Soil erosion

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
Oil palm is the world’s leading vegetable oil crop. Palm oil has many food and industrial uses. As a foodstuff, it is believed to have several important benefits, particularly in lowering the risk of heart disease. As a very high yielding crop it has become a major feedstock for biodiesel production.
Some say that the rise of oil palm has come at a price. They claim that expanding areas of production are bound to result in the further destruction of tropical rainforests, removing an invaluable carbon sink, destroying habitats, so reducing biodiversity, and causing severe soil erosion on sloping terrain. However, The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has been established to ensure that these fears are unfounded. Protecting oil palm from weeds, pests and diseases, which flourish if unchecked in tropical climates, is key to productivity. Integrated pest management (IPM) approaches are widely used and encouraged to ensure that crops are protected in a sustainable way.
Paraquat is an essential tool in oil palm plantations
“In trials, we found that paraquat still gave an amazing performance even when it rained soon after spraying. It works especially well when mixed with sulfonylureas to give longer control of ferns. There is no danger to aquatic organisms or any water pollution because it can not leach from soil.”
Ever wonder what fuels the impressive size and power of the awesome Pacific Island rugby players? Look no further than taro. Taro is a tropical starchy root crop which is a staple food in many subsistence communities, particularly in the Pacific islands. And while the rugby team members most likely have a broad selection of meals from which to choose, for many people living in these areas taro is an essential part of their diet.
Often called “the potato of the tropics,” its role is so significant that taro is celebrated in festivals and on coins in many Pacific Island cultures. And it is no wonder: taro makes up almost 20% of peoples’ daily calorific intake in some areas, compared to only 3-5% represented by potatoes for people in the US and Europe. Economically, it is an important source of export revenue, mainly to supply ex-patriot islanders living in Australia, New Zealand and the west coast of the US.
As a tropical crop, protecting taro from weeds is critical. Weeds thrive in such hot and humid climates, robbing yield. Hand hoeing crops is one option, but, not only is this time consuming and labour intensive, but it means other opportunities, particularly for education in poorer communities, may be missed. Using the right choice of herbicide provides an effective alternative. 
Paraquat is an essential tool for taro farmers
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.
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.
Creates opportunities
Using paraquat for weed control means that labor requirements are greatly reduced and productivity and profitability can be increased. This means on the one hand that people who would otherwise be compelled to find work weeding fields are free to find other opportunities to make best use of their time, and on the other hand, farmers who find difficulty in recruiting labor for handweeding can grow better crops.
Case Study
Three-quarters of crop losses in developing countries are due to weeds. FAO experts emphasise that total economic losses will be much greater in poorer countries because of the time spent manual weeding. "With only manual labor available, African smallholders need to weed every day and that means a family physically can't handle more than 1 to 1.5 hectares."
Read more …
Stimulates the economy
In developing countries, increased agricultural productivity creates more income, which in turn propagates throughout the economy, creating secondary benefits to the social structure.
Case Study
In Kenya, a farmer with 15 acres pays around $600 for laborers to hand weed his fields for one growing season.
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.