Quantcast

West Texas Vineyards Hit by Herbicide Drift

GMO

Wine makers in West Texas are reeling from herbicide drift injuries on their grapevines, an emerging threat to the state's $13 billion a year industry, NPR's Morning Edition reported Tuesday.

The damage likely originates from use of Monsanto's dicamba and Dow's 2,4-D formulations on nearby cotton fields. The companies sell cotton seeds that are genetically modified to withstand applications of the weedkillers. If farmers use the products improperly, the highly volatile chemicals can get picked up by the wind and land on off-target crops. When exposed to the herbicides, the leaves on non-target plants are often left cupped and distorted.


Drift damage has ranged from "light exposure" that does not harm the grapes to "total devastation" at some wineries, according to NPR.

Pierre Helwi is a viticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, who monitors dozens of the region's vineyards estimates that 90-95 percent of them have been damaged.

Texas, the fifth largest wine producer in the country, is home to more than 400 wineries, according to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. West Texas, which has a dry climate ideal for growing cotton as well as wine grapes, has become the backbone of the state's wine industry and grows about 80 percent of its wine grapes.

Last year, West Texas vintners expressed this very concern that federal approval of Monsanto and Dow's formulations could jeopardize the sector.

This is the third year in a row where dicamba has affected the nation's crops. A report from the University of Missouri last month found that dicamba drift caused more than 1 million acres of crop injuries across the U.S.

The ongoing saga of pesticide drift highlights the growing issue of herbicide-resistant weeds, or superweeds, that have evolved to resist the herbicide glyphosate, or Roundup. In response to weeds such as pigweed that have infested farms across the U.S., agribusinesses such as Monsanto and Dow have developed stronger formulations to help farmers.

The companies have said their weedkillers can be safely used with proper training and if farmers adhere to label instructions, although some have complained that the instructions are too restrictive or difficult to follow.

Farmers and conservation groups have waged lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approving Monsanto and Dow's mixtures.

Dicamba's federal approval is subject to expiration this fall, during which the EPA will decide whether to renew the registration or let it expire. 2,4-D is also currently undergoing registration review.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An Australian flag flutters in the wind in a dry drought-ridden landscape. Virginia Star / Moment / Getty Images

Australia re-elected its conservative governing Liberal-National coalition Saturday, despite the fact that it has refused to cut down significantly on greenhouse gas emissions or coal during its time in power, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Tree lined street, UK. Richard Newstead / Moment / Getty Images

The UK government will fund the planting of more than 130,000 trees in English towns and cities in the next two years as part of its efforts to fight climate change, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A tropical storm above Bangkok on Aug. 04, 2016. Hristo Rusev/ NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

First off: Bangkok Wakes to Rain, the intricately wrought, elegantly crafted debut novel by the Thai-American author Pitchaya Sudbanthad, isn't really about climate change. This tale set in the sprawling subtropical Thai capital is ultimately a kind of family saga — although its interconnected characters aren't necessarily linked by a bloodline. What binds them is their relationship to a small parcel of urban land on which has variously stood a Christian mission, an upper-class family house, and a towering condominium. All of the characters have either called this place home or had some other significant connection to it.

Read More Show Less
orn_france / iStock / Getty Images

By Susan McCabe, BSc, RD

Dioscorea alata is a species of yam commonly referred to as purple yam, ube, violet yam, or water yam.

Read More Show Less
Left: MirageC / Moment / Getty Images Right: Pongsak Tawansaeng / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Sole water is water saturated with pink Himalayan salt.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
People march to TCF Bank Stadium to protest against the mascot for the Washington Redskins before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 2, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Thursday banning public schools or universities in the state from using Native American mascots, names or imagery. Mills' action will make Maine the first state in the nation with such a ban once it goes into effect later this year, The Bangor Daily News reported.

Read More Show Less
A man protests against the use of disposable plastics outside the Houses of Parliament on March 28 in London. John Keeble / Getty Images

Plastic pollution across the globe is suffocating our planet and driving Earth toward catastrophic climatic conditions if not curbed significantly and immediately, according to a new report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL).

Read More Show Less
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 2 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A new climate action plan put forth by Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday is being praised for highlighting the enormous benefits that would result from a rapid shift in the U.S. to a renewable energy economy that centers on the needs of workers and vulnerable communities.

Read More Show Less