Devastating herbicide drift endangers vineyards


Photo by Flickr user Derek [snekse], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A few weeks ago, Harvest Public Media posted a story about how certain herbicides used on corn and soy fields, along with golf courses and lawns, can pose serious risks to the relatively small but growing number of Midwestern vineyards. As Grant Gerlock reports,

Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn….

“Unfortunately, it just so happens that grapes are very sensitive to small amounts of 2,4-D,” said Lowell Sandell, a weed scientist at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

The problem is not direct spray, it’s herbicide drift. Drift can happen with any weed killer. A stiff breeze can carry tiny droplets from the sprayer in one field to the vineyard next door.

But 2,4-D and another chemical, dicamba, remain a threat for drift up to two days after they are sprayed. On a hot day they can volatilize, or evaporate, and take to the wind.

It’s a thoughtful story about an important way that commodity production and smaller-scale farms interact, for better or worse. Find the full audio and text versions of the piece here.


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