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The importance of weeds and the advantages and disadvantages of herbicide use [review]. [Symposium paper]

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Advantage & Disadvantage of Weed Killers

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Chemical weed killers, known as herbicides, aid in controlling unwanted plants, but the chemicals come with unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of using a chemical weed killer helps you determine if the product is right for your gardening needs. An awareness of the potential risks also helps you minimize the effects for safer use of herbicides.

Effective Weed Control

Proper care of your lawn and garden allows the desired plants to thrive and block out weeds, but unwanted plants are still often able to grow. Herbicides are effective at killing the weeds when the type of weed killer is carefully selected to match your needs. Selective herbicides kill only a specific type of weed or plant, while nonselective herbicides kill any plant they reach. You also have the option of using a preemergent weed killer to control weeds before they grow or a postemergent herbicide that is effective once the weeds are already growing. Contact chemicals kill the weeds when they touch them, while systematic herbicides travel through the weeds to kill them from the inside.

Ease of Use

Physical removal of weeds requires strenuous digging and pulling by hand. Getting on hands and knees to pull the weeds puts strain on the back and legs. Some weeds have long roots that require extra digging to remove the entire weed. A chemical weed killer is easier to apply because you only need to spray it on the plant. The herbicide takes over at that point to kill the unwanted plant.

Unintentional Spread

The spray application of weed killer often makes it difficult to control. While aiming at the unwanted plant, the herbicide can splatter onto nearby plants that you want to keep. On windy days, the spray drifts and may land on your garden and landscape plants. High temperatures and dry conditions often cause the spray to turn into a gas and travel to other areas. Using a nonselective herbicide under poor conditions often causes other plants to die and may damage trees and shrubs in your yard.

Health and Environmental Impact

The chemicals used in weed killers cause damage to the environment and to the health of people who come into contact with them. Inhaling or swallowing an herbicide may cause illness or even death, depending on the amount, type of chemical and age of the person. Chemicals that drift out of your yard may travel to other areas and hurt wildlife or plants. The chemicals can wash away into nearby waterways or travel down into the groundwater supply. The weed killer may damage the environment and enter the human food chain and water supply.

  • University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Weed Control Using Herbicides
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency: Risks of Pesticide Use
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency: Benefits of Pesticide Use

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.

Advantage & Disadvantage of Weed Killers. Chemical weed killers, known as herbicides, aid in controlling unwanted plants, but the chemicals come with unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of using a chemical weed killer helps you determine if the product is …