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Paul was right again - watch out for killer compost!

 
David Good
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I was contacted by a woman named Karen Land who teaches gardening. She lost almost all of her gardens this year after buying compost - her story is here:

http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/compost-will-destroy-garden/


I had the same thing happen with manure a few years ago. This needs to stop. You can't trust hay, straw, manure or compost from off-site. Very important to raise your own livestock and leave space for lots of chop and drop so you're not potentially buying in poison.
 
John Elliott
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Another reason to go for straight wood chips for your composting.  Many things can pass through an animal's digestive system and remain undegraded, aminopyralid being a good example.  But the digestive enzymes of fungi act on everything, and aminopyralid would be no exception.  A pile of wood chips that has sat rotting for a few months is going to be the best compost you can find.
 
David Good
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I agree, John. Wood chips are one of the few amendments from outside I still feel safe adding. Tree company mulch!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Can fungi break down the aminopyralid, or is the soil permanently destroyed?

 
John Elliott
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Can fungi break down the aminopyralid


The oxidative enzymes of fungi will break down anything (well, maybe not Teflon) and the nitrogens in aminopyralid would look like a tasty snack to them.  Fungi really like it when they come across nitrogen; by the time other organisms get through with digesting material, there is not much nitrogen left for the fungi, that's why most of their diet is indigestible (to us) cellulose and lignin. 

If you took that aminopyralid laced manure and mixed it 50:50 with wood chips and let it sit for 3-6 months, I would bet that the aminopyralid would be greatly reduced.  Can we a get a crowd fund to try that experiment?
 
wayne fajkus
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Joe lampl from the show "growing a greener world" on pbs stated that light and air will break it down. So just keep turning it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Weiland
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A bit of additional information:  http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/wtr11Aminopyralid

"The half-life of aminopyralid is about 35 days. It is broken down by soil microorganisms in warm, moist environments by aerobic process.
Crops harvested from fields tainted with aminopyralid residue cannot be sold. Effected plants will show injury symptoms long before setting fruit. Grow grass-based crops or cover crops in such fields to allow time for aminopyralid to breakdown."
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Weiland wrote:
"It is broken down by soil microorganisms in warm, moist environments by aerobic process."


That certainly hints that contaminated compost was not composted properly.
 
Bill Erickson
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From the look of that compost in the picture, whatever it was has completely composted - just not in conditions that decompose the aminopyralid.

I'm wondering what various recomposting mixes of that soil and woodchips would do for breaking down that chemical. It is a testable chemical, so a mix of wood/soil mixes of 50/50, 60/40, 75/25 would be interesting to experiment with. David or John, any ideas on what fungal innoculant would likely give the best result in a season or two?
I'd have to find both a source of contaminated compost and wood chips, but I bet it could be done. I definitely wouldn't want to use a flock to stir that mess up though - I value my chickens a bit more than that.
 
paul wheaton
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I'm weary of talking about pesticides .... and I am tempted to close this thread because it just baits the pro-pesticide folks that will try to tell us how good this stuff is ....   and really, I was all done researching persistent herbicides in 2002.  It just seems that this stuff comes back over and over and over and ....

When the pesticide companies want to tell you it is "safe" and "not so persistent" then they cite studies showing a half life of about 90 days.   And yet their marketing folks emphasize about five years.   And the stuff that mysteriously was erased from the internet said 7 to 11 years.   The important thing is the massive anecdotal evidence like the picture above.   And here is my video from 2010:



Professional composting operations have been plagued by this stuff.  They have tried all sorts of stuff to mitigate it.   In the end, thousands of gardens are poisoned with tainted compost and composting businesses go under. 

This stuff passes virtually unharmed through animals and through every composting process tried.  Fungi has nearly zero impact on it.  The only thing that seems to impact it is the sun - but you would have to turn your soil so many times to expose it to the sun that you will also flush out nearly all of your organic matter.  So you might get rid of half of the toxicity and lose nearly all of your OM. 

Because of all this:

- I choose to not import hay or straw unless I can be super sure of the history.  And that gets really complicated, really fast.
- I choose to not import manures.
- I choose to not import urban wood chips.   I might even be skeptical of rural wood chips.
- I choose to use zero commercial compost - it ALL contains persistent herbicides to some degree.
- I have a strong focus of growing my own mulches/fertilizers





 
wayne fajkus
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I guess everyone has to draw their own line in the sand about this issue. 

It's a shame that the most organic part of gardening (manure) can be tainted. Oh, what have we done.

I say we cause in part we created it. Just like "we" don't want blemished fruit, "we" don't want a little spear grass in our bales of hay. The quick answer to those concerns is poisons.
 
Chris MacCarlson
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We used compost from an undisclosed source in the bitterroot valley for a new community garden..msg me if you want to know, and definately it was contaminated with amino pyralid. All the veggies showed signs of weirdness...crazy budding without fruit, other hormone induced reactions, for at least two seasons. The industry argues that this chemical is better   (brand name of the pure stuff is milestone) because it kills fewer plant groups than many previously available herbicides. And you need less chemical per acre to do the same work. . However, it is very difficult to test for at commercial operations because it is active in the parts per Billion range, rather than parts per million, and seems to have a Much longer half life when not used exactly as described in the label.

That said, the industry isn't the only problem here, but people's desire for a technological fix for a problem that doesn't require extra work, or new cultural techniques. That would mean thinking.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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About the wood chips above; if you live in an Emerald Ash borer area, be careful; the trees are being treated with a persistent systemic herbicide to prevent borer attacks.
 
John Weiland
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We have enough on-site composted manure to have no need for purchasing or receiving off-site material, but this thread is concerning.  It seems to be difficult enough to test all food for ag-chemical residues, but are there any locations or municipalities that have already considered a "split stream" of compost....that from confirmed untreated lawns/fields/biomass versus an "unconfirmed" stream?  Grain and other storage/supply conduits I think have already moved to GMO versus non-GMO elevators in efforts to keep the two supply streams separate.  Is anything of the sort being tried for larger compost markets with regard to chemical residue?
 
Mike Turner
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Another way that these persistent herbicides can sneak onto your property is via processed feed.  These herbicides (like Grazon) are sometimes used for weed control on wheat and oats. then when these grains are used to make the processed feed you feed your livestock, the manure produced on your property by your livestock is now a toxic ingredient for any compost you make unless you are only applying it to asparagus, corn, or onions.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Really sorry to read about oats possibly being contaminated.  I thought oats would be safe because they aren't RoundUp Ready, but now, damn Grazon.  I've been feeding the chickens and sheep with oats and sunflower seeds. 



 
Mike Turner
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They've been finding high levels of glyphosate (RoundUp) residue on oats, wheat, and other small grains.  They aren't RoundUp Ready, but they are spraying RoundUp just before harvest to dessicate and defoliate the plants before running the combine through the field so they don't have to spend as much time/energy drying the grains post harvest.  Recent tests found high levels of roundup on quaker oatmeal.  You have to get organic grains to avoid it.
 
Annie Lochte
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I've read that oats are sprayed heavily with glyphosate to speed up dry down...
 
Tyler Ludens
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Damn it, why didn't I realize that!  Do they do it with sunflowers also?

 
Gilbert Fritz
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At least roundup/ glyphosate is not persistent in manure and compost. But I'm thinking that the best route is now to only import mineral fertilizers and grow on site organic matter exclusively.
 
Andy Moffatt
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They spray round up on cereal crops to help even the ripening, otherwise some parts of the paddock are ready while others are green.
 
David Good
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
John Weiland wrote:
"It is broken down by soil microorganisms in warm, moist environments by aerobic process."


That certainly hints that contaminated compost was not composted properly.


This stuff really doesn't want to break down. I had it in my soil and the effects were still there a year later. Nastier than advertised. Heck, if it can go through the gut of a cow, then sit in a big steaming pile of manure for a year, then turn around and kill your garden for the next year... it's horrid. I just warn people now: don't let it in at all! There's not a good way to deal with it and who knows what the long-term residues will do to one's health.
 
John Polk
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There's not a good way to deal with it and who knows what the long-term residues will do to one's health.

I also have to wonder what it is doing to the soil biota.  It can't be helping it.
 
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