organic Weed Control Set Up

The Treatment.

For the first treatment, Adrian went through with the handheld applicator heads and steamed the Kikuyu grass that was growing over the weed mat right up to the base of the Aloe Vera.

Steam Hand Application

That first treatment killed off a lot of the grass and then through subsequent treatments the Kikuyu receded all the way back to the grass strips where it first came from.

The rest of the treatments were done using the rowtech heads which reduced the labour from 3 people to 1.

They also got into the routine of running through the plantation every 3-4 weeks (depending on the time of year), doing this they were able to reach speeds of 3-4 km/hour increasing from the initial application speed of 0.5km/hour.

Rowtech Weed Control

Post Note: Hi-tech Aloe Vera changed its operations to import organically grown Aloe Vera from Mexico and the property was then sold. Hi Tech Aloe Vera became solely a manufacturer of Aloe Vera products.

Rowtech Tracking

 

EMRC Training Sessions

On Mid-April 2016 Jeremy Winer, in conjunction with EMRC, held 5 training sessions over 5 days to teach participants how to use the Steamwand Range. The training sessions were attended by close to 40 people who work with weeds in a variety of environments. As you’ll soon see, the training was a success. And as one of our participants put it:

“Good luck trying to use the Steamwand without training. Thorough and Necessary.”

Let’s dive into it shall we?

The Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC) is a progressive and innovative regional local government authority working on behalf of six member councils located in Perth’s eastern suburbs. By partnering with member councils the EMRC facilitates strategies and actions for the benefit and sustainability of Perth’s Eastern Region.

The EMRC recently received two lots of Government grants from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW). One grant was for the purchase of a Steamwand SW700, the second was to put 40 member council operatives through the steam weeding training provided by Jeremy Winer.

EMRC also received another grant from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Office to undertake an alternative weed management trial. The project, named Steaming to Success, will monitor, test and compare the Weedtechnics method of saturated steam and boiling water to other non-chemical weed management strategies.

The Training.

The training sessions were done over 5 days with groups of 6-8 participants each day. The training was also done across a number of locations around Perth to showcase the countless environments in which the Steamwand Range can be safely used. Some environments we visited include environmentally sensitive wetland and creekline areas, small bushland reserves, landscaped parks, gardens and verges.

Jeremy gave an in-depth introduction to the alternative methods of weed control and highlighted

  1. The numerous hidden costs associated with chemical management.
  2. The key steps involved in creating a chemical-free weed management program.
  3. Various strategies one can use to reduce weeding time and increase efficiency.

After this Jeremy covered the operations of the machine and gave everyone a chance to start up and shut it down assisted and unassisted.

After the training we conducted a participant survey, here are the overall results:

How clearly did Jeremy demonstrate the safe use of the machine?  

How clearly did Jeremy answer questions and address concerns? 

With the passage of time since training do you still feel confident to operate the machine without supervision?

What Now?

Do you want to organise training as well? Contact us.

Right now some of the municipal organisations are hiring the Steamwand SW700 from EMRC and the newly trained operators are implementing non-chemical weed management programs. They other EMRC trials will be underway with the start of the WA weed growing season. When we receive some more information about those results we’ll post them here.

Is glyphosate carcinogenic to humans? The WHO says it probably is.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation

It’s in our food, it’s in our water and it’s even been found in mother’s milk – the world’s most widely-used chemical herbicide, glyphosate, has permeated our everyday lives.

That’s why it’s especially troubling that The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organisation, came to the conclusion that glyphosate should now be classified as a carcinogenic substance in Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans), based on “limited evidence” in human experiments and “sufficient evidence” in animal experiments.

Should I really be worrying about ‘probably’?

Yes. ‘Probably’ means it has caused cancer in laboratory animals and that there is enough evidence to surmise that it will probably – not maybe or could, but probably – cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans. The most vulnerable are children, developing babies in uterus, pets and people who use glyphosate products.

So what does this mean for councils, farmers and land care practitioners who continue to use glyphosate for weeding?

This announcement will have an impact on how glyphosate is perceived and dramatically alter the tolerance for its continued use.

While some parties may argue against the validity of the WHO’s re-evaluation of glyphosate, the reality is that either way, it will have an impact on how glyphosate is perceived by Australians and dramatically alter their tolerance for its continued use in their environment.

In fact, we have recently heard from a few councils who have already been contacted by concerned residents, asking the councils to justify their continued use of glyphosate in the face of the WHO’s findings and the availability of so many compelling non-chemical alternatives. Unfortunately, these councils were caught off-guard with no plan in place to move away from the use of chemical herbicides and are scrambling to put together responses to their communities.

The WHO’s announcement will also have a deep impact on the operators tasked with spraying the glyphosate. Until now, they have been repeatedly assured that glyphosate is safe and therefore, many operators do not wear sufficient protective gear when conducting applications. In addition to the health concerns of operators who have been exposed to repeated applications of glyphosate in the past, there will also undoubtedly be a strong call-to-action to enhance the OH&S requirements to protect these workers into the future.

Adding to this increased complexity, the costs associated with administering ‘No Spray’ zones may also increase, with glyphosate likely to be deemed as unsuitable for use in more locations than ever before.

How can councils, farmers and land care practitioners get on the front foot with this issue?

Get educated on the alternatives

Glyphosate (and other chemicals) are not the only answer. There are numerous non-chemical weeding alternatives that you can leverage. Last year, I dedicated time to review large amounts of scientific research on each of these various methods and compiled an Urban Weed Control Methodologies Matrix which weighs the costs and benefits of leveraging these weeding methodologies. Click here to download the outcome of this review and to evaluate your options for yourself.

Develop a strategy

Going chemical-free is hard to do overnight. This is especially so in the municipal situation, with numerous stakeholders, large areas and chemically subsidised budgets. But rather than being discouraged by this, there are a number of steps you can take right now to develop a strategy and move away from chemical weeding:

  1. Determine tolerance levels for weed presence. Called ‘presentation standards’, they define the tolerable level of weed growth in a specific location. The higher the presentation standard, the more inputs will be required to control the weeds.
  2. Identify ‘no toxin’ zones. These are areas that are environmentally or socially sensitive, where the hazards of toxins represent higher risks to the environment, community and decision makers.
  3. Design to reduce weeds. Hard surface finishes, soil and mulch types, watering regimes, fertilisers, plant species selection and planting densities can all be optimised to reduce the level of weed proliferation.
  4. Adopt a variety of weed control methods. There’s no silver bullet to weed control. Having knowledge, skill and a range of methods at your disposal will allow for long-term cost efficiency in weed management.
  5. Record, analyse and review the methods employed and their efficacy in managing weed species over time. Nature will always fill a void. With local knowledge, we will be able to manage more effectively what appears in the void.

 Highlight your savings

Despite the common perception that chemical weed control is cheaper than most non-chemical weed control methods, there are actually a number of significant costs associated with chemical weed control – but unless you look at chemical weeding from a whole-of-life point of view, these costs may be hidden.

So, when developing your non-chemical weed management budget, don’t only consider the upfront costs of capital purchases and higher labour inputs. Instead also take into account the benefits of long-term weed abatement and the indirect cost savings achieved by mitigating the risks associated with chemical application – especially following the WHO’s findings.

A final thought

Reducing public and operator exposure to probable carcinogens is an imperative, while also creating a catalyst for green employment opportunities. At a time when the government are actively promoting green initiatives and job creation, it would seem that the problem has become a solution.

If you are concerned about any of the issues discussed please contact us.

Jeremy Winer has 30 years of practical experience in assisting councils, farmers and businesses implement an integrated, holistic approach to weed management across urban landscapes, recreational parklands and wetlands. He is principal at Weedtechnics, Australia’s only specialist network of companies providing chemical reduction and non-toxic weed control programs to municipalities across Australia. He has developed, patented, manufactured and commercialised the Steamwand method of creating saturated steam for vegetation control, which is one of a variety of recommended modes of weed control in the non-chemical weed control toolbox. 

Steaming Weeds Dead

ABC News gets the scoop on our Saturated Steam Weed Control solution:

A new device has been developed by a weed control company that uses the power of hot water to kill the cells in weeds.

Developer Jeremy Winer, from Weedtechnics, explained how it worked. “As it (the water) comes through, it’s actually boiling at the weed, which is where we want it to be boiling. You’ll see the change in the colour on the weeds – that means all the cells are exploded. Within a day, it will be brown and had it.”

Read the whole article here.