I received this heartbreaking comment on one of my blog posts about Grazon contamination in manure:
“We have about 80 acres in pasture. Four years ago, our co-op started a spraying program. Having horses, Grazon was recommended. I was told it was safe for the horses to stay in the pasture while it was sprayed and even ok for the horses to eat while still wet. I was never told not to compost the manure. Two years ago, I started composting manure out of the pasture. This year, I started giving it to friends. What a ***** mess. I spent a lot of time with a shovel collecting the manure, turning it, and delivering it to friends. I’ve had two contact me about their gardens and problems they’re having. One of them asked if we were using Grazon. This is going to cost me a great deal of time and money to fix. Some are small raised gardens, and I’m going to go in and remove and replace the soil. Some are larger, up to an acre, and I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’m open to all suggestions. Thanks.”
Aminopyralids are bad news, yet a lot of people don’t know how bad they are yet. People need to recognize the problem.
Recognize Grazon Is a Serious Problem
People are still disbelieving on this topic. Look at some of the comments on this video:
No, it’s NOT that the manure is too hot or not composted enough.
Stop blaming the gardener!
A lot of farmers and gardeners have been growing with manure for years and never had anything like this happen. I know what too much nitrogen looks like, as does pretty much every person I’ve met who has been hit with a Grazon kill in their beds.
It’s a serious, persistent, long-term herbicide called “aminopyralid” that is taken up in plant material and can be consumed by animals, passed through in their manure, then still be toxic to gardens even after months or possibly years of composting.
It is evil. It is nasty. It is here, and if you put manure on your gardens without knowing 100% that it’s not contaminated with this crap, you are running a very high risk of losing your plants.
Marjory Wildcraft recommends a simple test to help you determine whether manure (or straw or hay) is contaminated:
- Grow a flat of legumes.
- Mix the manure, straw, or hay with water in a 5-gallon bucket and stir frequently for a day or two.
- Then, use the water on the legumes.
- Keep an eye on the legumes to see how they respond. If the second and third set of leaves look normal, Marjory says the straw, hay, or manure is probably safe to use.)
We use this method as well:
If you think you have been hit with Grazon, look at the leaves. If they look weirdly twisted and curled and you’ve applied manure, straw, or hay at some point, it’s probably Grazon.
Grazon damage looks like this:
And it looks like this:
The plant is often still green and trying to grow, but it will never produce anything. All the new growth twists and thickens as the cell-stacking function is inhibited by the toxin, causing that weird, horrible growth, and tinier and tinier little leaves.
Read Karen Land’s story. It’s another heartbreaker, but you can see what happened when a really good gardener was hit by this stuff.
Fixing Grazon Contamination
So, what do you do once you know you’ve been hit?
First of all, remove all the manure you can. Get it out of your garden beds. Scrape it and throw it somewhere at the edge of your property or in an empty lot where it won’t hurt anything else.
Take out the plants that have already been affected and throw them away. Don’t compost them, because that will just add the toxin to your compost. Throw them out or chuck them where you chucked the manure.
After doing all the cleanup you can, try adding some crushed charcoal to the beds. Activated charcoal dust would be really good. And throw in compost—NOT aminopyralid-laced compost—when you do, knowing that the charcoal is going to suck a lot of the nutrition out of the soil along with the herbicide. A friend of mine had some of her tomatoes live through Grazon-contaminated manure thanks to the ashes and charcoal she had planted them in. The ones that got the manure without the charcoal were destroyed.
Another option is to plant members of the grass family for a couple of seasons. They are not affected by the toxin as it’s targeted at broad-leaf plants, not grasses. You can plant corn and grains and they’ll produce. Again, though, don’t compost the stalks.
The final thing I would say on this is: Complain! Tell everyone about this garbage. It should be illegal, as it’s doing untold destruction to gardens and farms across the country. There is no responsible way to use this poison. It needs to be done away with. Vermont has already pulled the trigger. The rest of the nation should follow.
I have a lot more on Grazon and avoiding it in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting. Don’t get hit!
(This post was originally published at The Grow Network)