[permaculture] Polluted manure ruins gardens (hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lflj at intrex.net
Sun Jun 29 10:21:13 EDT 2008
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] Polluted manure ruins gardens (hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid)
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2008 07:54:43 -0400
From: jcummins <jcummins at UWO.CA>
To: SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU
Home-grown veg ruined by toxic fertiliser
Gardeners across Britain are reaping a bitter harvest of rotten
withered salads and deformed tomatoes after an industrial herbicide
their soil. Caroline Davies reports on how the food chain became
and talks to the angry allotment owners whose plots have been destroyed
Caroline Davies The Observer, Sunday June 29, 2008
Gardeners have been warned not to eat home-grown vegetables
a powerful new herbicide that is destroying gardens and allotments
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been inundated with calls from
concerned gardeners who have seen potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and
vegetables wither or become grossly deformed. The society admitted
that it had no
idea of the extent of the problem, but said it appeared 'significant'.
affected gardens and allotments have been contaminated by manure
from farms where the hormone-based herbicide aminopyralid has been
Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures aminopyralid, has posted advice to
allotment holders and gardeners on its website. Colin Bowers, Dow's UK
marketing manager, told The Observer that links to their products had
proved in some of the cases, but it was not clear whether aminopyralid
responsible for all of them and tests were continuing. 'It is
problem,' he said, 'and I have got full sympathy for everyone who is
He said the company was unable to advise gardeners that it was 'safe' to
consume vegetables that had come into contact with the manure because of
pesticide regulations. 'All we can say is that the trace levels of
are likely to be in these crops are of such low levels that they are
unlikely to cause a problem to human health.'
The Dow website says: 'As a general rule, we suggest damaged produce
(however this is caused) should not be consumed.' Those who have
contaminated manure are advised not to replant on the affected soil
for at least a
Aminopyralid, which is found in several Dow products, the most popular
Forefront, a herbicide, is not licensed to be used on food crops and
a label warning farmers using it not to sell manure that might contain
residue to gardeners. The Pesticides Safety Directorate, which has
regulatory update on the weedkiller, is taking samples from affected
Problems with the herbicide emerged late last year, when some commercial
potato growers reported damaged crops. In response, Dow launched a
within the agriculture industry to ensure that farmers were aware of
products should be used. Nevertheless, the herbicide has now entered
chain. Those affected are demanding an investigation and a ban on the
They say they have been given no definitive answer as to whether other
on their gardens and allotments is safe to eat.
It appears that the contamination came from grass treated 12 months ago.
Experts say the grass was probably made into silage, then fed to
the winter months. The herbicide remained present in the silage,
the animal and into manure that was later sold. Horses fed on hay
been treated could also be a channel.
Bryn Pugh, legal consultant at the National Society of Allotments and
Leisure Gardeners, said he was preparing claims for some members to
compensation from the manure suppliers. But it was extremely difficult
trace the exact origins of each contaminated batch. 'It seems to be
From what I know, it is endemic throughout England and Wales. We
pressing the government to ban this product,' he said.
Aminopyralid is popular with farmers, who spray it on grassland
controls weeds such as docks, thistles and nettles without affecting
around them. It binds itself to the woody tissue in the grass and only
down when exposed to bacteria in the soil.
Shirley Murray, 53, a retired management consultant with an allotment
Bushy Park in Hampton, south-west London, said several of her allotment
neighbours had used the same manure bought from a stables and all were
am absolutely incensed at what has happened and find it scandalous
weedkiller sprayed more than one year ago, that has passed through an
gut, was kicked around on a stable floor, stored in a muck heap in a
then on an allotment site and was finally dug into or mulched on to
winter is still killing "sensitive" crops and will continue to do so
next year,' she said.
'It's very toxic, it shouldn't get into the food chain. You try to be as
organic as you can and we have poisoned ourfood. I've been everywhere,
all the right people, but nobody will speak on the record to guarantee
safe to eat. We all think it is a scandal. Not to mention what it has
time and money.'
Pesticide expert Professor Vyvyan Howard, a toxico-pathologist at Ulster
University, said it was 'a very powerful herbicide' but in his opinion
'unlikely to pose any human health risks'. However, advice about its
use should be
strengthened, he said. 'I think the thing that is going to drive this
commercial damage that could be done to market gardeners,' he said.
Guy Barter, the RHS head of horticultural advisory services, said they
receiving more than 20 calls a week. 'Our advice is not to eat the
because no one seems to have any idea whether it is safe to eat them
can't give any assurances,' he said. 'It is happening all over the
lot of cases we are seeing is where people have got manure from
the stable have bought their hay from a merchant, and the merchant
bought hay from many farmers, possibly from different parts of the
So they have no idea where the hay came from. So finding someone to
quite difficult.' Weedkiller in the soil should dissipate by next
year, but in
stacks of contaminated manure it might take two or more years to
Dow is planning a major publicity campaign to reiterate warnings to
over usage, and to encourage allotment holders to check the provenance of
manure that they put down in an effort to prevent the problem
compensation, it was less forthcoming. 'There is no easy answer to
Bowers. 'The first port of call is always where the manure comes from.
that point on, I can't really comment.
'The chain is horrendously complicated. In the cases we have managed to
trace back, we might find that the farmer who supplied the manure
anything himself, but he might have bought in a couple of bales of
one of his neighbours, and that farm might have sprayed.'
Robin and Christina Jones spread a large amount of manure over their
garden and vegetable patch at their home in Banstead, Surrey. When the
potatoes failed, Robin took a sample to the RHS, which identified
neighbour, who bought from the same source, suffered the same
have lost 80 per cent of our vegetable patch,' said Jones, 65, a
engineer. Raspberries, French beans, onions, leeks, even a newly
robina tree were all affected. 'We are distraught. But what worries
me is that
the courgettes look very healthy. Had we not had the problem with the
potatoes, we might never have realised. Now we are advised not to eat
'This is a very serious issue, and people must be made aware of the
not to eat vegetables grown in contaminated manure.'
Sue Ainsworth, 58, an education consultant, said around 20 allotments
site in Hale, Cheshire, had been affected. 'We first noticed with the
potatoes. As they came through, they were deformed, all curled over
underneath. But the worry is that the courgettes also planted on the
fine - but are they safe to eat? This must have affected thousands of
am really worried about this product and really think it should be
She said the farmer who supplied the manure said he had used nothing
unusual. 'But he may have bought in the straw and genuinely knew
nothing about the
Susan Garrett, 57, an IT consultant, said 20 plots were affected at her
allotment in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. 'And that is just the plants
we can see
are damaged. We are angry it has been allowed to happen - not with the
company, but because there doesn't seem to be any protection for us or
anything to stop it happening again.'
How to deal with the problem
Do you have contaminated manure?
Tell-tale symptoms of crop damage include distorted foliage, with
cupping of leaves and fern-like growth. There are no remedies once
damage has occurred. Susceptible crops include potatoes, tomatoes,
beans, peas, carrots and lettuce.
How should you deal with the affected area?
Experts say rotavation is the best practice, or forking over several
times as soon as possible. This incorporates the plant tissue into the
soil, where it will decompose and the chemicals will eventually be
degraded by soil microbes. Repeat the rotavation in late summer/early
Should you replant this season?
No. The plant residues need to be given time to break down. The advice
is not to replant for a year.
Why has the chemical lasted so long?
Aminopyralid, like other herbicides, works by binding strongly to
plant tissues. Once the plant's tissues decay, the chemical breaks
down in the soil. If manure is stacked it takes far longer.
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