Conservation tillage

Articles in this section are about specific examples of how paraquat is being used and new uses explored in sustainable cropping systems.
The case studies show how farmers, their families and their land can benefit by farming with paraquat; and how this enables them to grow better crops.
Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, marketed globally under the brand name Gramoxone by Syngenta. A list of other brand names under which paraquat is sold can be found here.
Paraquat is used in nearly 90 countries either to prepare the land for planting or for controlling weeds in more than 100 crops, including major food crops: corn, rice, soya, wheat, potatoes; major fruits: apples, oranges, bananas; beverages: coffee, tea, cocoa; and processed crops: cotton, oil palm, sugarcane, and rubber.
In this section you can find information about crops for which paraquat is an essential production tool and a selection of case studies illustrating the benefits from using paraquat in some very different cropping systems.
The crop reviews describe the crop, where it is grown and what it is used for; crop production methods and weed, insect pest and disease problems; and the key benefits from using paraquat. They are summarised here and more extensive articles can be found in the Knowledge Bank.
The case studies demonstrate why paraquat is an essential tool for use in sustainable agriculture, and one which many farmers around the world rely upon for their livelihoods and to support their families.

Paraquat has been a valuable tool for farmers all over the world for nearly 50 years. Its speed of action, rainfastness and now its role as a weed resistance fighter are unsurpassed.
However, paraquat’s importance and benefits go beyond simply weed control. Its unique property of being locked onto soil so tightly on contact, and the consequent biological inactivation, mean that it has become a key component in conservation tillage systems, especially no-till.
Paraquat plus reduced tillage improves soil structure and fertility, timeliness of operations, biodiversity and the overall profitability of farming. It is also unique as a non-selective herbicide in being able to be sprayed between the rows of growing crops without fear of crop damage.
In this section you can find out about the specific benefits paraquat brings on the farm, for the environment and in rural communities.
Key benefits of paraquat
On the farm For the environment In rural communities Controls weeds
Reduces [no-glossary] soil erosion
Creates opportunities
Acts fast
Increases soil organic matter
By providing the non-selective weed control essential in conservation tillage systems, paraquat is helping to mitigate climate change.
US farmers can now enrol in the Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program which means they will get paid for managing their cropland using conservation tillage systems like no-till and strip-till. Conservation tillage increases the amount of organic matter in the soil, and apart from being good agricultural practice, this sequesters large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Agricultural land has the potential to offset about 11% of US greenhouse gas emissions, equating to some 650 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Of this total, cropland could contribute 41% and half of this could be met by conservation tillage practices being adopted more widely. President of the Soil Science Society of America, Professor Rattan Lal (Ohio State University), has described this as a “win-win-win strategy, because it mitigates climate change, improves productivity and enhances ecosystems”.
Recently, the Soil Science Society of America published a series of articles about how conservation tillage can make a major contribution to carbon sequestration and how farmers can benefit from this by enrolling in carbon trading schemes.
Here’s how it works, how paraquat can help, and how we all benefit …
No-till on M&K Farms, Kansas
Beijing Municipality, China, is to abolish deep-plow farming and adopt conservation tillage in the next three years. Erosion of topsoil has become a real issue in the region, with severe dust storms resulting in soil loss. Conservation tillage has already been piloted on over half a million hectares of farmland in other Chinese counties, and is also expected to reduce water demand.
Conservation tillage involves leaving the residue of the previous year's crop in the ground to help conserve soil structure. The following crop is then planted through this residue, generally after the burning down of subsequent crop/weed growth with a non-selective weedkiller like paraquat.
A new project, called ‘Demonstration Project for Rainfed Farming and Water Saving Agricultural Science and Technology for Maize’, will be launched in Beijing in 2007.
This project will focus on the use of drought [no-glossary]resistant maize varieties and conservation tillage. Mr. Jiangou Yang, the director of the Agriculture Division of Beijing Plant Protection Station has to set up the list of the recommended crop protection techniques for this project. Financial support from Beijing Municipality is RMB 20 million (€ 2 million).
* Gramoxone is a brand name under which the active ingredient, paraquat, is sold in China.
What is Paraquat?
Paraquat is a herbicide (chemical weed killer) used to control a very broad range of weeds (unwanted plants) in more than 100 crops, including cereals, oilseeds, fruit and vegetables, growing in all climates. Weeds shade crops, take their water and nutrients, and make harvesting difficult. The leading manufacturer of paraquat is Syngenta, which (as ICI) developed the active ingredient (AI) in the early 1960’s. Since then, paraquat has made possible many innovations in sustainable farming systems, based on its simplification of crop production by effectively controlling weeds and, in doing so, removing the need for ploughing to bury them. This has freed up farmers’ time and also helped care for the soil. Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It has been approved for use by authorities in nearly 90 countries. When used as recommended, paraquat is effective and safe to users, consumers and the environment.
Key facts about the safe and effective use of paraquat are noted below. This fact sheet also contains a list of referenced scientific papers and other publications and a summary of technical information.
Why Farmers Use Paraquat
Spraying paraquat lets millions of farmers grow better crops more easily, while respecting the environment. Paraquat has a unique set of characteristics: