The magazine, Mother Earth News, more than decorates our well-burdened coffee table, it is a publication read cover to cover by both of us. In it we find things we’d like to do here in our homesteading efforts, updates on solar and other green technologies, tips on plants we could grow, and so on. Recently however, through several consecutive issues have been warnings about toxic effects of compost or manure. This piques our mutual interest because we bring these things here although always with due consideration for our organic principles.
The manure or compost in question is said to destroy the plants it is placed near or on. Gardeners and farmers talk about their plants mysteriously succumbing after applying it. A farmer loses an entire crop, or a home owner finds that their vegetable garden wilts and then dies.
As it turns out, this deadly compost is laced with a herbicide that farmers are using to kill broadleaf plants in their pastures. Clopyralid is one of the names the chemical goes by. Click here to find out how it works its damage. An enormous problem with this particular herbicide is that it persists. After being applied to pasture, it is eaten by cattle or horses. After going through their digestive systems, it is active in the manure. It remains active even after the manure is composted. The stuff doesn’t quit.
In an online article (click here), I learned that "Most herbicides are microbiologically broken down or degraded within a few days or weeks ... in the soil and leave no lasting herbicidal impacts." This is reassuring because of the widespread use of them, but this particular type of herbicide is not the same. According to the same source and others, these substances remain active even after composting.
And now, in addition to being found in manure or compost, yet a new source has emerged. The recent issue of Mother Earth News tells of incidences of plant failures occurring in Vermont, followed by rigorous testing to find the source of the problem. It was traced to Purina horse feed. The horses eat the feed, and their manure, even after composting, still contains the active pesticide.
This is some nasty stuff. I’m sure you can imagine the consequences if it keeps showing up in unexpected places. Even though the manufacturer, Dow Agrosciences (click here for their warnings), specifies to not remove the manure from pasture, this means that eventually no manure can be trusted for use on gardens. And manure has been our most potent and organic source of nutrients for vegetable plants. This herbicide effectively stops the natural cycle of plant to food to compost; a system essential for a healthy garden. Nasty. Very, very nasty. Until this stuff finally gets outlawed, spread the word. -jmm