More people continue to learn about the dangers of Roundup, the best-selling weed killer from Bayer-Monsanto. Lawsuits have awarded user over $2 billion dollars in connection to cancer and Roundup use. However, this synthetic herbicide is still heavily used in the U.S. and around the world. As a result, many people remain unacquainted with the serious health issues posed by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which was classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2015.
The rise in farms forgoing synthetic herbicides like Roundup, contrasted against the reported health risks associated with glyphosate exposure has prompted farmers, groundskeepers and gardeners to ask: is there a safe alternative herbicide? The answer is yes, and employing an alternative herbicide in gardening or agriculture is more important than ever.
Remember that even if you're using alternative herbicides, your neighbor may not be. Gardeners, landscapers, and conventional farms could be spraying miles away from your home, but drift could still be impacting your air, water, and soil.
What does Moms Across America recommend?
For an alternative weed spray that you can offer neighbors and friends, check out Pulverize® Weed & Grass Killer which is approved for organic gardening. This product is a fast-acting herbicidal soap that eliminates unwanted vegetation fast. It can be used on mulch and around planters, raised beds and containers holding flowers, ornamentals, and trees without staining. And it comes in a spray bottle that is easy to use!
Save 20% on all purchases of MESSINAS Pulverize® Weed & Grass Killer. You can order online or over the phone at 888-411-3337. Either way, be sure to use the code MAADEAL to claim your discount. In addition, 20% of every order with this code will be paid back to Moms Across America as a donation by MESSINAS to support our educational outreach. Thank you all!
In the meantime, while Roundup is still being sold and used, consider doing the following to protect you and your family:
Why Use Alternative Herbicides?
Glyphosate is so widely used in the U.S. and around the world that traces of the chemical have been found in breast milk, cotton products, beer, wine (even when made with organic grapes), eggs, oatmeal, and non-dairy coffee creamer, among other products. According to Beyond Pesticides, between 180 and 185 million pounds of Roundup products are applied and sprayed every year in the U.S., making it the most commonly used agricultural chemical in the country.
The herbicide has also given rise to genetically modified food, which has been linked to health issues such as infertility, immune problems, faulty insulin regulation, accelerated aging and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
If the health risks are not enough to convince you to consider an alternative herbicide, maybe the environmental impact will change your mind…
A recent U.S. Geological Survey study sampled waterways in 38 states and found glyphosate in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches, and wastewater treatment plants that were tested. Glyphosate also was found in roughly 70 percent of rainfall samples.
Top 10 Alternatives to Roundup
Most of the other alternative herbicides used by farmers or gardeners fall into the following categories:
6. High Percentage Vinegar sprays like OSM
7. Iron-Based Herbicides
8. Salt-Based Herbicides*
9. Phytotoxic Oils (aka Essential Oils)
10. Corn Gluten
How to Use an Alternative Herbicide
In order to get the best results from an alternative herbicide, it is best to use in conjunction with other helpful practices, like working to improve soil health, plant nutrition, and irrigation. Remember, an alternative is generally going to be a contact herbicide (except for electric shock), not a systemic herbicide, which kills the entire plant by entering the vascular system.
Contact herbicides generally work by burning plant foliage that comes into contact with the product. They are only capable of killing weeds that have emerged—they have no residual activity on weeds that emerge after application.
Ideas for Alternative Herbicides
Acetic Acid – Commonly known as vinegar, acetic acid affects the cell membranes of a plant and causes rapid breakdown of foliage tissue on contact. Vinegar used for herbicidal purposes can be organic household vinegar, which is roughly five percent acetic acid or agricultural vinegar, which has an acetic acid concentration of roughly 20 percent. Insufficient quantities, agricultural vinegar by itself will quickly burn down a weed.
There is much debate on the efficacy of household vinegar versus agricultural vinegar in alternative herbicides. Research has found that acetic acid concentrations between 5 and 10 percent can provide viable control of very small, young weeds that have one or two leaves (or are within two weeks of germination). Larger weeds with three or four leaves more are likely to survive this concentration. Using higher agricultural vinegar with a higher concentration of acetic acid and increasing the application volume can improve weed control.
Salt* – Some choose to combine vinegar with salt to make their alternative herbicide more potent. Like vinegar, salt is a desiccant, so it dries out leaves and stems.
Oil or Soap – Oil will break down any coating or other natural barriers that many weeds produce to protect their leaves. By using oil or soap in your mixture, you give the vinegar a greater chance to penetrate the weed. Additionally, oils and soaps break the tension water on weed surfaces, which keeps the mixture from running off.
If you would like more information on ingredient concentration levels for your alternative herbicide, check out this article from Garden Counselor.
*BEWARE: any form of sodium chloride is toxic to almost all plants and soil communities. It does not break down, and after it kills the grass in your walk, will poison and even kill large specimen trees where their roots run under the sidewalk or treated area.
Alternative Herbicide Tips
- Alternative herbicides work best when applied on a hot day. If possible, wait until the humidity is low and morning dew has burned off. This will allow the mixture to stay in contact with weeds.
- Be careful not to spray the mixture on plants you do not wish to kill. You can do damage to the plants you are trying to protect if you aren’t careful.
- Use gloves and protective eyewear, as the mixture can damage your skin, especially if you are using agricultural vinegar with a higher concentration of acetic acid.
- Larger weeds and perennial weeds may wilt or discolor after application, but in some cases, they will regrow a few days or weeks later. These weeds will require multiple applications to be controlled.
Are Alternative Herbicides Effective?
A University of Maryland study found that properly applied acetic acid-based alternative herbicides have promising results controlling the following weeds:
The Benefits of Alternative Herbicides
- Public health safety
- Avoidance of lawsuits
- Improved soil and water retention
- Improved water quality
- Improved longevity of landscaping
Article by Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC with additions by Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America.
UPDATE: In August of 2018, school pesticide applicator Dwayne "Lee" Johnson, who is dying of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, was awarded 289.2 million dollars from Monsanto by a California Supreme Court jury. Monsanto was found guilty of acting with "malice and oppression," meaning they knew their glyphosate products could cause cancer and the company executives suppressed the information. As of September 2018, over 8,000 more Roundup users are filing lawsuits against Monsanto.