Tuesday, June 24

Back to the manure problem.

Today I asked one of the manufacturers - now it would appear that there are a few - and PSD if they could tell us what the symptons were of hormonal herbicide damage in plants other than potatoes, tomatoes etc so we could decide whether plants were just growing poorly or have been affected by contaminated manure. I also asked that if in the 'unlikely event' that someone was affected by the herbicide what symptoms would there be. If we had this information then maybe we could at least monitor the situation and make the decision to eat or not to eat! (Now the advice is not to eat affected crops although they say we are unlikely to get any crops from affected plants anyway!)

Both the above sent long replies but neither answered either of the two questions. Instead I was given the following information. Apparently rotovating or digging helps decomposition and will mean that soil recovers quicker. To do this we would need to remove crops affected or not wouldn't we? Apparently once the residue is released by the decaying straw etc. It remains in the soil for something like four weeks before it breaks down to mainly carbon dioxide and water, during which time it affects sensitive plants (remember everything except the grass family). Apparently it is difficult to check soil for contamination and it is suggested that we test the soil periodically by planting sensitve crops!

Apparently the aminopyralid could even have been applied in 2006 and been sitting around in heaps of sileage or manure so tracking the source is difficult. Also apparently the supply of manure to allotments is a grey area and doesn't seem to come within anyone's responsibility.

PSD suggest that "The supply of the manure will probably be covered by contract law and possibly also by consumer protection and trading standards legislation". But how do we find out who is responsible for poisoning our crops?

Our plot holders are devastated to see not only the fruits of all their hard work going to waste but they have also spent a considerable amount of money not only on seeds and plants but in one person's case bought a polytunnel that he has filled with tomatoes and every one are affected. We also have to pay rental for plots which in effect this year have been to some extent unusable. Also this is in conjunction with quickly rising costs of fresh fruit and vegetables and no-one seems to be able to decide who is responsible for this breakdown in the information chain. It seems that efficacy of weed management is being put ahead of public safety or some consumer interests.

Please keep any information that you find out coming. Only today two people emailed me to say their sites or gardens were suspected victims. Sandwell and Birminham councils have banned the use of horse manure on all of their allotments sites! One person even suspected a bag of compost. I'll keep updating the website click here with information. If you email me please let me know whether you give permission for the contents of your email to be published on the web. Photos of crops that have been confirmed to be affected (we have plenty of ones of tomatoes and potatoes thank you) would be also appreciated. To help others to diagnose problems.

So far it boils down to we should have asked a question that we didn't know we had to ask and the supplier should have answered the question not having the necessary information to give a correct answer. Make sense? - confused? - join the club. Please post a comment to let me know what you think.

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