In the following article by Andrew Caplan, appearing in the Gainesville Sun today, May 11, 2017, we learn about the dangers of chemicals when used carelessly or without proper information. News of this incident appeared several days ago on FaceBook.
There seems to be no scarcity of information online regarding the dangers of aminopyralid. Dow gives explicit instructions and warnings that the chemical persists in manure (http://www.dowagro.com/en-us/range/forage-management/aminopyralid-stewardship.)
Problems with chemically tainted manure caused the suspension of aminopyralid use in the UK 10 years ago (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aminopyralid.)
Which brings us the scary question – why was the application of this substance not properly supervised?
The label on GrazonNext HL reads: †Label precautions apply to forage treated with GrazonNext HL and to manure from animals that have consumed treated forage within the last three days. Consult the label for full details.
The main lesson here is that herbicides are dangerous, persistent, poorly understood, and may be used in excess. There is little doubt that some of this will wind up in our aquifer, how much, where, and what effects it will have no one knows.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Organic business, UF in hot seat over compost controversy
By Andrew Caplan
Gardening with organic fertilizer can be messy.
More so, if the material used isn’t actually organic.
Over the last few weeks, some Alachua County gardeners have discovered the compost they bought from a local business contained herbicide that killed some plants and vegetables.
The business, Floyd’s Organic Soil, had been selling the compost, which it received for free from the University of Florida, for roughly $35 per cubic yard. Representatives for UF and Floyd’s Organic Soil said they had no idea the contents were contaminated, but neither checked to see if it was.
“We certainly recognize it’s a serious matter considering certain organic farms will be impacted by this,” said UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes.
At some point in April 2016, employees at UF’s dairy farm in Hague, northwest of Gainesville, sprayed an herbicide known as GrazonNext HL over a hay field. The herbicide contained a chemical called aminopyralid, which is used for weed control, but is particularly harmful to tomatoes, beans, potatoes and other vegetables.
Cows at the farm later ate the hay. The cows’ manure — still carrying the chemicals — was donated to Floyd’s Organic Soil free of charge. Floyd’s then composted the manure and sold it unpackaged to customers.
But even as initial complaints grew through social media, the business continued to sell the contaminated materials, whose effects on plants can linger up to two years. Sikes said she doesn’t know if UF gave the manure to anyone else.
Jason Gainey, the company’s vice president, said Floyd’s Organic Soil is now accepting returns for the compost and said the company has begun testing to ensure incoming materials are safe for gardening.
He said the company is working with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and referred questions to UF.
UF, which practices organic farming for several programs and services, has self-reported the incident to its office of Environmental Health and Safety and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which visited Floyd’s Organic Soil and the dairy farm on Tuesday. UF is also attempting to find farmers and gardeners who used the compost, analyzing soil samples and offer pickup services for the unwanted materials.
“We’re very, very, very sorry that it happened and we’re trying to make good on it,” Sikes said.
Last week, citizens told county commissioners about the issue, asking for assistance. Jason Ferrell, the associate chair of agronomy at UF, told commissioners that although the chemicals are harmful to some plants, it won’t affect humans or animals if consumed.
Commissioners asked the county manager to work with IFAS to gather more information before taking any action.
David O’Keefe, who attended the meeting, is a microbiologist and used some of the contaminated materials on his garden. He soon saw the effect, particularly on his tomatoes.
The herbicide contained a chemical called aminopyralid, which is used for weed control, but is particularly harmful to tomatoes, beans, potatoes and other vegetables.
Gainesville resident David O’Keefe shows off some poorly developed tomato plants that are planted in compost that he later discovered came from University of Florida cattle that had eaten tainted hay. [ROB C. WITZEL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER]
“My main concern was what’s going on at my property and if people keep buying this stuff,” he said.
He said although many thought the material was organic, he knew the soil wasn’t USDA certified as so. He said he’s bought Floyd’s Organic Soil products for years without incident and said he will soon return his two cubic yards of compost.
Others, however, won’t be as lucky.
“You can’t garden for a year or two once you have this stuff,” O’Keefe said. “People who dug it into their garden are kind of screwed.”
Contact reporter Andrew Caplan at [email protected] or on Twitter @ AACaplan.