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Malone and Foster, 2019

Malone, M., & Foster, E.; “A mixed-methods approach to determine how conservation management programs and techniques have affected herbicide use and distribution in the environment over time;” Science of The Total Environment, 2019, 660, 145-157; DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.12.266.


No-till agriculture has the ability to reduce fuel consumption, increase soil moisture, reduce soil erosion and increase organic matter. However, it remains unclear whether it increases herbicide use overall in the long term for communities that use no-till as their primary source of conservation agriculture. The preponderance of literature suggests that no-till has increased herbicide use, but it is difficult to quantify how much herbicide has increased in a given location and to directly correlate changes in herbicide use to changes in soil and water quality. This paper provides several methods to determine how herbicide use has changed over time in an agricultural community in Oregon that switched over to no-till in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These methods include: spatial analysis of remote sensing satellite imagery of vegetation health along streams; use of a drone fitted with an agricultural camera to detect vegetation health; and soil, sediment, and water sampling for the most commonly used herbicides in the study area. By using these methods, this study shows where stream vegetation health continues to be an issue in the agricultural community, and where concentrations of a commonly used herbicide in the community may be impacting human and ecological health. This study has important implications for impacts to soil and water quality over time in agricultural communities, as many researchers have noted the need to determine the long term effects of conversion to no-till and other forms of conservation agriculture. By providing these methods, communities heavily engaged in multiple forms of conservation agriculture may be able to track herbicide use changes in real time and on shorter decadal time spans in places where conservation agriculture is practiced. FULL TEXT

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