From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes:
It’s been a long time since I’ve sent out a blog, but I’ve been a little heartbroken lately. Today, however, I’m feeling stronger.
I should be ecstatically happy. The weather’s delightful, the family’s all fine, the critters are healthy as ever. None of the neighbors are sick and one of my best friends, who thought she might have to move, is staying.
But the grapevines planted by Holly and DeLisa… and the redbud tree by the house, where Lushen the farm kid climbed when he was tiny… and that crappy maple that’s always sending seeds into the lettuce beds… they’re dying.
The culprit is 2,4D. Sprayed by a neighbor on his corn field to kill the weeds that he can’t kill with glyphosate. It’s killing them and I know I shouldn’t get attached to plants, they’re mortals, but aren’t we all?
When we first noticed the damage, the strangely cupped leaves, then the withering and the onion-skin leaves that you can see through, and it came first on the grapevines, I went into denial. I had seen the spray trucks on the neighbor’s field but I’ve seen them before and nothing died.
So, I thought, maybe we’ve acquired a fungus? Maybe it’s a bug? We scoured the internet and our garden books for answers. We looked for bugs and found nothing. We sprayed with vinegar solution, which discourages fungi and molds but nothing changed.
Last week, we had a potluck supper sponsored by Slow Foods, and one of the guests snapped a few pictures of the vines and sent them to me. So now I had to follow up. Called the extension agent, but our local agronomist retired so the question was deferred to another county, one with an agent that doesn’t seem too interested. He left a message on the answering machine, a bored voice that he was calIing to answer “something about grapes…”
Next, I sent the pictures to the state grape board and the damage was confirmed as “classic”.
Through this all, I’ve been depressed but weirdly astonished by the power of the universe. Why me? After all, I was onto the ironies of biotech from the beginning, fighting and writing about it all along. When so many weeds have become resistant to Roundup, I started blogging about it and about the dangers of Big Ag, who are my neighbors after all, moving to 2,4D. A clear and present danger.
But, yesterday, I found allies and everything changed. At the farmers’ market, where we took a little surplus produce, I found other farmers who had the same issues. One of them gave me a sign that says, “Sensitive Crop. Don’t let your pesticide drift…” produced by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. It’s one of those yellow metal signs, like you see in a school zone, and it means the world to me.
Somebody “gets it.” And I have allies. And I’m feeling strong again.