INTO THE DEEP. Many no-tillers like to plant green into tall cereal rye or other cover crops in spring to maximize biomass production. But if glyphosate was banned it could make it harder for growers to find other options to make their planting system work.

Tips for Terminating Cover Crops Without Glyphosate

With the popular weed killer in legal straits in the U.S., no-tillers say they’d turn to other chemicals, rollers or other options. But most won’t give up on cover crops.

Glyphosate has been invaluable to no-tillers in North America and overseas as an inexpensive, effective tool for not only killing weeds but also terminating cover crops ahead of or after planting.

But a California jury’s decision that exposure to glyphosate was responsible for a groundskeeper’s cancer could have a far-reaching impact on agriculture if governments decide to severely restrict or ban the chemical.

Monsanto Co. is still fighting thousands of lawsuits by consumers claiming glyphosate causes cancer, and suppliers and even farmers are beginning to feel pressure from consumer groups about carrying or using products with the chemical.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) first classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015. Two years later, the EPA released a risk assessment classifying glyphosate as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”



  • Without glyphosate or a climate cold enough for winterkill, winter annuals like rye or wheat will require careful management.
  • 1-2 pints an acre of 2,4-D and a nonionic surfactant can terminate smaller annual broadleaves like brassicas economically.
  • Paraquat is an option but it’s a contact herbicide and could struggle to completely terminate dense plant canopies.

A majority of regulators around the world have since sided with EPA, including Australia and New Zealand. European Union regulators voted to re-license glyphosate this year, but critics say the decision was based on plagiarized text from a Monsanto report.

In November 2017 French president Emmanuel Macron rejected a European Commission decision to reapprove the use of glyphosate…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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