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Beware of Bad Organic Compost

How Your Organic Garden May Suffer from Herbicide Damaged Killer Compost

There’s genuine concern, if not alarm, among fellow gardeners who have imported manure, compost, and used lawn clippings to make compost, or used hay and straw in their gardens. Herbicide contamination has been responsible for a wide swath of damage, even devastation, of many gardens and farms.

Now… herbicide sounds like it could be a good thing. Something made with herbs, right? NOT!

Herbicide definition: a substance that is toxic to plants and is used to destroy unwanted vegetation.1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbicide

IRONICALLY, A NUMBER OF “ORGANIC” FARMS HAVE SUFFERED THE WORST.

Even the commercial producers of compost have found their products tainted with one or more forms of these persistent herbicides sold as brand names such as Grazon, Tordon, Singer, Lontrel, and often incorporated with other herbicides to offer a broad range of weed control.

THE TERM “PERSISTENT” TELLS THE STORY IN A NUTSHELL.

shutterstock_400241830

The active ingredients include these major players “Pictoram”, “Clopryalid”, and “Aminoparalid”. They are sold to farmers and over the counter in many stores.

And… who makes these deadly, plant-stunting chemicals? Can you guess?

Dow Chemicals

Dow… “Better living through chemistry.” Just kidding. Look. We do not have a conspiracy mindset.

WE ARE PRO BUSINESS AND CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM.

WE ARE AGAINST THE POISONING OF OUR PLANET, SOIL, WATER AND ANIMALS.

While Dow is working to solve problems for farmers by creating chemicals in the lab to stunt growth in weeds… are they running simultaneous tests to see how these are affecting the farm ecosystem?

The ramification are so far reaching. The animals consume herbicide laced feed. Their manure grows crops that become tainted, if they grow at all. People consume the beef raised on these same chemically treated grains, as do chickens, goats, and sheep. Their meat becomes chemical laced. Humans also eat these crops.

Heard of the dramatic rise in allergies to wheat, gluten, soy and corn? Could be linked, couldn’t it?

Pesticides Created by Dow Chemicals

  • Picloram by Dow Chemicals
  • Clopyralid by DowAgro
  • Clopyralid by DowAgroSciences

THESE CHEMICALS MIMIC A PLANT’S GROWTH HORMONES (AUXINS) AND CAUSE GROWTH TO BE STUNTED, DEFORMED, OR NON-EMERGENT.

They are primarily used to keep weeds out of grass crops, including fields, golf courses, and lawns. They’ve proven very effective at controlling broadleaf weeds.They have been approved as safe for animals to graze (as in Grazon).

However… these chemicals are unique in that they do not break down quickly, and can persist on the crop, in the soil, and water for months, even longer before they break down.

THE HERBICIDE PASSES THROUGH THE ANIMAL’S BODY, AND IF THE MANURE IS COLLECTED, IT WILL TAINT ANYTHING IT TOUCHES, INCLUDING OUR GARDENS AND OUR COMPOST.

Celebrity gardener, Joe Lamp’l, host of Growing a Greener World, had a terrible experience with this “Killer Compost” back in 2013. His plants came up slowly and looked contorted. What the heck? He traced the issue back to the horse manure they’d used to make the “organic” compost.

THE HORSE MANURE THEY USED WAS TAINTED. THE HORSES HAD CONSUMED HAY TREATED WITH “GRAZON”.

shutterstock_187445609

Joe’s tomatoes, beans, and eggplants got the worst of it. He let everything grow out rather than replace the entire soil. Then he planted cover crops over several seasons and eventually the bad elements disappeared. Moral of story–if this happened to a renowned gardening expert it could certainly happen to any of us! 2)http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/killer-compost-it-happened-to-us/

There’s lots of information, and lots of horror stories related to this topic. The bottom line is that no matter where we are growing, we cannot rest assured our materials are herbicide free unless, and until, we know where the product originated and if it ever received any applications of herbicide containing the formulations cited above. That includes what your animals eat, the compost you buy at the store, and the hay or straw you use for mulch or straw bale gardening.

EVEN GRASS CLIPPINGS ARE SUSPECT UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT.

shutterstock_247034836

If you happen to have a closed loop, self-sufficient operation where you’re using only your own home-grown materials then you’re likely contaminant-free.

The other measure we can take is to do a quick test, which we discuss next.

 

DIY – Do It Yourself Compost Tests

Bob Webster, the compost expert we referred to in a recent article offers a very simple test.3)https://gardensall.com/how-to-make-compost-tea-your-plants-will-love/

Take the material you intend to use and place it in a bucket of water to steep for a few hours. Then find a broad-leaf weed like a dandelion and douse it with the water. Then wait a couple of days to see if there are any ill-effects. The other method that’s more scientific is to test using beans or peas in six little pots. One group of three, the control, gets filled with known quality good compost mix while the other three get the unknown mixture. Put three seeds in every pot, water them in and place them in the same location. Wait and observe…results should indicate what’s going on with the “suspect” compost. 4)http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/herbicide-carryover

shutterstock_118601743

In general, it’s not a bad idea to test your fertilizers.

Doing our own study on which fertilizers work best for our soil. E.g., you might place your first choice fertilizer on one garden row, and your other favorite on another. Raised beds are even better for testing in more isolation without cross-effect from water drainage. You’d have to grow the same crops in both beds to have the best case study, but it would prove interesting if you have the inclination to test it.

An extensive web search yielded what we thought to be two excellent resources. The site “Beyond Pesticides” has write-ups on all the bad players we’ve listed. 5)http://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-gateway The best general write up came from our own back yard- North Carolina State University.6)http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/herbicide-carryover

Those of you who remember the TV show “Hill Street Blues” might recall that after the morning briefing Captain Frank Furillo would send his officers off with the routine precaution, “Be careful out there!” We would advise the same.

There’s genuine concern, if not alarm, among fellow gardeners who have imported manure, compost, and used lawn clippings to make compost, or used hay and straw in their gardens. Herbicide contamination has been responsible for a wide swath of damage, even devastation, of many gardens and farms.

Now… herbicide sounds like it could be a good thing. Something made with herbs, right? NOT!

Herbicide definition: a substance that is toxic to plants and is used to destroy unwanted vegetation.7)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbicide

Ironically, a number of “organic” farms have suffered the worst.

Even the commercial producers of compost have found their products tainted with one or more forms of these persistent herbicides sold as brand names such as Grazon, Tordon, Singer, Lontrel, and often incorporated with other herbicides to offer a broad range of weed control.

The term “persistent” tells the story in a nutshell.

shutterstock_400241830

The active ingredients include these major players “Pictoram”, “Clopryalid”, and “Aminoparalid”. They are sold to farmers and over the counter in many stores.

And… who makes these deadly, plant-stunting chemicals? Can you guess?

Dow Chemicals

Dow… “Better living through chemistry.” Just kidding. Look. We do not have a conspiracy mindset.

We are pro business and conscious capitalism.

We are against the poisoning of our planet, soil, water and animals.

While Dow is working to solve problems for farmers by creating chemicals in the lab to stunt growth in weeds… are they running simultaneous tests to see how these are affecting the farm ecosystem?

The ramification are so far reaching. The animals consume herbicide laced feed. Their manure grows crops that become tainted, if they grow at all. People consume the beef raised on these same chemically treated grains, as do chickens, goats, and sheep. Their meat becomes chemical laced. Humans also eat these crops.

Heard of the dramatic rise in allergies to wheat, gluten, soy and corn? Could be linked, couldn’t it?

Pesticides Created by Dow Chemicals

  • Picloram by Dow Chemicals
  • Clopyralid by DowAgro
  • Clopyralid by DowAgroSciences

These chemicals mimic a plant’s growth hormones (auxins) and cause growth to be stunted, deformed, or non-emergent.

They are primarily used to keep weeds out of grass crops, including fields, golf courses, and lawns. They’ve proven very effective at controlling broadleaf weeds.They have been approved as safe for animals to graze (as in Grazon).

However… these chemicals are unique in that they do not break down quickly, and can persist on the crop, in the soil, and water for months, even longer before they break down.

The herbicide passes through the animal’s body, and if the manure is collected, it will taint anything it touches, including our gardens and our compost.

Celebrity gardener, Joe Lamp’l, host of Growing a Greener World, had a terrible experience with this “Killer Compost” back in 2013. His plants came up slowly and looked contorted. What the heck? He traced the issue back to the horse manure they’d used to make the “organic” compost.

The horse manure they used was tainted. The horses had consumed hay treated with “Grazon”.

shutterstock_187445609

Joe’s tomatoes, beans, and eggplants got the worst of it. He let everything grow out rather than replace the entire soil. Then he planted cover crops over several seasons and eventually the bad elements disappeared. Moral of story–if this happened to a renowned gardening expert it could certainly happen to any of us! 8)http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/killer-compost-it-happened-to-us/

There’s lots of information, and lots of horror stories related to this topic. The bottom line is that no matter where we are growing, we cannot rest assured our materials are herbicide free unless, and until, we know where the product originated and if it ever received any applications of herbicide containing the formulations cited above. That includes what your animals eat, the compost you buy at the store, and the hay or straw you use for mulch or straw bale gardening.

Even grass clippings are suspect until proven innocent.

shutterstock_247034836

If you happen to have a closed loop, self-sufficient operation where you’re using only your own home-grown materials then you’re likely contaminant-free.

The other measure we can take is to do a quick test, which we discuss next.

DIY – Do It Yourself Compost Tests

Bob Webster, the compost expert we referred to in a recent article offers a very simple test.9)https://gardensall.com/how-to-make-compost-tea-your-plants-will-love/

Take the material you intend to use and place it in a bucket of water to steep for a few hours. Then find a broad-leaf weed like a dandelion and douse it with the water. Then wait a couple of days to see if there are any ill-effects. The other method that’s more scientific is to test using beans or peas in six little pots. One group of three, the control, gets filled with known quality good compost mix while the other three get the unknown mixture. Put three seeds in every pot, water them in and place them in the same location. Wait and observe…results should indicate what’s going on with the “suspect” compost. 10)http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/herbicide-carryover

shutterstock_118601743

In general, it’s not a bad idea to test your fertilizers.

Doing our own study on which fertilizers work best for our soil. E.g., you might place your first choice fertilizer on one garden row, and your other favorite on another. Raised beds are even better for testing in more isolation without cross-effect from water drainage. You’d have to grow the same crops in both beds to have the best case study, but it would prove interesting if you have the inclination to test it.

An extensive web search yielded what we thought to be two excellent resources. The site “Beyond Pesticides” has write-ups on all the bad players we’ve listed. 11)http://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-gateway The best general write up came from our own back yard- North Carolina State University.12)http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/herbicide-carryover

Here is a recent update from NC State University on the topic of toxic persistence.

And here’s a link showing where in your area “clean” straw bales may purchased.

Those of you who remember the TV show “Hill Street Blues” might recall that after the morning briefing Captain Frank Furillo would send his officers off with the routine precaution, “Be careful out there!” We would advise the same.

Be safe and keep on growing!


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