Pesticide Drift Threatens Midwestern Vineyards

As vineyards across the Midwest are being damaged or destroyed by pesticide drift, growers are calling for legislation to address the problem.


| Oct. 31, 2013



The results of 2,4-D herbicide drift.

Tom Zumpfe holds a bunch of Frontenac grapes he said were stunted by herbicide drift. “At least half the grapes are either BBs or they’re non-existent,” Zumpfe said.


Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Reposted with permission from Harvest Public Media.

As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they don’t always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D, drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating. Grape and vegetable growers in the Midwest are pushing regulators for tougher rules governing pesticide drift, and asking their neighbors to look before they spray.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.

“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 pesticide drift. The use of any weed killer can result in herbicide drift. 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 pesticide drift up to two days after they are sprayed. On a hot day they can volatilize, or evaporate, and take to the wind.





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