By Kimani Wiseman
What can be very frustrating for a farmer, is when you have worked very hard in the hot sun and rain to get your crops in the ground, and within a couple of days or weeks, they are all covered in “weeds”.
Weeds are wild plants growing where it is not wanted and competing with cultivated plants. Weeds compete with crops for nutrients, space, and light, thus lowering production. They also harbour pests that attack plants and also lower the quality of your produce, hence herbicides are very popular among farmers.
Herbicides destroy weeds very fast, which is very beneficial to the farmer, but on the other hand, they affect the environment and human health. According to a CNN news article on Feb. 15, 2019, “glyphosate”, an ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, increases the cancer risk of non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of the immune system, by 41 per cent. In 2018, in the United States, traces of glyphosate was found in two dozen popular general mills and Quaker breakfast cereals and snack bars.
In the Caribbean, Gramoxone is a popular herbicide used among farmers. Farmers who use gramoxone, and have a cut or wound, if their body is not properly covered while spraying, the gramoxone can enter through that cut and cause poisoning. Poisoning from Gramoxone can also occur if fruits and vegetables that might contain traces of Gramoxone are not washed properly.
Inhaling a toxic amount of gramoxone can cause swelling and pain in the mouth and throat. Herbicides can kill pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies which are crucial for food security. Herbicides can be washed away very easily into streams, which can kill fishes and other marine animals and can even seep into ground water. They can also kill micro organisms in the soil.
Here are some solutions for weed control:
- Plain vinegar would kill any plant you don’t want. Vinegar contains 5 per cent acetic acid. Acetic acid, from any source would kill most vegetation because it draws all the moisture out of the leaf.
- Mechanical methods which involves hand pulling, hoeing, ploughing, forking, or harrowing.
- Cultural methods which involves crop rotation, mulching.
- Biological control which involves the use of parasites to feed on weeds.
Organic agriculture occupies only 1 per cent of global agricultural land. Farmers and persons who are involved in backyard gardening should use less herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, insecticides, and try to grow more organic crops, which would enable us to protect the environment, and for all of us to live much healthier and longer lives.