Aminopyralid: Know Your Manure Source

Posted on Aug 10 2011 - 2:23am by Mike Lieberman

I read a story in the Guardian UK about a plant disease called aminopyralid and how it’s affecting small growers and home gardeners. Even though it’s a disease that seems to have just hit the UK, how it happened is what’s alarming to me.

What is aminopyralid

Here is what happened. The chemical company, Dow Chemicals, produced a hormone based herbicide, aminopyralid, that started being used in the UK back in 2005.

According to the Guardian article:

It is used by farmers to kill broad-leaved weeds growing in fields of grass. It locks onto the cellulose in the plants, passes through the guts of the animals that eat them, and retains its potency in their manure, sometimes for two or three years or more. It is not believed to present a risk to human health.

How it affected growers

What wound up happening is that the small growers and home gardeners like you and I who were using animal manure instead of chemical fertilizers were being hit hard because the chemical was being passed through the manure into the gardens. Plants were shriveling up and dying. You can read more about the whole story on the Guardian web site.

This is why we need to not only get as close to our food source as possible, but also do our best to know the source of all/most things that we are using.

In the case of aminopyralid, they are having a hard time tracing it back to the exact source. There is all kinds of paperwork and redtape that needs to be filled out to prove that your manure is safe, etc.

It’s not easy to separate conventional and organic

This just shows that it’s not as simple as having conventional farming over here and organic/sustainable practices over there. There will be cross contamination through run-off, wind and other means. We don’t live in bubbles. Everything affects everything.

As an individual it’s disempowering because you think you are doing something that you believe in by using animal manure, but then it results in plant disease from chemical companies. The worst part is that there is no retribution that can be sought against the chemical companies.

In this specific instance, this is a problem that is happening overseas. I would think that similar instances with other chemicals and diseases are occurring here in the States as well.

The responsibility is on us

It puts more of the responsibility on us the consumers and individuals to question and really know the source of what we are buying. What’s your thoughts on the situation?

Photo courtesy of John Mason, on Gardeners’ Alert: Aminopyralid-contaminated manure – a problem that has not gone away.

  • Deltagardener

    I have to wonder why they were spraying their fields in the first place. Normally cows and horses will eat most weeds and leave behind ones that are not good for them. I don’t know any farmers here that spray their livestock fields. It would be interesting to see what kind of maintenance is done here in north America on livestock fields.
    Sad that this issue has stopped people from using compost in the UK.

  • Gini Lester

    Because we live in a polluted/toxic world it is incumbent upon us to be vigilant. Wish it weren’t so but that is the reality of our situation.

  • Edward

    Living in Texas, I can find places just outside the city with plenty of cow and horse manure if I need it. I also have grub worms in my compost pile though, so I have a lot of worm castings coming in.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Kind of like why they would need to grow GMO alfalfa. There is no need except for profits.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Sadly it is.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s good that you have all the worm castings. The crazy part about this story is that they can’t trace where it’s stemming from.

  • http://marysgardeningendeavors.blogspot.com Mary C.

    OMG, THAT IS AWFUL! That herbicide isn’t available here right?

    Why would anyone even want to use an indiscriminate herbicide that can persist for years? You wouldn’t be able to grow anything in the spot you sprayed it, even grass. At least Round-Up dissipates almost immediately :/ Friggin’ idiots.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624692882 Katherine Kelley

    It’s an herbicide that maintains its efficacy for 2-3 years OR more, but it is “believed” to be safe for humans?  Can you imagine the potential for build up in a person’s system, no to mention the poor livestock?  That’s a clear sign that it wasn’t a good idea to begin with.  

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Not sure if it’s available here. I just know that it’s hit the UK. The chemical companies are out of control.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    They sprayed it once and everyone is ok. Those are the tests they run.

  • http://www.immunocal.com/scaughron Immunesupport

    This happened to a friend in MD last year when she used horse manure from a nearby farm – so yes, it IS happening in the U.S.  Her plants looked just like your picture, and her garden continues to be minimally productive this year.  Worst of all is that she’s gardened organically for over 30 years!  Who knew we’d even have to be worried about poop!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Ugh. That sucks.

  • http://frontyardening.com/ Helen

    This is somewhat vindicating for me on a personal level. When I posted about avoiding animal manures and animal-based fertilizers over at ReadyMade, I got a lot of shit (pardon the pun) from commenters. But my point was this: If you’re a home gardener (especially an urban home gardener) trying to grow organically, then with a few exceptions, animal fertilizers don’t fit into the equation. The exceptions would be if the animal is yours and you raise it organically, or if you are obtaining manure from an organic farm/ranch. Worm tea/castings are obviously another exception. We have to think about how the animal that produced the waste was raised, what it was fed, what kinds of hormones and antibiotics it was given, because it’s all comes out the other end. Once again, we have an example of how everything is connected. There are lots of different ways to give our gardens the nutrients they need, from home composting (you can do this under your sink), vermiculture, vegan fertilizers, seaweed fertilizers…the list goes on. Thanks for sharing this, Mike. Very important stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    In Lakefield, Ontario Canada, we faithfully sent our grass clippings to a community run compost site at the local land-fill, only to find, that when the compost was “ready” we were not allowed to take it  – it was contaminated! Thank God the conscientious  folks in charge, and our fine local labs tested it. I depended on my garden for a large part of my very survival at the time.  Had I spread this poisoned compost on my garden, all veggies would have died.  Since then, here in Lakefield at least, very much  stricter regulations have been applied and enforced, and I hope soon the chemical scourge on clean Canadian soils will be stopped – in spite of corporate persuasions other-wise.
    Apparently the poisons came from liberal applications of “Weed Killes” applied to attain perfect lawns. This year, the village is brightly adorned with lawns filled with dandelions for their beautiful season, and clover abounds, keeps lawns green in dry season, and feeds hosts of honey bees as well. Thank you to the local Horticultural Society for starting the ball rolling! 

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Good points Helen. It’s maddening being a consumer these days…

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    That’s a shame. Luckily you were alerted before it made it’s way.