Herbicides: Non-Target Species Effects

Authored by: Céline Boutin

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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Phytotoxicity refers to the capability of herbicides (and, to a lesser extent, other pesticides) to exert toxic effects on plant growth, reproduction, and survival. Herbicides are widely used in agriculture, in forestry, and for other applications, such as right-of-ways and golf courses. Their benefit has been well demonstrated for the control and suppression of weeds. However, toxicity to non-target plants, wildlife, and their habitats has not been so thoroughly documented and should be taken into account in cost–benefit analysis and ecological risk assessment. Numerous cases of unforeseen and undesirable effects on non-target plants and other trophic levels attributable to herbicide have been demonstrated. Phytotoxicity assessment is often conducted in experiments performed under artificial conditions and is generally not carried out over long enough time periods to be realistic. The linkage between measured phytotoxicity in greenhouses and observed phytotoxicity in nature implies the inclusion of environmental biotic and abiotic factors as well as considerations of test conditions, herbicide characteristics, level of exposure, and use pattern.

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