Article by Graeme Sait
The greatest barrier preventing conventional growers from switching to organics is weed management. How does a grower change to hand weeding or mechanical methods when financial viability seems linked to the labour-saving aspect of chemical control? The grower may feel shackled to the spray rig but the supposed benefits of this approach need more evaluation.
The definition of financial viability must be linked to sustainability if we are to consider the longer term profitability of our farming soils. The fact is that many of the most popular herbicides are anything but sustainable and if they are not impacting upon overall profitability now then they most certainly will be in the future!
A major problem with herbicides relates to their effect upon beneficial soil life. The original registration of these chemicals required little, if any, research into their impact upon soil biology. It was almost as if this army of organisms did not play a role in crop production or plant health! However, the conventional ag science community is slowly awakening to the realisation that sustainable agriculture is not possible if we disregard soil biology.