Herbicides and fertilizers decrease native plant diversity

Photo credit: Barbara Hobbs Photo credit: Barbara Hobbs

A recent study in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment detailed a three-year study designed to assess the impact of fertilizers and pesticides from conventional farms on surrounding native plant communities. Researchers found that drift and overspray from fertilizer and pesticide applications resulted in a significant decrease in native plant diversity. Herbicides had direct negative effects on the health of native plants leading to increased plant deaths over time. Fertilizers were found to benefit a small number of native species, causing them to grow larger and faster than they normally would to out-compete and overshadow smaller and slower growing native plants species. Although previous studies have demonstrated that herbicide drift from conventional agriculture has a negative effect on native plant communities, this is the first study to also demonstrate that fertilizer drift is detrimental.