Sustainable agriculture

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.”
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.
Paraquat product stewardship starts well before the product comes to market with thorough scientific evaluation and review of the extensive database by regulators. This stewardship has continued for more than 40 years and includes monitoring, ongoing research, scientific literature review, and regular consultation with governments, regulatory bodies, food companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and farmers to ensure that their concerns are understood and addressed.
Those involved in ensuring that all approaches to crop protection are safe, effective and sustainable should visit the Stewardship Community website.
Health-monitoring studies
Stewardship efforts related to paraquat include extensive studies to assess the safety in the use of paraquat. Results of these programs have confirmed that paraquat is safe when used according to straight-forward label instructions.
A great deal is known about the likely effects of paraquat on users and hence the way to manage and avoid incidents.
Citrus fruit make-up a vast family including not only oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit, but also calamondins, citrons, pomelos and ugli fruit.
Integrated pest management (IPM) systems have been introduced to minimize the impact of citrus growing on soil, water, air and biodiversity.  Paraquat has a key role in sustainable citrus production by controlling weeds that would otherwise seriously reduce productivity.  It can be used in conjunction with other techniques to manage soil erosion, particularly the use of strips of grass or legume cover crops between trees.
Paraquat can be safely sprayed to manage the weed flora along the crop rows between the grass or legume strips without fear of damaging the citrus trees.  Paraquat is immobile in soil and cannot move to the roots and up into the shoots.  Tree bark cannot be penetrated by paraquat meaning that it can be sprayed right up to the base of the trees.  Even if paraquat drifts onto citrus leaves there is little or no damage because paraquat does not move through plants like glyphosate does.
Citrus fact file 1:  Brazil is the leading citrus growing country
8.7 million ha of citrus are grown worldwide
43% are oranges, 27% mandarin types, 11% lemons and limes, 3% grapefruit
33% of crops are grown for juice
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.