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

California Condor at soaring at the Grand Canyon. Pavliha / iStock / Getty Images

North America's largest bird passed an important milestone this spring when the 1,000th California condor chick hatched since recovery efforts began, NPR reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less
The Roloway monkey has been pushed closer to extinction. Sonja Wolters / WAPCA / IUCN

The statistics around threatened species are looking grim. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added more than 9,000 new additions to its Red List of threatened species, pushing the total number of species on the list to more than 105,000 for the first time, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

The campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump has found a new way to troll liberals and sea turtles.

Read More Show Less
Night long exposure photograph of wildifires in Santa Clarita, California. FrozenShutter / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristy Dahl

Last week, UCS released Killer Heat, a report analyzing how the frequency of days with a dangerously hot heat index — the combination of temperature and humidity the National Weather Service calls the "feels like" temperature — will change in response to the global emissions choices we make in the coming decades.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A Zara store in Times Square, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Timahaowemi / CC BY-SA 3.0

Green is the new black at Zara.

The Spanish fast fashion behemoth has made a bold move to steer its industry to a more environmentally friendly future for textiles. Inditex, Zara's parent company, announced that all the polyester, cotton and linen it uses will be sustainably produced by 2025, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Whether you enjoy running recreationally, competitively, or as part of your overall wellness goals, it's a great way to improve your heart health.

Read More Show Less
Text from the plaque that will mark the site where Ok glacier once was. Rice University

By Andrea Germanos

A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis.

Read More Show Less