No-till

In Asia alone, more than two billion people obtain over 60% of their calories from rice. It is the most rapidly growing source of food in Africa and is critical to food security. Long grain rices are typically of the indica race and include the fragrant Jasmine rice from Thailand and Basmati rice from India. Short grain rice, typically japonica, is usually more sticky than long grain and is favoured in Japan. Saki rice is grown in Japan to make rice wine, and in Indonesia there are red and black grained varieties. About 80% of the world's rice is grown by smallholders in these places. In Asia, women are often responsible for rice farming as men have moved to work in the cities.
Efficient and productive rice-based production systems are essential for economic development and for improved quality of life for much of the world's population. Plant breeding, crop protection, water management and fertilization have increased productivity and reduced the costs of production.
Last year, the Paraquat Information Center published the story of successful use of paraquat in no-till systems in Sichuan (read here). This article is now supported by Fang Shu-An’s own described below.
No-Tillage Technique and Practice in Paddy Rice Wheat and Paddy Rice Oil Seed Rape Field in Leshan Area, Sichuan, China By Fang Shu-An - Agriculture Bureau, Dongpo District, Meishan City, Sichuan Province, 612160 China.
Will farming and soil quality collide?
World Agriculture and the Environment is an important new book addressing the fear that increasing demand for food and fiber is on a “collision course” with soil quality.
This article is in two parts. In Part One, some of the main issues discussed in the book are reviewed. Part Two then explains how more than 50 years of research and practical use have shown that controlling weeds with paraquat can help provide improved and sustainable crop management practices to improve soil quality.
Part One: What ‘World Agriculture and the Environment’ says
In World Agriculture and the Environment authorJason Clay (World Wildlife Fund-US vice president, Center for Conservation Innovation) reviews the production and environmental impact of 21 of the world’s major food commodities. The main threats to the environment posed by crops, fish and meat are identified and explored, as well as the trends that shape those threats.
Major Issues
Deactivation of the biological activity of paraquat in the soil environment: a review of long-term environmental fate. by Roberts TR, Dyson JS, Lane MC. In their paper Deactivation of the biological activity of paraquat in the soil environment: a review of long-term environmental fate,” the authors bring together several key environment studies on paraquat in order to analyze and assess its long-term environmental impact. They conclude that:
“These trials have demonstrated that the continued use of paraquat under GAP conditions will have no detrimental effects on either crops or soil-dwelling flora and fauna.”
Abstract:
Extensive long-term field studies confirm - and governments and regulatory authorities, worldwide, agree - that normal use of paraquat in accordance with the approved label instructions does not cause an unacceptable environmental impact.
These studies have shown that:
Paraquat is inactive in soil
When paraquat residues come into contact with the soil the paraquat active ingredient rapidly becomes adsorbed and strongly bound to clay and organic matter in the soil. It becomes biologically inert and as a result it cannot be taken up by plant roots or other organisms. Paraquat treated soils still maintain an active soil ecosystem with no adverse effects on soil microbes, microorganisms and earthworms. Paraquat cannot be released from the soil or re-activated by the application of water or other agrochemicals.
All agricultural soils, not only those with high clay content, have a high capacity to absorb paraquat.
Mr. Prasanna Srinivasan of New Dehli, India, is a recognized expert in the field of economics, policy and regulatory development and specializes in the impact of global environmental treaties on developing countries. Syngenta commissioned Mr. Srinivasan to provide a balanced assessment of the benefits and risks of pesticides in general and paraquat in particular. Mr. Srinivasan recently completed this review entitled, “Paraquat: A unique contributor to agriculture and sustainable development.
Please click on this link to download a copy of the review:
Paraquat: A Unique Contributor to Agriculture and Sustainable Development
Worldwide, paraquat's use brings substantial benefits to food production and sustainable agriculture; farmers remain enthusiastic about the value that it adds. In contrast to this, some groups have been very vocal in their demands for its restriction or banning and this has led to the production of a large number of reports that contain allegations regarding its safety in use.  Syngenta, the leading manufacturer, treats any expression of concern over safety very seriously and continues to work with authorizing bodies, academics and local organizations to understand and improve the safe handling of pesticides, including paraquat.  The objective of this paper in Outlooks on Pest Management is to consider the need for and benefits of paraquat alongside the issues raised by its critics and thereby to put paraquat in perspective. 
Click here to download the PDF.
 
It takes skill to no-till, but persevering and wider adoption could bring many benefits, says an article on ‘No-Till: the Quiet Revolution’ in a recent edition of Scientific American. 
No-till is a way of growing crops without plowing. The authors, soil and sustainable farming experts David Huggins, USDA, and Prof. John Reganold (Washington State University) cite the introduction of paraquat as a milestone in agriculture which made no-till possible.
As a broad spectrum, non-selective herbicide, paraquat controls weeds without the need to bury them by ploughing. The problem with ploughing is that it causes soil erosion. Thanks to John Deere’s adaptation of the mouldboard plow in 1837 the North American prairies could then be cultivated. However, as cropping continued to expand and intensify, problems became all too obvious. Take the Palouse region in Washington State. By the 1970s, all topsoil had been totally eroded from 10% of the cropland and up to 75% had been lost from another 60% of fields.
Soybean stands out from other major crops: broad leaved rather than a grass; a legume, so plants supply their own needs for nitrogen fertilizer while increasing the fertility of the land; soybeans are rich in oil, protein and carbohydrate; and the crop has been highly developed by plant breeders and agronomists. This makes soybean arguably the world’s most versatile crop.
With such a broad nutritional base, soybeans are a staple food and animal feed. Whole beans provide flours; soya oil is used in cooking and food; protein-rich soya meal left after oil extraction is an important livestock feed; and soya protein is used in drinks, baby food, noodles, and as a meat and dairy substitute.
A significant amount of soybean production in the US, in particular, now goes to make biodiesel (5 to 10% each year). Biodiesel is not soya’s first connection with motor vehicles. In 1941, Henry Ford’s enthusiasm for finding industrial uses for crops resulted in the manufacture of the ‘Biological Car’ made for an exhibition. The vehicle’s entire bodywork was made from plastic derived from soybeans!
Paraquat is an essential tool for soybean farmers
Rice is the staple food for more than half the world. In Asia alone, more than two billion people obtain over 60% of their calories from rice. It is the most rapidly growing source of food in Africa and is critical to food security.
Rice-based production systems and the operations processing the grain for food employ nearly one billion people in rural areas of developing countries. About 80% of the world's rice is grown by smallholders in these places. In Asia, women are often left to conduct many of the rice farming tasks as men have moved to work in the cities. Efficient and productive rice-based production systems are essential for economic development and for improved quality of life for much of the world's population.
For thousands of years, cultivating rice has meant that people have had to work together, and the need for standing water in rice farming has shaped the landscape. Festivals are dedicated to rice and the crop was considered divine by many ancient Asian emperors and kings. Even today, the Japanese refer to rice as their ‘mother’ and regard rice farmers as the guardians of their culture and countryside.