Many farmers try to get rid of weeds by killing them with herbicides which are commonly used to get rid of weeds. However, with herbicides use comes damage to the soil life. Also often overlooked are herbicide resistant weeds. Once that weed reproduces, the resistance to that herbicide increases making it very difficult to get rid of that weed.
It is much easier to understand why weeds grow and to find out their benefits and why they are growing on your farm.
Until the late 1890’s very few chemicals were used in agriculture and when herbicides were used, they were minimal. it was only in 1974 that they became mainstream when Roundup came on the market. Roundup killed not just the weeds but was highly damaging to the life in the soil depleting the availability of soil nutrients to the plants.
The main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate which was 1st used for industrial purposes as a chemical chelator binding and removing minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Why then would you use it on your soil? However, farmers were not told any of that but were told it was harmless and that it was nonresidual. Now, 50 years later the truth has emerged that not only does it harm the soil life, runs off into the waterways and that it is probably carcinogenic.
When Roundup was introduced as a herbicide just 9 plants were known to be resistant to herbicide. By 2023 there are now 515 plants known to be resistant.
Weeds are part of the succession plan so focus on your soil life and pasture management. A weed’s role in say pasture, is to accumulate minerals, some balance soils and others break up soil hardpans
So, what to do?
Every time that you are making a choice, put the soil life first. A healthy soil is the basis for better farming and ultimately needs less inputs and less management. In grazing RCS advisor, Raymond Stacey says “Typically where I see weak pastures and lots of weeds it’s because of grazing, not because of weeds.” He goes on to say that weeds are here to do a job and if errors are made, they will cover a bare soil, accumulate minerals and break the ground open until you get your grazing right. So, aim to have a productive pasture that provides good nutrition for your stock. Allow native pastures to reestablish and thrive along with the weeds.