My comments are in green
- Tracie from Chesterfield emailed to say, "My manure came in in about October. I spread it on all of my beds (6 large ones), and to a lesser extent inside my poly tunnel. On one of my beds I trench dug it in a U shape into which I was planting my sweet peas in the spring. I had grown a few broad beans in early autumn and had transplanted them i to the poly. They grew to about 5 " and had some flowers which fell off and the top leaves curled up, I thought it was just old seed or too much water or mice, then I remembered about the manure problem. Subsequently some early potatoes that I had grown in bags have been effected, and my sweet peas have been pulled out this weekend and the manure that was trenched has been dug out and taken away. I have today gone through the poly with great care getting rid of as much manure as I can and watering with seasol and scattering calcified seaweed which I know help with soil problems in polys. Since the manure has been dug in on the beds since October do you think I stand any chance of anything growing. Also can you tell me if you know if anything is not effected by this chemical. Do you know if I can put anything on the soil to help to dissipate the problem or is it just a case of dig dig dig and wait till next year. Any advice would be great.
Sorry to hear about your problem. It's sad to see that the problem is ongoing. The general advice is to keep digging over affected soil so that decomposition is aided and the chemical breaks down. Nothing you can add to the soil will improve matters as the chemical is bound up in the plant matter in the manure. When this breaks down the chemical is released and it is then that the damage is done. I think getting as much of the manure as you can out of the soil is a good thing to do. The manure that affected us last year was delivered in October too but the problem is you don't know how long the manure was standing before being passed on and the chemical can last a few years so it is difficult to say whether you will be able to grow things on affected soil successfully. Things can be growing OK and suddenly be hit as the chemical is released into the soil as a result of decomposition. In our experience crops such as courgettes, squash and sweet corn didn't seem to be affected as far as poor growth goes but I suppose they must have absorbed some of the chemicals. The most susceptible seemed to be tomatoes, potatoes and the pea and bean family. Can you contact the supplier and ask about the chain of supply for your manure? At least they need to know not to sell any more manure and they ought to take away any you have left. Another chemical clopyralid can also have a similar effect to aminopyralid so ask about herbicides in general rather than just aminopyralid.
Tracie contacted me again to say "The supplier has been contacted and visited by my friend who sourced the manure. When questioned he said that yes he had sprayed, he knew nothing about it and my friend was shown the chemicals, the bad thing is that he was still using this banned chemical as of a few days ago".
- Jon from Brighton emailed to say, "We manured our plot in February 2009.The manure came from a local stables in Brighton, East Sussex. Most of it was well-rotted. After looking on your site, and hoping we had BLIGHT, (but unfortunately not!), we realised our plot/compost bins/new plots/ new spuds all have been contaminated with this herbicide. The potato plants are very stunted or not growing at all. The leaves look exactly like your pictures and thank you for your film - that was very helpful in diagnosing the problem. The local organic gardening group have also confirmed that in their opinion it is Aminopyralid poisoning. They told us that there was also contamination on some plots last year. We are currently looking at measures to rescue some of our plot from laying fallow for a couple of years - such as moving the paths and planting where they were etc, and removing any unused manure and plants that have been affected. ouch. We contacted the stables who gave us the manure and they insisted that they wouldn't use anything like that but said that they would contact their hay supplier to enquire further. A week later and we haven't heard back as yet. Unfortunately, the stables said that all the manure from the stack we used was taken away by local allotment holders. We were the first to contact the stables with this problem - so far. We are contacting DEFRA and DOW later this week with a view to possibly taking this further in anyway we can.
- Susanna near Newmarket emailed to say, "I have been growing my own vegetables for 5 years. Last winter, a local stable owner gave me a load of his horse manure which I have spread on nearly every one of my raised vegetable beds. The broad beans have either failed to grow or have grown and are distorted. Every one of my potato plants are similarly distorted as are the peas. I have tested by growing crops in a 50/50 mix soil/manure and 100% plain soil, the manure/soil tomatoes are distorted and failing whereas the soil-grown ones are normal and healthy. I have spent £80 pounds on seed and seed potatoes, put in more than 200 man hours on my plot only to end up with contaminated soil and a barren wasteland of distorted and dying plants. I live 10 miles from the nearest supermarket and normally, my home grown produce saves me a great deal of money and food miles.The original supplier, I am sure was completely unaware of the toxicity of his manure, and has assured me that his horse's grazing has not been sprayed with the product Aminopyralid — however he did buy in some hay for her winter feed, which must be the source of the contamination.
- Mick from Gilling East, North Yorkshire noticed this problem two years ago, when he prepared some beds in his greenhouse for tomatoes. All the plants grew well for a while then started to become malformed and stunted, with extensive leaf curl. He thought it might have been the cold summer or that the manure hadn't broken down enough and was burning the roots. He was told later this was unlikely. He did have some tomatoes in pots in the greenhouse that were unaffected. He didn't manure his garden two years ago and had no problems there. Last year he did manure parts of the garden but not extensively. His potatoes escaped but some (not all) of his broad beans were hit and none of his dwarf green beans grew straight and were of low yield. Other crops seemed to be OK. This year he manured most of his plot, during January/February. He first noticed leaf-curl on his potatoes a couple of weeks ago. At first, just put it down to the variety but now it has spread to the other varieties. He is a member of the BBC Gardening forums and read of someone else's problems that were disturbingly similar. This morning he went out to check the state of his garden. A good percentage of his potatoes have been attacked, along with his over-wintered broad beans; his raspberries are now also showing signs, as are his blackberries. He has only just planted out his dwarf and runner beans but it looks like he can kiss the whole lot goodbye for this year.
- Andy took on a plot in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire in November 2008. He says, "Thanks for all the information contained within your website, I think it has helped me diagnose my problem. Having dug over a workable piece of land, I dug in plenty of horse manure that I had picked up from a local stables where you can help yourself. I have planted red onions, spring onions, gooseberry, carrots, broad beans, potatoes, rhubarb, raspberries, tomatoes, strawberries and lettuces - so far. My beans and potatoes are really badly affected by leaf curl and following a long trawl around the Internet I stumbled upon your site where the pictures look exactly like my ailing plants. I am going to dig up my beans, as they look very sick indeed and don't hold much hope for my potatoes. I will move my strawberries and tomatoes and probably abandon the lettuces, but what about the carrots (which are looking very healthy) and the raspberries and rhubarb, which have been planted in a 'permanent' position. To be honest, I am wary of feeding my family with anything that comes from the plot now".
- Lisa from Wentnor in South Shropshire emailed to say, "I have just spent 3 weeks constructing 25 raised beds which were lined with cardboard. I then added about 6 inches of muck ( horse manure from local stables) and on top of that I put 4 bags of multipurpose compost. I did not mix the two layers up because being new to veg growing, I was unsure as to the effect it may have on seedlings even though the manure had been standing for approx. 3 years. I planted my potatoes and got so excited to see the green shoots appear but my excited has turned into devastation as my potatoes now look identical to yours. My beans which were transplanted one week ago have also started to be show signs of distortion. All these questions and no clear answers. I am truly devastated about the fact that I thought I could provide chemical free food for my two young boys, as nature intended however that powers that be can still destroy even that simple pleasure.
- Dave from Durham said,"This is only my first real year on my plot as the last one was spent clearing it. It looks almost certain that I've got a load of contaminated manure, I had one drop from a farmer that has been used all over my plot which appears to be OK as everything looks fine including potatoes. The second drop however looked totally different it looked much better more rotted I would say. I've used this on my bean beds and the bean grew fine for a while but now they are about 12" tall the top leaves are tightly curled over also a couple of my tomato's have got similar leaves. I've also noticed that where the manure was dropped the nettles and docks that are growing there are starting to curl up. I've also got this in my polytunnel but only on one side. The plants are in pots with the bottoms cut out with manure in the bottom, they are cucumber, pepper, chilli, aurbergine, and courgette none of them are showing any damage yet. We are going to speak to the farmer at the weekend but we have had several loads from him before and not had a problem so I think that the problem is not with him, maybe his food supplier. One thing that is a bit strange is that about 5 people got manure from him on the same day and it's only my pile where the nettles and docks around it are dying.
Last year on our plot people obtaining manure from the same source were affected to varying degrees. The damage also didn't all occur at the same time but over a few months. It's possible that a stack of manure on the same farm contains different batches of manure. If the farmer buys feedstuff from different sources then some bits of manure could be contaminated and other bits fine.
Additional info from Dave: We have spoken to the farmer and he swears that he has never used aminopyralid, he has heard of the problem with it but says he has never used it on his land he also doesn't buy any silage in from anywhere else he makes it all. When we got the manure delivered mine looked different to everyone elses and he said that was because mine came from the part were the beasts walk in and out of the bire so it was very wet with urine and says the problem is probably down to using the manure to early. The manure does look very fresh and wet do you think that it could have caused this damage, the nettles around the heap have curled edges would fresh manure with a lot of urine in it cause this?
The RHS tell me that they have never come across an excess of urine causing this.
- Jacob from Whitehawk Community Food Project Brighton says,"Well, you should see my poor little tomatoes in my greenhouse, they look triffid like, all zig-zag growth, tight curled up leaves, exactly the same as last year, and that was only off a couple of shovel fulls of one year old compost, that had the contaminated horse muck in. I checked with the horse yard and they said that the farmer had sprayed his 40 acres the previous year because he was selling hay!! I have one one out of two allotments unusable at the moment. It was on the news that a lot but people just forget unless it is as you said put in their faces at garden centres, but even then the problem is really when getting raw materials from farm or stables to make healthy organic compost for your allotment which people have been able to do for centuries, which now is distressingly not possible.
- Helen from Newcastle Staffordshire writes, "My veg plot was affected last year by some bagged farmyard manure I purchased from a well-known local garden centre. Well what an idiot I've been!! Stupidly I did not learn the lesson from this and at the beginning of this year dug (into new areas of my plot) a load of composted farmyard manure from a local farmer who maintained the manure was not affected. It's thrown my veg plot into chaos and I will need to dig up and dispose of all my potatoes and peas which have been most dreadfully affected. I do not want to waste all the plants I have grown which are now ready to be planted out, and to this end I plan to plant up any non-sensitive crops (brassicas and sweetcorn). Dow's website maintains that it's ok to consume veg grown in affected ground but I'm a little unsure as to whether I'm doing the right thing.
Can you scrape off any manure pieces or is it all dug in - if you can remove some of it do that. Before you plant anything can you rotavate or dig over to add some air into the soil as this will speed up decomposition.The courgettes, squash, pumpkins, sweetcorn and brassicas that were grown in the affected area on our plot all grew without any problems. The potatoes that were initially badly affected did in fact grow through the problem and recovered although we didn't fancy eating them as we had plenty of potatoes elsewhere on the plot. The area that was manured was set with potatoes to improve the soil structure. I have to say though the soil wasn't really improved by this manure for some reason. We did eat crops from plants that showed no ill effects but that was our decision and I wouldn't presume to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't eat.
- Jo from Bedale in North Yorkshire emailed to say, "We have had the same problem as you. Our potatoes were growing fern like and we did not know why. Unfortunately, we were unaware of the problem with manure, and in March when planting our new potatoes we used manure, but did not for the main crop which are OK. All of our neighbours on the allotments have had the same problem. We are just annoyed that the manure contamination was not publicised more as we are now nearly a year down the line as it were. Thank you the information on your website.
- David in Ayrshire appears to have "the dreaded herbicide problem". He continues, "I do have the double whammy in that not only did I dig the manure in but I also top dressed with it as a mulch. I have been supplied with manure in November 2008 which I have dug into my greenhouse and also my vegetable garden. My tomatoes and potatoes as well as the peas and lettuce are all showing signs of herbicide toxicity, as per the information and photographs available on various websites. The other crops such as brassicas appear to be unaffected. I have contacted my supplier who confirmed that he had used your product ' Forefront ' last year.
- Dave in Glasgow emailed, "I now know of two allotment associations in Glasgow that have been affected with contaminated manure this year, which came from the same farmer that we have used for several years. He does not spray his grass, but does buy in silage for feeding his cattle overwinter, which is where the contamination has come from. The damage to the sensitive crops is very variable from plot to plot, depending on how much manure was added, and possibly, some of the trailer loads of manure were not so contaminated as others. One of our members that did not take any of our manure this year, made the mistake of buying a bag of manure from a major garden centre, which has turned out to be contaminated. This is probably the peak season for seeing damage to crops from contaminated manure, and I would expect to hear of many more problems".
The variability can also be down to the farmer maybe buying in silage or hayledge from different sources which have become mixed in the pile - we had the same observations on our site last year. Initially our farmer told us that he hadn't used any herbicides but from another source - so it could be rumour - I have recently found out that the farmer mentioned using something on docks in his fields. I suppose if the herbicide isn't used generally across a whole filed but just in patches that this could also explain variability depending on where the livestock browsed.
- Jenny writes to say, "Another blue dot for your map sadly. We now have aminopyralid contamination in our allotments at Hexham, Northumberland. The farmer had no idea and is devastated at having been the source of this - we guess through some straw he bought in last year to bed his cattle. Seems no-one who can make a difference chooses to recognise that consequences are not governed by intent but by the realities of the ecosystem and farm cycle. All the blogs etc seem to focus on blaming the farmer when there was never any way something like this could realistically be contained.
In theory straw shouldn't be contaminated as aminopyralid products were never registered for use on cereal crops in this country. That said in doesn't guarantee that it wasn't used on weeds around the cereal field or even by someone who doesn't read labels. Did the farmer buy in hayledge to feed his animals? Can the farmer check his supplier? I hope you don't think I'm blaming farmers for this as most are innocent victims just as we are. I lay the blame at a lack of effective publicity. Gardeners, farmers and stable owners need to be made aware of the need for caution when acquiring and supplying manure. We are encouraged to use manure but not warned to ensure that our supply is safe. We perceive it a an 'organic' material - whatever that means. In cases where people have knowingly misused the chemical or haven't read labels then the fault is theirs but there seems no real teeth to monitoring such misuse and so the rogues know they will get away with it and the majority of innocent users get tarred with the same brush.
- Pauline from Gloucestershire bought 20 bags of horse manure from a person selling it door to door. She says, "I realise now that was a bad mistake. I used it in my greenhouse (toms and cucumber) and in my veggy patch. (Potatoes, French beans, runner beans). The toms have got the stunted growth and curly tops, but they are fruiting with some large toms on them. The potatoes have the curly tops but then as they carry on growing the curly tops seem to be unfolding and they are in flower. The beans are struggling and do not look very healthy. I don’t know whether to pull the whole lot up or is it safe to let them carry on and eat the product, or not?"
We are told by the experts that affected crops are safe to eat. We found beans were useless once affected - ours never grew and neighbours broad beans didn't flower. Our potatoes eventually grew out of the problem and cropped well but the decision to eat or not has to be a personal one. I suppose we buy lots of food that has been treated with one chemical or another - the difference with growing your own is you expect to be able to choose whether to use chemicals or not.
- Mary from Woking tells me that several plots at Derrys Fields in are suffering.
- Dylan from Farnley in Leeds sent my a long email which I will summarise. He has acquired on new plot which is devoid of top soil and is trying to garden on incredibly rocky subsoil. He emailed to say, "I’ve always known that the magic ingredient to a healthy abundant crop of decent vegetables and fruits is almost always a damn good load of well rotted horse muck and no allotment is right without a great big pile of it! The local stables offering free manure seemed as good an option as any. I have seriously shifted around 3 or 4 tonnes of the stuff in the back of my hatchback corolla. It went in to the spud trenches - probably a good six inches at least, it filled a raised bed that is waist height!, I, after digging the bad roots out of dock and thistle, scattered the rest over a good 1/3 of the plot! I’m not exaggerating as to the amount of muck I have shifted I do know what large volumes of this kind of stuff looks like! We saved up and bought 4 tonnes of top soil which I then shovelled over the manure. I planted my spuds by just burying them slightly in the muck after chitting and then sprinkled over some of the riddled soil. The spuds came through, the courgettes etc recovered from the wind batterings we had in March and April. During the last month my neighbour’s potato plants developed what I thought was a virus or damage caused by aphids. It seemed to spread to my spuds too although not as bad. I went through the usual routine that everyone else has gone through but I just couldn’t find a picture that looked like it until I found a picture of a potato plant that looked just like mine .......... you know the rest of the story. I’m gutted, I broke my back on those damn spuds !!!! With regards to manure, there is another supplier who has just delivered me about 2 or 3 tonnes and I believe it to be affected also although he did assure me he feeds his horses his own hay which he doesn’t spray at all. The plot of the allotment neighbour who got me in touch with him is showing signs of being affected. I haven’t used this batch yet.............." Dylan has read that growing mushrooms may help decontaminate the soil. Click here to read. Scroll down to the section on Mycoremediation.
- Hugh reports that his allotment site in Staines (West London), several people have recently got signs of cupped leaves or fern-like growth on beans and potatoes after they used manure from an unknown source earlier this year. I have not used any of this on my own plot and so (along with most other people) have got no problems. Our site had not been affected before.
- Sadhya who has had an allotment in Llanfairfechan, Gwynedd, North Wales for the last thirteen years reports, "Recently my neighbour noticed the curled leaf symptoms on one variety of his numerous potato varieties - Wilja. I wonder if some varieties are more resilient to the herbicide? We started to look at other plots and other vegetables and fruit, and have found more potatoes to be affected, along with broad beans, sweet peas, raspberries and possibly rhubarb. The rhubarb produced very spindly, soggy stems, but after these had been removed six weeks ago, new stems are growing which look fine! I intend to investigate other plots on the site to try and determine how extensive the problem is. We have received manure from three different farms / stables and it is impossible to remember which manure was used on which areas of the plot. I will contact the suppliers to try and get more information. I am left with two largish heaps of cow manure and am wondering what to do with it.
If you can't get the manure removed or spread on grass then spread it on an area that you are not going to use for any of the sensitive crops for a couple of years. Dig it into the soil. If possible keep digging over to aerate the soil and make sure the area stays moist. Hopefully we will have a warm summer which will help break down the manure and release the residue to be broken down by the soil microbes. Plants that appear not to be sensitive can be grown on the area. These will absorb some residue and so shouldn't be composted so don't grow green manure or anything like that. I haven't heard of some varieties of potato being more sensitive than others - I think it is more likely to be how affected different areas of soil are. The amount of manure on each patch could vary and also the farmer may have mixed manure from different sources on the same pile so some bits may be contaminated with herbicide and others not. More info on this page.