Here's an update on how some of my plants are exhibiting exposure to herbicide residue.
Bruce, Well, crap. Those are depressing photos. Better Boy looks especially pathetic.
I feel your pain--all that work. Part of my east side fell victim, perennials I'd been working on since last year trying to establish some pretty things in a once ugly area. Its back to ugly but I'm rebuilding the dike. I didn't know whether to get angry or sad, think I was both. Plant murder.
Is this from a neighbor spraying? Mine was---Bermuda lawn annual spray.
I had some damage that looked like that several years ago. My plants did not die, nor produce anything worthwhile.
The Highway Dept. sprayed the ditches here a few days ago, but they stopped before they got to my property line. After I had the damage I called them and told them that I would be taking care of the weeds and grass close to my house. They were very understanding and just let me spray and cut all the grass and weeds I want.
I've tried to keep a positive attitude and not let it get me down. It did kinda bother me picking up the few I needed for plan B. Just finished putting 21 plants in a spot I had allocated for a few cantaloupe vines. Wife agreed on it's better to eat a 'bought' cantaloupe than those things they call tomatoes in the grocery store.
Once I get cucumbers, okra and squash going, I'll drop back and decide about yanking the affected tomatoes out of the ground. May just till them in and broadcast mustard seed. While I thought about planting corn on part of it, I'm thinking about just moving on to a more accelerated remediation and get this thing over and done.
TexasRanger10, all we are fairly certain of is it's herbicide damage. I'm checking to see if anyone around my area has been spraying. Indications are it came in with some horse manure compost I hauled in earlier in the year.
If I see the county spraying anywhere within a couple of miles of me, I may not be very popular! There definitely won't be any confusion about how I feel about it!
Its the ingredient called piclorum which is added to 2-4-D to make the herbicide grazon that has made so much of our manure toxic. Grazon is 65% 2,4-D and 35% Piclorom. The piclorom goes through the animals manure and urine almost untouched and has a killing half life of about a year and a half. I still have it in my garden. the popularity of grazon especially for those who can't or won't move their animals off pasture is that the state ag dept. allows the spraying of this material with the animals in the pasture. Duh, that's why they call it grazon. anyone spraying 2,4-D in their pastures must keep the animals off for 7 days. So how come grazon requires no animal removal? Answer is simple: The chemical purveyers are owned by the secret elite who control our govt. agencies; which are corrupted into criminal agencies. Actually, the feds and the state people are delighted to have found a chemical which ruins any chance of wide-spread organic agriculture.
Oh what sad pictures.
I agree with your wife, better to sacrifice the homegrown canteloupes in an effort to have room for tomatoes.
can you do any containers?
I wiped out 100 tomato plants and lots of peppers one year with some hay I used for mulch that had been in the barn for 2 years. I had completely forgot about using grazon.
I have not used it since and I'm not showing any signs of it in the garden now.
about the only crop that you could grow would be corn if it is in your soil.
I thought about corn, but I'm probably going to go with mustard for a manure crop. I think I can get two crops tilled in by September and then do an overwinter using wheat.
It is not just picloram nowadays, though I think that in the early 2000s, the issue first was found in compost or manure contaminated by picloram back when it first became an issue in the Pacific Northwest and Pennsylvania. At least that is when I first became aware of the issue. Now it is an issue that can arise from multiple herbicides in the pyridine-carboxylic acid family, mostly picloram, aminopyralid, clopyralid and aminocyclopyrachlor. To a lesser extent, the same herbicide carryover can occur with dopyralid, triclopyr and fluoxpyr.
It used to be you only had to ask your hay, compost or manure supplier if the hay/grains/grasses in question were sprayed with Grazon. Now you have to run through the whole list....Milennium, Grazon P&D, Curtail, Surmount, Stinger, etc.
We know more about all the ways the herbicide carryover occurs now and how gardeners then end up with contaminated soil, but it isn't getting any easier to avoid this sort of carryover. You can get it in compost (including bagged commercially-produced compost and municipal compost from municipalities where golf courses and parks are sprayed with these products and the grass clippings from mowing are hauled to the municipality's composting facility). You can get it in animal manure straight from the farm. You can get it from grass clippings (although if you do your own lawn maintenance then you clearly wouldn't use grass clippings from lawns sprayed with this stuff). You can get it from hay or straw from fields sprayed with these products, which is one of the products' main uses---to kill broadleaf weeds growing in grasslands, parks, lawns, utility right-of-way land, hayfields or grazing pastures. You even can introduce it to your own domestic animals via name-brand bagged feed grown in fields where this herbicide was used. Then, when you clean out your animal housing and dump the bedding material/manure on your compost pile, you are introducing these herbicide residues to your own garden. It is maddening. Life was so much easier when all you had to do was avoid anything sprayed with Grazon.
Also irritating? More than a full decade after this first occurred, it is not widely discussed and most gardeners known nothing about it.
Also irritating? It can put your soil out of commission from 1-3 years.
Finally, most irritating of all? While it varies, and many variables affect how long you have to deal with the herbicide carryover in your soil if it becomes contaminated, you can have problems with herbicide residue in as small of an amount as 10 parts per billion. Ten parts per billion. Earlier studies and research at one point said as little as 3-5 parts per billion, but I think the latest research says 10. That is such a small amount and yet it causes a lot of heartache and heartbreak for gardeners whose soil is affected.
I'd rather have my plants hit 10 times in one year by drift through the air than to have the herbicide carryover contaminating my soil.
Increasingly, I don't bring in much of anything from "outside" our property. We make out own compost, use our own autumn leaves and grass clippings for mulch, and compost our chicken manure but don't use the resulting compost on plants we grow on purpose....we just dump it out in the pasture. The last time friends gave us a big batch of hay that had not been sprayed with any of these products, I still composted it for two years before I used any of it as mulch.
Many gardeners learn of this issue only after it affects them personally. I mention it here several times a year to try to spread awareness.
I know people who would never ever have used these products on the land where they live with their horses and where they raise their gardens, but during a difficult time (the drought of 2011), they purchased hay trucked in from out-of-state and, eventually, the herbicide carryover from that purchased hay made it into their garden via the use of their animals' manure in the compost pile, and thence from the compost pile to the garden. Y'all remember what 2011 was like. Ranchers were paying outrageous amounts for whatever hay they could find and they weren't asking questions about what herbicides had been sprayed on it.
This is an issue that is unlikely to go away because as Mueller pointed out the producers of these products have a lot of money and clout.
When these herbicide residues showed up a couple of years ago in the manure of animals fed a name-brand commercial bagged feed (and the investigation did trace the herbicide carryover back to that animal feed), to me that was a signal that we'll never be free of this herbicide carryover and it always will plague gardeners. What animal owner doesn't go to the feed store occasionally and buy bags of animal feed? We'll never be free of this stuff.
Herbicide in animal feed?!? Now I am worried. My main source of manure was the neighbors horse and our chickens. Now I wonder if I can trust any of them.
Thank you for all the information. I will be much more aware of my use of choices of compost fodder in the future.
Take my advice, don't trust any source unless you have total control of everything that goes into the final product. It's very painful, nerve-wracking and time consuming.
I'm trying to get mine back in order by next year, but even then, I'll probably plant non-affected plants for 2 or 3 years after that.
For those of you with manure compost, I would research how to do a Bioassay and use it on every batch.
Totemwolf, It was a horticultural mystery of sorts. There was a regionally well-known commercial composting facility that was very careful about the sources of the material it composted, and yet some of its bagged compost was contaminating gardens with herbicide carryover. It was hard to figure out how it happened because they were doing everything right, as far as they knew. Eventually the investigators traced the source of contamination back to Purina horse feed. It was shocking.
I'll link the story of that episode below.
Bruce, I totally agree with you. I have gotten incredibly picky about what comes onto our property, and even pickier about how and where I use it.
Here is a link that might be useful: MEN Article on Herbicide Carryover/Purina Horse Feed
Kim, just noticed your question about containers. I don't raise anything in them myself, but usually do some herbs on planters for friends and family.
Its ok Bruce. There is so much info here its hard to catch it all. I have read this all 3x to try and catch as much as possible. This year I am putting some of my stuff in large containers since I have run out of ground. I am still waiting to see if I can expand the backyard, but until then I am hoping the containers work.
It just so happens that I found a MEN guide today at the bookstore that had the article you cited. It was worth the six bucks for that only much less the rest of it.
Kind a waste of time, but I planted some green beans in my compost bin that contained manure from the 'killer compost'. Around day 7, they started showing signs of the presence of herbicide.
The interesting thing is, so far, the only plants that seem to be affected are the potatoes, tomatoes and the green bean test plants.
The cucumbers and lettuce that I figured would get hammered are growing great and don't show any signs of any damage, whatsoever.
Bruce, I am so sorry about your affected plants! I have had off & on problems -- I can't pinpoint the source but assume that it's picloram. The veggies that I can't grow in my soil are those in the nightshade family: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, plus green beans. I grow them in half barrels, in potting soil, etc., and they do fine. Everything else seems to be unaffected: lettuce, spinach, broccoi, beets, squashes, cucumbers, etc. They grow beautifully. What worries me the most is whether eating the veggies that I grow on the affected soil is entirely safe. I tell myself that eating fresh veggies with all their antioxidants, etc. outweighs the risk of the tiny amount of toxic chemicals that must be in them....just hope that that's true. :>(
Thought I would post a followup on this one. I failed to take pictures as the tomatoes progressed. Out of 58, I ended up keeping 9 for experimental purposes.
On a whim, I applied heavier than normal applications of a mixture of blood meal, bone meal and epsom salts, followed by heavy waterings for about a week.
At that point, I backed off on the water to only when the soil started showing signs of being too dry.
Out of the 9, all but 1 went on to produce fairly well. The one that didn't do well was a Juliet that had been potted in a large pot to use as a replacement in case of gopher attack. I knew I had used some of the affected compost and when it started showing the 'melted tomato plant' look, I gently washed as much soil out of the root structure as I could. I figure bare rooting an 18" plant probably had as much to do with the low production as the herbicide.
Thanks for the update. I was wondering how the story played out over time.
I know that you had a plan for soil remediation. Any news on that front? Have you tested soil in that area lately to see if your remediation has been successful? What's the plan for spring?
I planted mustard and chopped and tilled it in, a couple of times last summer. Other than volunteer tomato plants late in the summer, I haven't run any tests.
The only thing I'm planting in one of the areas are onions. The other area has red clay about 8" down that holds water pretty bad, so I'm in the process of trying to come up with a corrective plan.
Might I suggest cover crop? Daikon (tiller) radishes or giant mustard. I was extremely impressed with the top organic material provided by the giant mustard and it never obtained full size from last fall's planting and its roots burrow as deep as possible. The daikon kills faster so I didn't sow it late last fall, but started some this spring in some areas.