|Worsbrough cemetery’s bluebells regenerated when coarse vegetation was killed with glyphosate|
This article was written before Black Thursday and in the UK danger of a proposed ban on glyphosate has receded. But for how long?
I have used glyphosate for nye on forty years and know it to be a very safe chemical. It is perhaps the safest pesticide ever invented and this view is supported by a weight of scientific opinion and the experience of worldwide use of millions of tons - or perhaps now a billion - in feeding the world, growing commodities and maintaining safe hard landscapes such as rail track and aircraft runways. You cannot holiday anywhere in the world without seeing it in action easing the workload of local populations. To me its invention was a gift to mankind.
|I think without glyphosate Cathi’s drive might be a little bit weedy|
Recently our rulers considered banning glyphosate to amateurs. It was a close run thing before common sense prevailed. It is still a possibility that it might be banned to amateurs and indeed anyone other than farmers in their fields. I intend today to explain why in my opinion banning glyphosate to amateurs would be foolish in the extreme.
In a future post I will extend my argument to the value of glyphosate in world food and commodity production and protecting the environment. Without it there would be more soil erosion, greater carbon dioxide addition to the atmosphere and as a result of the use of consequent heavy cultivation machinery more diesel pollution.
In another post I intend to discuss how we have come to this sorry state where glyphosate has collected so much baggage that some think it should be stolen.
Six reasons why gardeners should be allowed to use glyphosate
I accept that many gardeners do not want to use herbicides and that one can garden perfectly well without them. Indeed the misuse of glyphosate by the ill informed can ruin a garden! For me its withdrawal would be a disaster. I would still garden but it would be severely restricted. My contribution today argues that many gardens would be diminished without glyphosate and to ban it as public policy would lead to many unthought through expensive, detrimental and dangerous consequences.
|This peaceful scene in Worsbrough cemetery was once covered with six foot brambles|
Efficient perennial weed control
New gardens and allotments are frequently overgrown with weeds such as couch, ground elder and mares tail. So too are old churchyards and numerous byways and public places. Without glyphosate it takes much effort and skill to eliminate perennial weed. Many just give up and areas remain overgrown. This includes disturbed natural landscapes where there are strong stands of unwanted vegetation such as Japanese knotweed.
Some gardeners never succeed in eliminating perennial weed and its removal remains as an ever continuing chore. Endless hours are invested in pulling out weeds when time would be better spent enriching the garden.
Good gardeners are constantly frustrated when perennial weed comes in from dirty neighbours across fence lines and through hedges. This might seem trivial but can be a nightmare and costly to the old or infirm. It is easily prevented by a quick spray along such boundaries. Mechanical weed control often requires energy and strength and without glyphosate many gardens would become overgrown.
|Without spraying how would I control weeds in my gravel gardens and other mulched places? It would not be my style to underlay plastic which anyway is not good for wildlife|
It's good for the soil
I include here preservation of soil organic matter, microorganisms and worms. For many gardeners the alternative to glyphosate is digging out weeds and soil cultivation. Regular cultivation oxidises soil organic matter away to release carbon dioxide and water. The worst scenario of all is when the ignorant garden public - and lets face it most people are not gardeners and at best only have a passing interest - cut out large weeds, precious soil still attached, and dump it into the wheelie bin. Weed control becomes a one way journey of ever diminishing soil fertility.
Contrast this with a garden overgrown with perennial weed which is eliminated by spraying with glyphosate. All the organic and nutrient content of the weed is cycled directly into the soil. No back breaking work destroying soil structure and removing its substance. No dirty bonfires burning un-compostable roots and rhizomes.
Growing healthy plants
It may seem strange that a herbicide that is designed to kill vegetation, when properly used helps grow healthy plants. Many of the benefits come from low till soil management made easy. There are too many advantages of no dig to cover today but things like a plants’ water relations, soil structure, high natural organic matter, root depth, mycorrhiza and nutrient uptake.
Although minimum cultivation is by no means the only way that one can grow healthy plants that are less susceptible or more resistant to pest and disease its benefits to plant health are very significant.
Where the benefits of minimum cultivation is particularly pertinent to amateurs is to prevent their propensity to dig over borders and frequently stir soil. The most obvious damage is chopping and killing plant roots. In actual fact this is not obvious to the ignorant and when their plants are sick or die as a result of damage by digging it is regarded as providence.
Loosened soil by unnecessary cultivation is liable to be damaged when walked on when wet. Apart from wet weather keeping the gardener imbibing sugar in front of the television, loss of soil structure and weeds taking over is a further turn of the screw. Those of us who use glyphosate have greater access to our gardens - and are healthier for the exercise!
Mechanical soil cultivation is a bit of a blunder-bus. Where chemical weed control in the garden is done by a good gardener, desirable plants self seed and thousands of bulbs are able to naturalise.
Cost to the environment and the public purse
The consequential disposal costs of the inevitable increase of discarded vegetation to municipal composting and worse, going to environmentally damaging landfill will not be insignificant. Much municipal composting is contracted out to cowboys, transport costs are high and often doubtful product needs to be disposed of.
It is ironic that more organic matter going into municipal compost will recycle lawn weedkillers and general pollutants direct into gardeners’ potting composts.
Costs of weed control on roads, pavements, municipal hard surfaces and parkland will all be increased. Worse, failure to control unwanted vegetation will lead to things unsightly, dangerous slippery surfaces, root damage to hard surfaces and dangerous obstruction of vision on roads.
Alternative chemical controls are worse
Although horticultural chemicals available to amateur gardeners are very safe none are safer than glyphosate. Their use will increase. Apart from the fact that popular ‘contact weed killers’ are next to useless against perennial weeds, most weed killers have severe defects when inappropriately used.
For example application of sodium chlorate is a crude caricature of responsible weed control when you not only poison your own garden but also those of your neighbours.
Although granular diquat retail formulations are safe to amateurs, professional liquid concentrates are registered poisons. People die every year when such chemical is ingested.
If you think some chemical controls are bad think of the horrors of weed burners! No good against perennials, they are a fire hazard, energy intensive, inefficient and polluting.
Accidents and deaths due to machinery
Many gardeners who do not control their vegetation by herbicide application use strimmers instead. Others tidy their gardens by rotavation. All manner of heavy and sharp tools are used to extract and cut unwanted vegetation. Most weekends emergency wards treat accidents, some very serious, caused by tools and machinery. Without glyphosate there will be more.
I am not aware of anyone attending Accident and Emergency ever suffering from glyphosate poisoning, glyphosate allergic reaction or glyphosate burn. Remarkable in a country of millions! Such conditions due to glyphosate hardly exist. On the other hand there are annually thousands of accidents with domestic chemicals.
In contrast to glyphosate; illness, sore eyes and poisoning due to natural plant toxins are frequent.
There will be even more if there is no glyphosate to control poisonous weeds.
Already gardeners are asking me how to get glyphosate to squirrel away!
|You should have seen the horseradish, nettles, brambles and mares tail that preceded this|
|The 1950s school yard, now garden to Bolton Percy Parish Room would look very different|
Under the trees there was five foot high ground elder
|I maintain Seaton Ross village plot in two hours a month - thanks to glyphosate|
My earliest post making the case for glyphosate
Change in regulations relating to professional product