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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.
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…