Milestone Herbicide Creates Killer Compost



Clopyralid Pea Plant Damage

This pea plant shows the cupped leaves that indicate the soil contains damaging levels of a potent herbicide.

Last fall, our report on manure, hay and compost contaminated with Milestone herbicide (aka aminopyralid), made by Dow AgroSciences) told of 2008’s tragic summer in the United Kingdom, where thousands of gardeners lost their tomatoes, beans and other sensitive crops to manure and hay laced with this potent, highly persistent herbicide. This year the problem has hit home, with U.S. gardeners, organic farmers and commercial growers reporting damaged or lost tomato crops from Milestone contamination. (Aminopyralid is also sold under the brand name of Forefront.)

Why now? “We had the perfect storm to set up the situation,” says Dr. Jeanine Davis, associate professor of horticulture at North Carolina State University and author of several recent extension service advisories about Milestone’s persistent toxicity. The drought caused animal owners to buy hay trucked in from other areas, and at the same time many people created new vegetable gardens and bought contaminated compost, or hay to use as mulch.”

Davis is now receiving notices daily from growers and extension agents across the country who are seeing vegetables damaged by manure, hay or compost contaminated with Milestone. Tomatoes are highly sensitive; symptoms including curled, cupped leaves and wilting new growth are often misdiagnosed as a virus or disease problem.

Organic growers who have lost their crops suffer a double punch because they lose certification on the contaminated land. Recovery can take a long time. In a former North Carolina hay field treated with Milestone (one of several aminopyralid products) in June 2006, residue levels were high enough to damage tomatoes in 2009 — three years later.

All of this leaves Dow Chemical holding a bag of trouble, but maybe it won’t be so bad since the company reportedly has bought web rights to Is that smart damage control, or what? And business looks good judging from the number of U.S. highway departments, foresters, utility companies, and other big land managers that are buying the stuff by the ton. You tell me: When a deer grazes on treated vegetation in the power cut behind my house and relieves herself as she passes through my garden, who’s responsible for the fact that some of my soil is now useless for growing  beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes and many other crops for four years — or more. Do we really want to allow companies to make their profits by selling chemicals that are this potent?

D Newton
7/13/2012 10:59:55 AM

To protect your garden,  you should always treat it with activated charcoal (carbon) to detoxify it.  It's inexpensive, easy to use, and will work equally well in soil, manure, mulch, etc. Howard Garrett, the "Dirt Doctor" also recommends activated charcoal on his national organic gardening show, and it is effective on pesticides and other toxins as well. I have seen it sold on Amazon listed as "soil detox".

Dakota Becker
12/8/2011 10:05:20 PM

Just an idea, but when we frame gardens as gardens, it's a lot easier for people to look at these pressing issues as pertaining to a minority of hobbyists.

3/30/2011 1:55:08 PM

I have an idea to get the public aware of this herbicide aminopyralid. Call your local news channels, and radio stations, and newspapers and demand they have articles about this, and warn the public on the news, and get groups of friends , family to hold signs and pass out flyers on street corners close to businesses who sell this. Send out emails, we need to get more active on this NOW ! Just do it !

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