Myth: Farmers douse wheat with Roundup/glyphosate prior to harvest
Truth: Roundup, which is the most common brand name for the herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate, is rarely used by Maryland farmers as a pre-harvest treatment on wheat.
Farmers in Maryland grow soft red winter wheat that is planted in the fall and dries down naturally for harvest in early summer, unlike spring wheat grown in the northern United States and Canada that has a much shorter growing season from spring to fall.
“I don’t know any farmers who put glyphosate on wheat to dry it down for harvest,” says Eric Spates, a farmer in Poolesville, Md. “Our winter wheat varieties mature and dry down on their own. We don’t need to do anything to help it along.”
Spates should know. Besides growing the crop himself, he sits on the board of the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, is a national director for the National Association of Wheat Growers and has engaged in export market development direction and activities for U.S. Wheat Associates.
Pesticide labels govern their use. Farmers and contractors must be trained and regularly certified as a pesticide applicator. Off-label uses are illegal.
Glyphosate is labeled for use as a pre-harvest application in wheat as a harvest aid to dry green weeds and even the maturity of the wheat crop. This is an uncommon treatment used in less than two percent of all U.S. wheat acres. However, it can be used to enable a harvest that would otherwise not be possible, which may be needed occasionally in spring-planted wheat. When used in this way, glyphosate may only be applied after the wheat kernels have matured to the point that they no longer take up water and nutrients from the wheat plant, and there must be seven to 14 days between application and harvest.