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Herbicide History, Part II: No-Till Rallies on Roundup

No-till’s greatest growth came with the discovery of glyphosate as a weedkiller, and growers started to ‘park the plow.’

Editor’s Note: In “No-Till’s Herbicide History, Part I”, we examined the early herbicides -- 2, 4-D, atrazine and paraquat -- that helped farmers looking to give the fledgling no-till practice a try. Part II focused on the remarkable fortunes for no-tillage that occurred when glyphosate was released as Roundup in 1976.

Glyphosate (or Roundup) brought to market by Monsanto in the mid 1970s and now owned by Bayer) is a virtually ideal herbicide, says international weed authority Dr. Stephen Powles and a “once in 100-years breakthrough.” 

The Australian, who has presented at the National No-Tillage Conference, adds that glyphosate “is as important for reliable global food production as penicillin is for battling disease.”

Farmers on the 1974 and 1975 Hawaii trips run by No-Till Farmer saw the new herbicide in research plots. Approved to much anticipation in 1976, farmers suddenly had access to a product that promised to eradicate hundreds of annual and perennial weeds. Soon, troublesome weeds would no longer be a defensible excuse for plowing.

Roundup Was Different...

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In 1970, most farmers believed they had no choice but to use herbicides and tilling to control weeds. At the time, most herbicides were pre-emergent, meaning they created a chemical barrier on the surface of a field and killed weeds when they sprouted through this barrier and came into contact5 with the herbicide. To be effective, pre-emergent herbicides had to spread when they were applied to fields, ensuring a consistent, even barrier against sprouting weeds. They also needed to…

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Mlessiter

Mike Lessiter

A second-generation ag journalist, Mike Lessiter joined the family business in 2003 after 12 years in Chicago as editor/publisher of several manufacturing titles. He has been Editor/Publisher of Farm Equipment since its acquisition in 2004, and has served in several capacities with the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. and Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers. In 2007, he was named president of Lessiter Publications Inc. (now Lessiter Media Inc.). Contact: mlessiter@lessitermedia.com

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