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Contaminated manure 2011?

John from Sandwell where allotment sites have been badly affected by the contamination of manure since 2008 has been in touch again to say that an allotment site in his area has had a delivery of manure suspected to be contaminated which has affected potatoes and beans. What is even more worrying is that John reports that evidence is, that it was fresh when delivered in January. We were expecting that any new problems would be caused by using manure that had been standing in heaps since before the weedkiller was temporarily withdrawn but this seems to imply that the manure has been contaminated fairly recently. John describes the effects on crops to be light and patchy leading the to possibility that this was a mixed batch of manure with some part of the heap being contaminated and other parts not.


The photos below were taken on 1 June 2011



Ann who lives north of Aberystwyth sent me the following email describing the problems a contaminated batch of manure has affected her small market garden:


We've contacted so far: the Environment Agency, Defra, the Health and Safety Executive, the Soil Association, the RHS, GQT, Dow Agrosciences. I am shocked by the level of disinterest and ignorance I've encountered.


In 2008 this chemical was thought so damaging it was banned from sale. Not long after that it was once more released for sale under the regulations of a new stewardship scheme and re-licensed by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate,one of whom's employees openly admitted to me that they cannot enforce their regulations in cases like this. This leaves me to wonder in which cases they actually can or even attempt to.


This has been a horrible experience for us on two counts: firstly we are losing a lot of our crops, a large part of our income and food, have wasted a lot of our labour and incurred a lot of extra costs, but secondly comes the realisation that there is no protection, that those organisations you think are there to protect ordinary people and their livelihoods, just aren't interested.


Dow Agrosciences will have you believe that the problem just lies with the use of old manure or fodder, produced before the new stewardship scheme came into force, because otherwise this new scheme may be found wanting and their license once more withdrawn.


The manure that is affecting our crops was produced this winter just gone by horses who ate affected hay that was grown over the summer of 2010, this manure was then composted through a hotbed and used in planting and potting mixtures for our tomatoes, cucumbers etc. We also top dressed potatoes and other crops. So no old fodder or manure in our case.


We have, where we were able to do so, removed the manure from our raised beds, together with previously laid down layers of compost and now have an enormous heap of this, about 5 tonnes, as well as another tonne and a half of pure manure sitting in a corner of our plot. Dow Agrosciences have now agree to arrange for it to be taken away. Strange they do this, yet say it's not a sign that they admit liability.

This year our market garden should have made us a little profit, for the first time since we took it on. It would have been a just reward for the many, many hours of hard work over the last two years and every bit of our savings invested in it. Instead, we'll be running at such a loss, we need to ask ourselves whether it's really worth it? I know we are more likely to win the lottery three times in a row than to see any compensation and that is just not right!


When we hear how big agrochemical companies in the US run the roost, we always think that it couldn't happen here. Well, let's say, I'm not so sure about that anymore...


Thanks for your support and all the info on your website, Sue, it has been such a help!


Ann also sent the following photographs also taken in June 2011


Ann added:

One photo shows a healthy sunflower, planted at the same time as the mutoid monster, then there's some cape gooseberries and a four week old lettuce, which is just tiny with a leaf curling like a fern.The potatoes, tomatoes and french beans are showing damage too, but didn't come out very well on a photo. We've found that the heritage varieties are much more susceptible than modern ones. Our cucumbers are growing well, but have a strange dappling on their leaves and some of our courgettes are showing curled and cupped leaves. I thought they were supposed to be immune to this chemical? I must admit that I mixed a very generous amount of the hotbed composted manure into their potting mixtures. What is your experience re the curcubits' susceptibility?


Some plants are more sensitive to the chemical than others - where there is a higher level of concentration then the less susceptible plants will also be affected. Although it is possible, I don't think dappling of the cucumber leaves is related to herbicide damage.


Dave emailed to add, "In relation to Ann's comments, I can confirm from my own experience of the previous two years that cucurbits are adversely affected by aminopyralid. Depending on the concentration, they stop growing and look very poorly, and in one case the plant died".


Dylan emailed the following comment (I've substituted the names of the brands), "I always make my own potting compost from a mix of compost and sharp sand last year brand A compost and brand B compost both gave effects of aminopyralid contamination in germination of beans with curled land distorted beans. I also saw the effects in neighbours and neighbouring plot holders beans and tomatoes etc. Eventually last year I found that brand C compost seemed to be clear of it although brand C compost is still 80% ,or something, peat. This year to my horror the same effects were seen from the brand C compost. It is only mild but each time I have potted on my toms and peppers this year into bigger pots with more compost they have been hit by the chemical getting curled leaves but then after a week or so they have grown through it apart from one chilli plant which has suffered quite bad. Some plot holders on our site have badly affected toms all potted in shop bought compost and some plot holders have used manure fresh this year not fully rotted probably from the look of it 6 months old when they used it at the beginning of the year. This manure has crippled their beans and potatoes with the usual tell tale signs. Most of them can't recognise the symptoms but I can tell even if there is only small amounts present its very easy to spot once you know what you are looking for and understand what we do. This chemical needs withdrawing it is scary. Happy growing"


Jessica from Bath sent this email and photos:

I have been worried about my potatoes as the plants are coming up all curled up, and checking your website think I have contaminated manure. This is a load of 'farmyard' manure from a local farmer delivered last autumn and dug in this spring. I've put it in several places on my allotment and the main heap is still at one end under plastic. I want to know what to do????? Help!!!!


My comments


Scrape off as much top dressing as you can so that you can hopefully reduce the effects.


Don't give up completely on the potatoes as ours were badly affected too and grew out - it does depend how concentrated the chemical was though and how much you applied. We are told that it is safe to eat anything that is affected. It is strange that the tomatoes aren't affected as they are sensitive to ap - it could be that only some parts of the manure were affected due to a mix of fodder. Are your tomatoes in a greenhouse directly planted into the ground? If manure dries out it doesn't decompose as quickly and so it can take longer to release the chemical. You may find as time goes on more things are affected as the manure breaks down - for instance a mulch won't break down as quickly as the manure mixed in the soil. In decomposition the chemical is released and then it will break down and become inactive. Contact DOW and the CRD. In the past DOW promised to remove and contaminated manure.



Claire from Cambridge emailed to say - I sourced some spent straw, in mid to late spring, from a stable, to mulch my allotment, to help with water retention.


It worked really well until we hit the very wet June, when the straw started rotting. My tomatoes are the first hit, followed by beans. I am particularly worried about this situation as I have mulched the whole of the allotment with it. I live in Cambridge, and sourced the manure locally.


I am very anxious to raise the issue of aminopyralid. The world is meant to struggle to grow food in the coming decades. If small holders become affected by this problem I am worried poorer countries' growers will be the most affected. I believe that starvation is created by multinational companies that only care for profit, and not terrible environmental catastrophes. Clearly DOW is a powerful company, I cannot understand why the government has re-introduced aminopyralid.


The first part of your email mentions straw. Aminopyralid isn't licensed to be used on cereal crops so straw shouldn't be affected but reading on I take it that the straw was mixed in with manure probably bedding material. The contamination is likely to be from the manure itself and the contamination is likely to have arrived via the animals food chain.


Remove as much of the mulch as you possibly can to try and cut down on more damage and contact DOW and the CRD.


Sue from Devon sent this email: Just continuing the saga of this poisoning - we had to use this chemical 3 years ago to kill of a dense sward of buttercups that were killing livestock. The local agrochemical expert had recommended this particular product. The manure from 08/09 was left to rot, and applied to our garden last year, and we encountered all the problems that people have reported previously after applying contaminated rotted manure to the garden. The remainder of the manure generated that year was sent back to the fields in spring 2010. We then made more hay for our winter forage, and it was eaten by housed animals this winter. This year we have applied winter 2010/2011 manure to our garden - and we are experiencing exactly the same problems as before. The point of my post - that although this chemical was applied 3 years ago, it has now cycled through 3 grazing seasons - it is still in the (new) manure and still toxic. This is not the old original manure - this is manure from last year's growth, 2 years after this chemical was used. We are still noting the the grass in our 2 fields does not give the same growth as our neighbours - so this chemical is actually still in the soil and is limiting the growth of the sward. In the polytunnel is is creating mayhem with the tomato plants (not to mention all the other veg), and it is noticeable that the pepper plants are stunted. We have 8 plants growing - 4 on heavily mucked soil, and 4 on non-mucked soil - these are twice the size of those in the mucked area.


Sorry to be so detailed - but this is just to warn that this product hangs around. If anyone yet has a method of encouraging micro-organisms that will break it down in the soil we would love to know please.


We are based in Devon (UK), and our fields are on permanent grass production for livestock.  It would appear that the best method of inactivating/destroying the aminopyralid retained in the soil is by plenty of rotavation/tilling etc - but this would mean the loss of our grassland, and hence grazing for our animals, while we plough and till and then reseed - not to mention the huge cost involved in this as well ...


You have mentioned the only way I know of speeding up decomposition which as you say is impractical for you. The advice to spread affected manure onto grassland should maybe make a distinction that the grassland should not be them used for grazing. I guess the only way forward for you is to find some means of disposing of manure without it being used in gardens or on food crops. Maybe DOW can suggest how you deal with the problem.




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Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments Blog  | A Gardener's Weather Diary  | School Vegetable Patch Website


© Our Plot on Green Lane Allotments - Please email me if you wish to use any of this site's content