UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Farmers using no-till production — in which soil never or rarely is plowed or disturbed — can reduce herbicide use and still maintain crop yields by implementing integrated weed-management methods, according to a new study conducted by Penn State researchers.
While no-till agriculture can conserve soil and energy, it relies primarily on herbicides for weed control and to terminate cover crops and perennial crops, noted the study's lead author, Heather Karsten, associate professor of crop production/ecology. When farmers are no longer using tillage to disrupt weed growth, they typically use more herbicides to control weeds.
“Farmers are particularly reliant on a few common herbicides for no-till production of corn and soybeans, such as glyphosate, which has resulted in the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds that are now very problematic,” she said. “With more than 65% of agronomic crops under no-till production in Pennsylvania, those weeds are spreading, reducing crop yields and becoming very difficult to control.”