What are Herbicides? Q&A

Essay by lybrian1 February 2011

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What are Herbicides?

Herbicides are substances used to manage unwanted vegetation. Usually used for killing weeds and unwanted plants, herbicides are widely used around the world in gardening and agriculture. There are two types of herbicides: Species specific and Non-specific. Species specific also known as selective herbicides kill specific plant species, leaving other species unharmed, while Non-specific herbicides kill any plant they come in contact with. Herbicides differ from pesticides because though both can be used to treat vegetation, herbicides are used to manage unwanted vegetation while pesticides are used to manage unwanted insects.

1. What are the environmental problems?

When herbicides are not used properly it can damage crop plants, especially if too large a dose is used or if it is used during the time when the crop is most sensitive to herbicides. Herbicides can also cause unintended damage to crop plants especially when inappropriate or incorrect herbicides are used.

Other environmental effects are unintended damage occurring both on the sprayed site and offsite. Herbicide use also changes the habitat of animals such as mammals and birds. This is especially true when herbicides are used in forestry. This is an indirect effect of herbicide use, but the effects can be severe for some species. In addition, in farming herbicides sprayed by a tractor or aircraft does not always accurately deposit onto the intended spray area. Often there is drift of herbicide beyond the intended spray site and though unintended, it can cause offsite damages to vegetation. Since herbicides are mainly used in farming there are concerns about the toxicity of some herbicides, which may affect people using these chemicals during the course of their occupation, people indirectly exposed through drift or residues on food, and wildlife.

2. How does it affect us?

Herbicides have many negative effects on...