Farming

Without Herbicides, Food Itself Would Be Impossible*

Or at least about half of corn and soybeans would be impossible

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Scotts

The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has just calculated what would happen to crop yields if herbicides were banned. The short answer: hunger and higher food prices. The WSSA's Weed Loss Committee focused its analysis on corn and soybeans given the importance of those crops in North America. The U.S. ranks number 1 in the world for both corn and soybean production. Both crops are grown about 170 million acres in the U.S. and Canada.

A question for non-farmers: Before herbicides how did farmers control weeds? Plowing aims to bury weeds and weed seeds deeply enough to prevent weed growth and weed seed germination. However, once the crops are in the field, the ancient way to control weeds was arduous hand-hoeing. This kind of old-fashioned backbreaking weed control was one of the reasons that 38 percent of Americans worked on farms in 1900. Farm sizes in those days average only abour 147 acres.

Without modern herbicides, the WSSA study estimated an average yield loss of 52 percent in corn and 49.5 percent in soybean crops amounting to a loss of $43 billion annually in the U.S. and Canada. Delta Farm Press editor Forrest Laws muses if the WSSA study might serve as a "reality check" for non-farmers? "With 98 percent of the population living off the farm, many in this country seem to think if you do away with pesticides and stop planting GMO crops the grocery store shelves would continue to be filled in some miraculous way," writes Laws.

Surely most non-farmers don't think that way, right?

*Adapted from Monsanto's wonderful 1977 anti-chemophobia advertising campaign.

Disclosure: I grew up on a dairy farm in southwestern Virginia near Saltville.

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  1. However, once the crops are in the field, the ancient way to control weeds was arduous hand-hoeing.

    As long as we raise the minimum wage, there will be plenty of illegal aliens to do the hand-hoeing.

    1. “Hand-hoeing” sounds like some kind of masturbation euphemism. Not sure if it’s that abstract, tho.

      1. Pimping ones hand out to other people isn’t exactly masturbation either.

  2. The Nazis we’re working on making useful products like tires and paint from dandelions. They knew that making them from their other natural resource couldn’t last because of rapid depletion.

  3. I miss White Indian.

    1. He’s out there, Warty, gamboling freely ’bout the plain and forest.

      1. gamboling freely ’bout the plain and forest.

        No, he’s not. That was his primary complaint.

        1. He tried to, in New Mexico.

          It . . . did not end well for him.

          1. Got too close to WSMR? Or did his Mom report him missing, sparking an Amber alert?

            1. I think he means he got too close to the Albequerque police.

  4. *Adapted from Monsanto’s wonderful 1977 anti-chemophobia advertising campaign.

    AHA, I knew it! Bailey’s a Montsanto shill!

    /AmSoc

  5. Oh, how ever did those poor Indians survive on corn for thousands of years without herbicides?

    1. Through backbreaking labor as the Ron himself says in the post…

      1. Er, Ron, not the Ron.

      2. Don’t forget very, very, very, very low population densities. And accepting seasonal starvation as a fact of life.

        1. Also, complementarian lifestyles that required women to be perpetually pregnant in order to provide labor for the fields.

        2. And a diet heavy on game and fish, again, to the extent that they could get it.

      3. Oh, that’s gonna definitely stick. I’m calling him The Ron from now on.

    2. Oh, how ever did those poor Indians survive on corn for thousands of years without herbicides?

      Lower taxes.

    1. That’s awesome.

    2. That’s cool… but expensive. You could probably buy a 100-year supply of glyphosate for the cost of buying and maintaining that thing…

    3. It’s a dirt zamboni!

    4. I’m concerned that the stamping mechanism will merely piss weeds off instead of kill them. I’ve finally emerged victorious this spring following a 3 year chemical weapon assault on my lawn weeds. Resilient fuckers, they are.

  6. Disclosure: I grew up on a dairy farm in southwestern Virginia near Saltville.

    I’m triggered. Need safe space.

  7. Without Herbicides, Food Itself Would Be Impossible*

    There was food way before Herbicides.

    1. Really, genius? You might try reading beyond the headline before responding.

  8. However, once the crops are in the field, the ancient way to control weeds was arduous hand-hoeing.

    We could triple our jobs created by outlawing the hoe and forcing people to pull them one at a time.

    1. Only at a cost of reducing world population to 1/3 of what it is today. If we were very very very lucky.

      There has never been a point in the history of the planet when more people where better fed on fewer resources.

      1. Shirley I think you’ve set the record for Most Obvious Sarcasm Missed in an H&R Comment.

      2. But think of what the population reduction would do for climate change.

    2. We could quintuple jobs created if we forced them to use their teeth.

  9. Weed Science Society of America

    Yeah, man… Like… totally. How do I sign up? *burble burble burble*

  10. Ron has obviously just never heard about the amazingness of horticulture which any hippie can tell you produces better crop yields with less energy used. ALL NATURALLY. This is more efficient because it doesn’t use oil. The food can be grown locally and since it’s more labor intensive it will produce more jobs. It’s totally economic.

    1. *Permaculture

    2. Totally – it’s all about the biodiversity. Big Ag doesn’t understand the damage mono-crops are doing and how inefficient they are. We could eliminate pesticides, GMOs, and bring about full employment, if only the free market would let us.

      1. Plus all those manual laborers will have the time and inspiration to think more about societies ills, rather than mentally focusing on the rat race all day. We’ll have a new Renaissance of ideas about how to solve the inequalities and violences that plague our civilization. Harmony is on the horizon, if only we can bring down the Big Ag cabal. #FeelTheBern

    3. In addition, there is this amazing invention which will allow your car to run on water! Totally serious! The oil companies bought the patent and suppressed it so they could keep making money off of gasoline powered cars!!!!

      1. A car that runs on water?

        You mean a boat.

  11. The great Berkeley war over eucalyptus trees in the Berkeley-Oakland hills has spilled over into my neighborhood.

    My nextdoor.com feed is full of people ranting over this conspiracy by UC Berkeley, Monsanto, and private contractors to deforest Tilden Park and accelerate global warming by spraying glyphosate, which they all understand to be the most poisonous substance ever to come into existence.

    One person delicately pointed out that eucalyptus are non-native, toxic to the soil, and are extremely dangerous in a fire, but was shouted down as a Monsanto shill.

    Another mentioned that she used to use bleach to get rid of tree stumps and quite innocently asked if that’s better than glyphosate.

    In the interest of maintaining peace with my dipshit proggy neighbors, I have been resisting the urge to go on there and point out that bleach is an order of magnitude more toxic that glyphosate. And that glyphosate doesn’t even kill plants reliably.

    Just needed to share that – I’ve had it bottled up for a while.

    1. My experience has been that glyphosate kills specific species very reliably. Otherwise, I’d feel sorry for you, but you chose to live in Berkeley.

      1. It kills one weed I want gone very reliably, but it does nothing whatsoever to the ivy.

        And in my defense, I moved away from North Oakland (aka Baja Berkeley) and into Contra Costa, but these people followed me.

  12. This kind of old-fashioned backbreaking weed control was one of the reasons that 38 percent of Americans worked on farms in 1900. Farm sizes in those days average only abour 147 acres.

    Somehow I doubt this bothers the people who are against herbicides.

  13. For whatever my shit opinion is worth, the traditional American farmer goes way overboard in his war on weeds. The evidence is not convincing that it is necessary to so totally eradicate every plant within certain range of the target vegetable being growed. At the same time, the ones that a person really needs to beat back are generally those of sufficient naughtiness that a person is looking at a years long eradication project with many hours of labour unless he can avail himself of some herbicide, much of which is nearly entirely harmless to species we give a fuck for. Fungi, however, I think can be controlled fairly easily without recourse to industrial fungicidal compounds, and it’s the fungicides which tend to be so injurious to untargetted species. The technology of pesticides is pretty advanced at this point; it’s possible to apply it both effectively and safely, if folks aren’t insistent pon being a bunch of ignorant gayholes. I spent considerable time farming and, later, in pesticide specificly. It’s nothing inherently specially dangerous about pesticides, but rather careless ignorance in usage that can lead to dangerous situations (much of it ignorance of basic fucking chemistry).

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