Forestry Use of Glyphosate Reduces Fertility of Perennial Flowers and May Reduce Pollination

June 22, 2021 | With its use in forested areas, glyphosate persists in the environment for years and can prompt morphological changes in perennial flowers that reduce their fertility and may make them less attractive to pollinators. These findings were published in Frontiers in Plant Science by researchers at the University of British Columbia. Glyphosate herbicides like Roundup and Visionmax (a Canada-registered glyphosate product produced by Bayer/ Monsanto) are often applied aerially via helicopter on wide swaths of forest land known as cutblocks. Cutblocks, designated areas where coniferous trees are grown for harvest and processing, are doused with glyphosate in order to manage understory trees and shrubs that would compete with the conifers. Researchers set out to understand the nontarget impacts of this practice on the surrounding forest ecosystem. Wild prickly rose (Rosa acicularis) plants were collected from three different cutblocks, each sprayed with Visionmax according to label directions. A set of untreated plants were gathered outside of the cutblock to function as a control. While some morphological changes are expected given exposure to a highly toxic herbicide, what concerns scientists the most is how long the chemical’s effects persist in the environment. In contrast to claims by agrichemical corporations that glyphosate breaks down quickly in the environment, wild prickly roses contained traces of the herbicide two years after initial exposure. “The changes to plants have been documented in the past, in agricultural plants, so it is not surprising to find them in forests,” said Dr. Wood. “What is important is the timeline. To continue to find these effects one to two years after herbicide applications, in new parts of growing plants, is noteworthy.” [Golt, Alexandra and Wood, Lisa. Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Alter the Reproductive Morphology of Rosa acicularis (Prickly Rose). Frontiers in Plant Science. June 2021.]