Numerous no-till attempts were made in the late 1940s but unsuitable equipment and weed control products, still in their relative infancy, thwarted its adoption. The brief history of weed control advancements is a complement piece to “No-Till’s Herbicide History” appearing in the May 2022 No-Till Farmer.
At the end of World War II, Dow releases 2,4-D to control broadleaf weeds, presenting the first real possibility of cultivating crops without tillage.
After 2 years, production of the first commercial no-till planter, the McCormick M-21 (2-rows on 40-inch spacing) ceases due to the method’s inability to control weeds.
The invention of the paraquat in the U.K. leads the Imperial Chemical Co. to initiate research into farming without tillage.
Atrazine is registered in 1958 by Ciba-Geigy for weed control in corn. It will be used extensively in the U.S. by the early 1960s.
Stauffer Chemical Co. patents glyphosate in 1961 as a descaling and metal chelating agent, unaware of its application to its ag division.
Dicamba (first described in 1958 and patent acquired by Versicol Chemical) is approved for use in the U.S.
Banvel herbicide (containing dicamba) is registered by the USDA.
Chevron Chemical releases paraquat in the U.S. for use as a burndown herbicide.
Monsanto's Lasso herbicide is credited with spurring a trend toward reduced-tillage farming.
Monsanto chemist John E. Franz discovers glyphosate's weed-killing properties.
Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate) is seen by attendees of No-Till Farmer’s Hawaii farm tour. The herbicide will dramatically combat weeds in no-till corn.
BASF introduces Basagran to the U.S and no-till soybean expands. Later used in combination with other herbicides, it plays an important role in developing the no-till farming systems in the U.S. and Brazil.
EPA approves Roundup for use in no-till and conventional-tillage systems.
Many selective and non-selective herbicides compatible with no-till are produced between 1980 and 1985. Burndown herbicides experience market expansion.
Within a year of the expiration of its initial patent, Monsanto cuts the price of Roundup. Better equipment, reduce herbicide cost and ag policy encouraging no-till converge leading to the largest increase ever in no-till. By the end of the decade, no-till grows from 6% of U.S. farmland to nearly 20%.
2,4-D is approved for no-till soybeans after a 30-year wait.
Glufosinate herbicide, first introduced in Japan 9 years earlier, is registered for use.
Monsanto introduces Roundup Ready soybeans, spurring greater interest in reduced tillage. Roundup Ready corn is introduced in 1998.
Dicamba is approved for post-emergence on three dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton.
The “Environmental Benefits of Precision Agriculture in the U.S. “ study (AEM, ASA, CropLife and TFI) reports that 15,000 tons of herbicide have been avoided due to adoption of precision ag technologies such as auto guidance, variable rate and section control.
Herbicide use continue to fall. While 10 pounds of herbicide per acre were needed in the early 1960s, farmers are using mere ounces per acre in current no-till programs.