Environment

Global production of palm oil has now overtaken soybean oil to be the world’s leading vegetable oil. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a multi-stakeholder not-for-profit association designed to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. RSPO has published a set of Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production. These include that growers: Minimise erosion
Ensure the quality of surface and groundwater
Use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to protect crops from weeds, pests and diseases
Use agrochemicals in a way that does not damage health or the environment
Soil erosion on sloping ground is especially serious. Up to 14 tonnes per hecatre of soil have been estimated as being removed every year. Plantations affected cannot be re-planted and new land must be found. “Paraquat has always given good value, with fast and effective weed control, especially of difficult weeds like ferns, woody shrubs and volunteer oil palm seedlings, even in the rainy season. These days, it is important to use paraquat to prevent weed succession problems caused by glyphosate.”
- Professor Gembira Sinuraya, North Sumatra University, Indonesia
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranks bananas as the world’s fourth most important crop after the major cereals. Bananas are rich in carbohydrate, potassium and vitamins, including A, C, and B6. They are a good source of dietary fibre and are fat-free.
Bananas are not only eaten raw. They may be boiled, steamed, mashed and rolled into balls as ‘foutou’, grilled, roasted or fried; a flour for cakes and biscuits is made in the tropics; and in the Philippines, banana ketchup is popular. A beer made from the juice of ripe fruit is popular in central Africa. Animals, especially pigs, are reared on surplus fruit.
Banana fact file 400 million people eat bananas as a staple food
130 countries grow bananas, led by India
55% increase in production since 2000
6 billion dollars worth of annual trade
50 tonnes/ha grown in Costa Rica, 2x world average
In this section you will find articles about paraquat's environmental profile. One of paraquat's key chemical properties, fundamental to the way it is used in sustainable farming systems, is that it is inactivated immediately on contact with soil.
 
Information about paraquat's safety to humans and the stewardship programs put into place to ensure its safe use can be found in this section.
Those involved in ensuring that all approaches to crop protection are safe, effective and sustainable should visit the Stewardship Community website.
Paraquat has been an essential tool for farmers in protecting sustainable cropping systems for more than 50 years. Its unique properties have enabled the development of vital new crop production techniques, especially no-till.
This section includes in-depth features that cover topics including:
Paraquat's role in sustainable agriculture
All about weeds and weed control
Important crops and their production systems
Paraquat led to a revolution in land preparation that has had profound economic, social and agronomic effects around the world.
The herbicidal properties of paraquat were discovered by ICI (a legacy company of Syngenta) in 1955 and was introduced to world markets in 1962 under the brand name GRAMOXONE®. Paraquat quickly gained acceptance as a tool for controlling weeds in emerged row crops and tree crops. However, it was the realization that paraquat could replace time- and labor-intensive plowing, which in the 1960s and 1970s led to an expansion of research around the world on a scale unprecedented for a single agricultural chemical and to a revolution in farming.
Why is paraquat such an unique product and why is it so valuable to farmers? Before we can answer that we have to consider the importance of weeds.
Weeds have existed as long as man has farmed. Weeds hinder planting a crop and once the crop has emerged they continue to compete for water, light, nutrients and space. Weeds need to be removed before planting and controlled thereafter.   There are several ways to control weeds:
Hand Weeding is hard, debilitating and tedious work. It can occupy the farmer and his family for many hours of the day.  In many parts of the world hand weeding is the most time-consuming human activity aside from sleeping.
Mode of Action
Paraquat acts in the presence of light to desiccate the green parts of all plants with which it comes into contact. After application, penetration through the leaf surface occurs almost immediately. This absorption is increased by high light intensity and humidity and by added non-ionic adjuvant in the formulation which ensure good spray retention and wetting of target foliage.
The site of action for paraquat is in the chloroplast. The chloroplasts contain the photosynthetic systems of green plants, which absorb light energy that is used to produce sugars. Paraquat is known to act on the photosynthetic membrane system called photosystem I, which produces free electrons to drive photosynthesis.
The free electrons from photosystem I react with the paraquat ion to give the free radical form. Oxygen rapidly reconverts this free radical and in that process produces super oxides. Chemically highly reactive, super oxides attack unsaturated membrane fatty acids, rapidly opening up and disintegrating the cell membranes and tissues. The paraquat ion/free radical process then recycles producing further quantities of super oxide until the supply of free electrons ceases.
Reduces soil erosion
By killing weeds but leaving roots in place, paraquat stabilizes the soil.
Case Study
In the five year Sagip-Lupa project in the Philippines researchers have been collaborating to study approaches to reducing the serious threat to food production and the environment. posed by soil erosion
On the three experimental sites an average of more than 100 tonnes/ha of topsoil has been lost each year by farming in the traditional way. The large savings of precious topsoil from using paraquat and no-till are all statistically significant.
Crop yields have also benefited.
Read more …
 
 
 
Increases soil organic matter
Using paraquat in conjunction with less soil tillage helps to preserve organic matter. This is good for soil health and structure, increasing fertility, improving water infiltration and retention, and locking up carbon dioxide.
Case Study
No-till crop production using paraquat for weed control is enabling the successful cultivation of one of China’s last available soil resources for food production.
In Southern China nearly 30 million hectares of red soils have been cultivated, but they are highly weathered, inherently infertile and very susceptible to erosion. Paraquat and no-till can help by stabilizing the soil.
Controls weeds
Paraquat is an important tool for weed management. It controls many species and can be used with most crops. Its mode of action means that it is especially valuable where intensive use of glyphosate has caused, or threatens to cause, the development of glyphosate resistant weeds.
Case Study
The extensive adoption of glyphosate tolerant GM crops has led to farmers over-relying on glyphosate.
Although glyphosate is encouraging the continued adoption of no-till, with all the benefits to soil conservation that brings, up to three million hectares in Brazil are now estimated to be infested with glyphosate resistant weeds.
However, an integrated weed control system involves continuing to spray glyphosate for burndown, but following just before or just after planting the crop with an application of a paraquat-based herbicide.
Read more …
 
 
Acts fast
Paraquat acts fast in all seasons, no matter what the conditions: hot, dry, wet, early season or late. Paraquat is rainfast in 15 - 30 minutes.
Case Study
In West Bengal, India, using paraquat to burndown weeds in a no-till system means farmers can transplant a new rice crop after only four days compared to the usual 12 days. Traditionally, fields are plowed and farmers have to wait for buried weeds to decompose sufficiently to allow a final cultivation.
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.