Trade-offs constrain the success of glyphosate-free farming.

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Metcalfe, H., Storkey, J., Hull, R. I., Bullock, J. M., Whitmore, A. P., Sharp, R. and Milne, A. E. 2023. Trade-offs constrain the success of glyphosate-free farming. Scientific Reports. 14, p. 8001.

AuthorsMetcalfe, H., Storkey, J., Hull, R. I., Bullock, J. M., Whitmore, A. P., Sharp, R. and Milne, A. E.

Glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide, is linked with environmental harm and there is a drive to replace it in agricultural systems. We model the impacts of discontinuing glyphosate use and replacing it with cultural control methods. We simulate winter wheat arable systems reliant on glyphosate and typical in northwest Europe.
Removing glyphosate was projected to increase weed abundance, herbicide risk to the environment, and arable plant diversity and decrease food production. Weed communities with evolved resistance to non-glyphosate herbicides were not projected to be disproportionately affected by removing glyphosate, despite the lack of alternative herbicidal control options.
Crop rotations with more spring cereals or grass leys for weed control increased arable plant diversity. Stale seedbed techniques such as delayed drilling and choosing ploughing instead of minimum tillage had varying effects on weed abundance, food production, and profitability. Ploughing was the most effective alternative to glyphosate for long-term weed control while maintaining production and profit.
Our findings emphasize the need for careful consideration of trade-offs arising in scenarios where glyphosate is removed. Integrated Weed Management (IWM) with more use of cultural control methods offers the potential to reduce chemical use but is sensitive to seasonal variability and can incur negative environmental and economic impacts.

KeywordsGlyphosate ; Integrated Weed Management; Environmental Impact; Species Richness; Production; Profit
Year of Publication2023
JournalScientific Reports
Journal citation14, p. 8001
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council
Funder project or codeAgZero+
ASSIST - Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Resilient Farming Futures
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online05 Apr 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted26 Mar 2024
PublisherNature Publishing Group

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