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Pros and cons of Herbicides

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Herbicides or weedkillers are a form of pesticides that farmers and gardeners use to control unwanted plants.

Before the 1930s, it is not known what herbicides eliminate, but it is certainly toxic to humans. New types of herbicides were created when advancement of synthetic chemistry occurred in the 30s and 40s. The new breeds of herbicides were more target-specific but still imperfect.

There are many classifications of herbicides. There are selective herbicides that control specific weeds while leaving the desired crop or plant unharmed. Then, there are non-specific herbicides that eliminate all plant materials upon contact. Herbicides are also classified by activity, timing of application, mechanism of action, or type of vegetation controlled.

Before you decide whether you will apply herbicides to your crops or garden, here are some of its pros and cons.


Saves time and effort

Pulling weeds by hand can be a hassle, especially to elderly and disabled people. In addition, it is also time-consuming especially if you’re managing a wide-scale weed control in pastures and farms. With herbicides, farmers and gardeners can simply spray the entire area with the right herbicide to keep the weeds from growing. The less time with your plants or crops means more time with your family and other worthwhile activities.

More Control of Hard-to-Remove Plants

There are some weeds (e.g. the perennial weeds) that are more difficult to remove. This is because hand-pulling may not pull all the roots which can result to plants growing back. This will also reduce the tendency of contact with poisonous plants such as poison ivy because you won’t have to remove the weeds by hand.  Some herbicides have long-term effects because the chemical stays longer in the soil and will still work long after the original vegetation dies.

Yield more crops

Herbicides can increase yields by eliminating weeds which compete with crops for water, sunlight and soil nutrients. Apart from this, herbicides can also lessen food shortages and food prices. According to a report by the Weed Science Society, crops like carrots will cut down by nearly 50% each year if herbicides were not discovered.


Health Risks

Most herbicides are poisonous. They can be mildly toxic or highly lethal. Even organic herbicides have risks because it contains a higher concentration of acetic acid which can cause severe eye and skin damage. Herbicides pose health effects to gardeners, field workers and even to people who buy food grown using these substances. If the product is ingested or inhaled, patients will experience various effects ranging from minor skin irritations to extreme gastrointestinal discomfort. Farmers and gardeners should wear protective clothing (e.g. safety glasses or goggles, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, shoes and rubber gloves) when applying herbicides. These products should be stored in a cool and dry location away from children and pets.

Growing Resistance

Weeds have the ability to adapt to herbicides, which will help them resist its effects. That is why farmers and gardeners may notice that they use more of these products, especially if they heavily rely on it. The resistance will affect its costs and there will be more herbicides present in the soil.


Herbicides contribute to air, water and soil pollution. It can contaminate the soil and the rainwater can carry these chemicals to other areas which will eventually pollute the waterways. Herbicide-contaminated waters can kill fish and other aquatic life. A study by the Japanese Journal of Veterinary Research concluded that herbicides can also evaporate into the air resulting in air pollution and reduced air quality.

Looking at the pros and cons, it would be difficult to decide whether it is wise to use herbicides or not. My piece of advice? Use herbicides only when it’s necessary. If you decide to use herbicides, don’t forget to wear protective clothing and accessories. In addition, you should also read the label and use the product appropriately to reduce any health and environmental risks.


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