Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Garden’s Been Poisoned!

No joke, my garden has been poisoned. And as far as I can tell, I have Dow Chemical to ultimately blame.

I live in Florida and our ground is just sand. I have to amend and create my own garden soil. So I compost, add fish emollient, and pick up loads of horse manure from a local farm.

A couple of months ago, my neighbors and I got a load of manure from the horse farm to use in our spring beds. We have been doing this for years with great success. We pick up a trailer load of partially composted horse manure, bring it home, finish composting it, and then use it as the soil in our garden beds. Well, the manure has been composted, and we began filling our beds with it.

I used the new compost in a bed that currently is half full of greens. I spread the compost in the empty half of the bed and direct sowed Wando Peas, broccoli, and carrots. The peas came up first and looked a little weak, but it’s been cold and dry, so I chalked it up to that. The broccoli came up and looked good. The carrots never even sprouted. As the peas grew, it became obvious that something more than dry weather was the problem.

Herbicide Poisoned Pea Plants

At that same time, my Feb/March issue of Mother Earth News arrived. In it was an article called, “Killer Compost Update: Herbicide Damage Still a Major Problem.” The picture that was displayed with the article caught my attention because it looked just like my peas.

022813 burned pea plant 3

The article explains that two Dow AgroSciences herbicides (picloram and clopyralid) are being found in composts and animal feeds. My heart sank. I had the terrible suspicion that my new compost was contaminated.

I called my neighbor to see if she had used the new compost yet, and if so, what her results were. She walked me over to her bed of English Peas. They were all dead or burned and wilted. We had become the victims of Killer Compost.

The horse farm does not use herbicides themselves, so they were introduced either through the hay or through the Purina horse feed. Either way, our ton of compost is toxic and we have no way of knowing if any alternative sources of manure will be herbicide-free. If the herbicide was introduced through the Purina feed (as Mother Earth explains is a very good possibility) we will have to find an organic farm that feeds only organic grains, grasses, and hays.

There is no remediation for picloram or clopyralid once it has been introduced. It will remain active in the soil for years. My neighbor and I have to dig up our beds and remove all of the toxic compost. What we do with it then is up for debate. It survives digestion and hot composting, so there doesn’t’ seem to be any way to break it down. We will either spread it on walkways or burn it.

Mother Earth is calling for these persistent herbicides to be outlawed entirely before it becomes impossible to grow organically. Please join their fight with me. Write to Richard Keigwin, director of the EPA’s Special Review and Reregistration Division at to let him know about your concerns.

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