Fri 31 Aug 2018

Glyphosate discussion and links

GH Grahame Hunter Public Seen by 44

As well as a forum for discussion, an extra ambition for this thread is to gather in one place links and references and information of all sorts about Glyphosate with especial attention to its place in a no-till system. Any member with an academic bent is encouraged to gather and post here reading lists for interested members who wish to immerse themselves in the topic.

what it is. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is an organophosphorus compound, specifically a phosphonate. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It was discovered to be an herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970. Monsanto brought it to market for agricultural use in 1974 under the trade name Roundup, and Monsanto's last commercially relevant United States patent expired in 2000.


Grahame Hunter Fri 31 Aug 2018

To start the debate, I am here re-posting a link from Harriet.
I am afraid __ the report is 84 pages long__, but packed with interesting information. For those with limited time, I found pages 13-24 most relevant.

She wrote

.. I just came across a recent report by PAN on alternatives to herbicides, focusing on alternatives to glyphosate, that I thought could be useful in the ongoing discussions: link to the report



Grahame Hunter Fri 31 Aug 2018

& Rosy Benson then posted a response from a farmer-friend which seems relevant here..(para-phrased here) @rosybenson
I think there are a lot of sound management decisions which could be positively implemented that would have great (er) impacts on soil and ecosystem function than a more negative focus on the potentially detrimental effects of glyphosate. Habitat creation in buffer strips, cover cropping, inter-cropping, use of organic fertiliser (compost etc.) all have massive benefits for earthworms, soil microorganisms, plant resilience, pollinators & other beneficial. Moreover my implementation of these measures hasn’t increased my use of glyphosate, but it has certainly been key tool in their implementation within my system. There is a danger that a ban on glyphos would actually inhibit a roll out of these principles ..


Steven Jacobs Thu 27 Sep 2018

I won't be able to attend the gathering on 30 September. I have written up some thoughts on glyphosate and food production. I hope this is taken as part of a constructive debate.
Cheers, Steven


Christine Lewis Sat 29 Sep 2018

Steven, many thanks for posting this information - it will be really helpful as we consider these all these complex matters.


Tony Allan Fri 28 Sep 2018

Thank you Grahame et al for developing the debate on glyphosate. Tony (Allan)


Steven Jacobs Sat 29 Sep 2018

And to follow on from my previous post and document I want to add a piece I've written for the most recent OF&G newsletter which I feel is relevant to discussion on the nature of food production when looking at and comparing different systems. Again, this is intended to help inform a constructive debate.
Cheers, Steven


John Cherry Sun 7 Oct 2018

Thanks for these postings, Steven. There is an awful lot that we don't know.

Our position here is not to try to do the organic sector down, but rather to find a better way for the vast majority of broad-acre farmers to farm 'conventionally', by cutting inputs of artificial fertiliser and sprays etc, whilst improving their soils and producing better food. This is what Groundswell is all about. I thought I'd explained at the beginning of the project that we are a no-till farm and at the moment that involves using small amounts of glyphosate pre- or peri-drilling. I'll be delighted when we find a better way to do this, but we haven't found that way yet.


Steven Jacobs Mon 8 Oct 2018

Hi John, yes I must make it clear that when I wrote about organic and CA in the '2019 Crop; the debate what to plant and when' thread I was not referring to you...
-- I contest an argument put in this thread suggesting that Conservation Agriculture is the kinder system for the biota on the farm --
And I did also write this...
-- John and Paul are practicing what is clearly a successful system for them at Weston Farms. I would like to encourage more discussion around rotations and available markets so we can better understand how John's system works and where the crops usually go.
When all this began I had thought that we would grow a crop, it would go to John's usual markets and then we would discuss what to do with any ‘profit’ and to, hopefully, reinvest to help develop the field in the Ourfield project --
I work quite closely with Andy Forbes on a number of projects and I agree his approach, which to my mind is yours too which is that we are all trying to go for a balanced strategy, trying to increase growth of crops for more than simply yield. And what is vitally important is reconnecting people to their food and food producers to those people.
I also agree with you that we should crack on, get some seed in the soil and aim for a reasonable crop under the Weston Farms management.


andrea Sun 7 Oct 2018

I wonder how much research the team has conducted on robotics. Here is an article about a French company: https://www.letemps.ch/economie/ecorobotix-lancera-bientot-robots-desherbeurs-marche They claim one can reduce the amount of herbicide by 90-95%.


Grahame Hunter Tue 9 Oct 2018

well it looks fascinating. Pity there are no pictures, but the idea "Mus par l’énergie solaire, les robots d’Ecorobotix ont pour mission de désherber des champs entiers de manière totalement autonome. " is pretty cool.


andrea Thu 14 Feb 2019

"Overall, in accordance with evidence from experimental animal and mechanistic studies, our current meta-analysis of human epidemiological studies suggests a compelling link between exposures to Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and increased risk for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma." https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1383574218300887


Tony Allan Fri 15 Feb 2019

Dear Andrea
Very many thanks for drawing attention to the cancer and to the microbiological issues in relation to glyphosate. I am trying to attach a reply. The attachments seems to be too big for Loomia so I shall send my comments by email TonyA


Karl Schneider Fri 15 Feb 2019

You might like to read the piece about this latest research on the safety of glyphosate in tomorrow's Farmers Weekly, available on the website here: https://www.fwi.co.uk/arable/crop-management/glyphosate-exposure-increases-cancer-risk-up-to-41-study-reports


John Cherry Sun 17 Feb 2019

Our old sprayer driver died of Lymphoma, I don't know if Hodgkin was involved or not, but it was a nasty way to go. He was adamant it was nothing to do with sprays, but he'd been spraying for a good thirty years and the health and safety protocols were pretty basic when he started and chemicals were less understood. Most of what we used then has since been banned. If damage was done, it's more likely it was sheep dip or something hideous from way back when.

We only use glyphosate to clean the ground ready for the new crop (as I've said above). Joanna went to a talk at one of the Conferences we went to in the USA before Christmas, which was all about how awful glyphosate was. She came out and told me we have to stop using it. Just then a world renowned microbiologist came round the corner, so we asked her what she thought. She told us that what we were doing was way better for the environment and the soil than cultivating. Coupled with that, the healthier your soil, the quicker it can process and deactivate glyphosate, so it won't leach out. I know we only hear what we want to hear, but that cheered me up. The real problem with glyphosate is that it is used many times a year on GM crops abroad, so that residues will appear in the food produced and in runoff from the soil.

That said, we are keen to find an alternative, as it will be banned one day. We will still wish to avoid cultivations...



John Cherry Sun 17 Feb 2019

Thanks Karl. Interesting


Tony Allan Mon 18 Feb 2019

Dear John
Thank you for your response to Karl's message.
Best TonyA


Steven Jacobs Mon 18 Feb 2019

Thanks Andrea and Karl and John for your comments.
I think its a useful discussion, both here and in the wider media environment. And its a discussion that seems to be maturing. Where previously many articles have been more one-sided it now appears to be a more balanced perspective, as Karl’s link to some extent goes to show.

The use of any tool comes with risks of unintended consequences. I believe that the use of heavy ploughing and heavy tractors is anthema to sustainable food production. And so too is heavy and widespread use of chemical compounds especially without due care and attention. Worth noting that there are issues with products such as those using glyphosate not only with the glyphosate itself but the other ingredients too, the adjuvants or wetters for instance.

And all these tools impact on the environment we all depend upon for our food. And that environment, the soil, the air and the water, indeed the entire biosphere that nurtures us is an area we still are struggling to understand and still working out how better to observe and to measure to more fully comprehend key biotic interactions.

The key word for me, is relationships. Our soils are host to a plethora of living organisms that have long established relationships with minerals and vegetative material and with each other and the health of these soils is reliant on those relationships coexisting in a mutually beneficial way.
Some have a job to do that they cannot achieve until other organisms perform their functions and so on. Its the same with the microbiome in our guts. And one can widen the perspective to human relations too.

Surely the issue is not simply whether a set of tools equals another on the day. We must also ask how much can be done during the season, at a certain place, in order to produce food and to nourish not just the populace but the producer too. So that they can repeat the process at least annually.

And so the farmer sends the produce to market. And the price that food can be sold for is fundamental to the array of tools a farmer will be able and willing to purchase and to use.

Just wanted to throw that in there. The path to understanding agro-economics is not perhaps only within the domain of smallholders on one side and multi-nationals on another.
We all eat and drink daily and what we choose to stick in our bodies and how much we’re prepared to pay for those comestibles has enormous impact on how they are produced and how they are produced can affect our purchasing decisons, when we choose to question such as origin and quality.

Of course things are further complicated by the motivations of private enterprise. And there the plot thickens.

As a footnote I want to add a few personal words. I've been working for and with farmers for quite a long time. John Cherry is not only one of the most caring farmers I have met he is also one of the most engaging.
John, and his family, have opened their door to all of us and I congratulate them for doing so and for us in being so curious.
Clearly for many of us lifting a packet of food off a shelf and then parting with some hard-earned cash is not a wholly satisfying transaction, and barely whets the appetite.
- Cheers, Steven


Tony Allan Tue 19 Feb 2019

Dear Steven
Thank you for your wonderful and immensely readable comments on where we are. What you say about the privilege of relating to the Cherry projects is especially apt.

Just to add a couple of thoughts. You identify the very numerous complex relationships that need to be in good shape if we are to have a safe and sustainable food system.

On the science side there are a number of things happening that are new in the past 5 o 10 years. The first is a revolution in microbiological sciences in relation to soil and human health. The second is the new ways that it is possible to capture, handle and apply data for farm and environmental management.

One wishes there could be a similar revolution in the way the too politicised food system works. This last is the area where I try to contribute.

Thank you again for your very important and very timely comments. TonyA


Steven Jacobs Wed 20 Feb 2019

Thank you Tony, I am grateful for your words.