By Connor Lynch
COBOURG — A small skirmish in Northumberland County was settled in farmers’ favour late last year, with the county deciding to continue using glyphosate to control weeds this spring.
In late November, county council voted 5-2 to continue using Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, on county roads to control weeds.
The Northumberland Federation of Agriculture made a push to county council to resume use of glyphosate for weed control, after the county discontinued use of Roundup and switched to mechanical controls.
That didn’t work out so well, said ag federation president Martin Opsteen. And after hearing from his directors across the county, the federation decided to make a stronger push in favour of chemical-control methods.
“We thought if they started banning glyphosate on county roads, (they would) ban them on farms,” Opsteen said. His was also the only county in Ontario he’d heard of that had stopped using glyphosate for weed control. “(We) felt real bad about that.”
But weed control is also an issue of farm contamination and even public safety, Opsteen said. Canada fleabane, for example, has “hundreds of thousands of seeds,” which get spread if the plant gets mowed. Then, “combines spread (Canada fleabane) around our farms.”
And wild parsnip is also present in the county. The noxious weed produces a sap that can cause burns to skin if they’re exposed to sunlight, a condition called phytophotodermatitis. Mowing a wild parsnip plant exposes a lot of that sap. Opsteen said there was an incident in the county where a kid fell off his bike into a patch of freshly trimmed wild parsnip and got a nasty burn.
The former dairy farmer added that the fact that controlling weeds helps farmers lower carbon emissions didn’t hurt either, since farmers can spray a harvested field and then plant cover crops, instead of having to disc or till the soil to get rid of any weeds. “I think quite a few of the councillors liked to hear that.”
EASTERN ONTARIO: Northumberland votes to continue using glyphosate for weed control
By Connor Lynch