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Grrrrrr! How long before I can compost 2,4D treated grass?!?  RSS feed

 
Eric Hanson
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Grrrrrr!  How long before I can compost 2,4D treated grass?!?

I just missed an important phone call and I already regret it.  My wife wanted us to have the lawn professionally treated with a fertilizer schedule this summer.  Yesterday I had raked up several piles of grass from our yard.  Due to recent very heavy rains (about 14 inches over about 5 days!), the grass was extremely long and I was planning on raking and using it for compost.  I forgot to call the lawn service and have them delay about 2 weeks and just now as I was coming home I found him finishing up spraying the lawn with 2,4D. I really wanted to use those little grass piles in my garden, but how long do I have to wait till the 2,4D is no longer an issue.  Normally I do not fertilize, but this year we did and now I have the consequences.  Can I wait for the 2,4D to dry and still pile it on mulch?  Does 2,4D go in via roots or leaves?  If it only goes in through leaves I would think it could be safe to use.  Should I find some nice little pile for it to sit in and rot on its own?

ARRRRGHHH, Please Help

Eric
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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The half-life of 2,4-D is about 10 days in soil. Based on that, half will be gone in 10 days. 75% will be gone in 20 days, 88% will be gone in 30 days.
 
Eric Hanson
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Based on that information then would it be OK to go ahead and put the clippings in with the leaf compost and let them break down together for a few weeks before incorporating in the soil itself? 
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Eric Hanson wrote:Based on that information then would it be OK to go ahead and put the clippings in with the leaf compost and let them break down together for a few weeks before incorporating in the soil itself? 


I didn't say that... I addressed only the science behind how a particular substance typically behaves, not the ethics of using materials that have been contaminated by that substance. Ethically, I come down more on the purist side of things: I wouldn't add contaminated grass clippings to my compost pile. But I also don't abandon my fields, just cause the wind blows poisons into them from the neighbors... Ugh! The messy middle. Purists hate the messy middle. We want things to be black or white!

 
Burra Maluca
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If I was in that position, I would compost it straight away as a way of breaking down the toxins as soon as possible,  BUT I wouldn't put the resulting compost anywhere near food crops or water sources.  I'd be using the composting as a damage minimisation technique and making sure I took steps to prevent it happening again.
 
Burra Maluca
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And in case anyone reading this hasn't found it yet, here's Paul's article about organic lawn care for the cheap and lazy
 
Eric Hanson
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Joseph, Bura

So if I read this right, I could compost to minimize contamination.  At some point I will have to do something with the clippings.  Normally I don't rake clippings but rain made it a necessity.  After composting for an extended period (say, 2-3 months, maybe longer),  I would then put them to good use.  Perhaps dig into the soil?  Maybe use as a mulch diluted with leaves?  I need to do something with them and I would hope they still have some value.  Joseph, you are right about the messy middle, but I am trying to find that valuable purpose somewhere in the messy middle.

(A frustrated, slapping myself in the head) Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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BTW,

Does 2,4D absorb through roots or does it only work by hitting leaves or other green parts of the plant?
 
Todd Parr
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I would burn it.
 
chip sanft
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You might mix it with wood chips to encourage fungi to do their stuff, then leave the pile sit for a year. I might think about doing  as has been suggested and finding a non-food use for the result.
 
Nick Kitchener
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If it was me, I would be thinking something like this...

I'm going to bust my ass making compost out of this less than ideal material. If I'm going to bust my ass making compost then I might as well start with the best materials I can get my hands on.

To me, this is a similar situation to wanting to create a permaculture paradise and choosing a chemical dump site as the starting condition, when there is perfectly good land available just down the road.

I would toss the contaminated grass. If someone asked me "Hey, I have a trailer load of sawdust from treated lumber that you can compost if you like. Do you want it?" I would politely decline for the same reason.
 
Eric Hanson
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I don't want to sound naive, but I assume that at some point the resulting compost would be safe to use.  Though I don't know for certain, I would bet good money that the land I own (old pasture) was at some time in the past treated with 2,4D or other similar herbicides.  Just a few hundred feet away the land was a rather extensive coal mine that has undergone reclamation and by looking at it, you would not notice the mining damage once done to it.  I also assume that the mining operation left an impact on my land.  Yet today I use it as virgin material.  At some point in the past my land was contaminated but now I use it as though it was never touched by anything harmful--and it is indeed fertile.  Using the above logic, my piles of grass, though contaminated today, must at some point be safe to use even for food crops.  I guess my ultimate question is how long would this time period be?  When I garden, I do so trying to bring in as little outside materials as possible--ideally no material at all (my lawn being a different matter), so the thought of valuable clippings being permanently off-limits bothers me a little, especially if I can speed up its decontamination (composting).  I certainly appreciate all the positive responses to this thread I am just hoping that there is a way to decontaminate the grass.  One suggestion I had was to simply spray down the clippings liberally with water as the 2,4D is on the outside of the grass and will wash off.  I don't know if this is actually true, but it is, this looks like a good approach.

Thank you so much for all the replies

Eric (still slapping myself in the head)
 
David Doc
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As i found the Half-life of 2,4D is about 6,2 days in aerobic soil. Bacteria can improve the process. In medicine we take 5 time the half-life to assume the stuff is basically not significant anymore (but of course it depends on the effects of the stuff). 2,4D tends to be washed away with water so maybe you can try to keep from bigger amount of water for a few weeks or stop drainage. So that means a good months should be enough.
2,4D will be broken down so it shouldnt be present after months in compost.

Sprayin the clippings: I wouldnt do it as the half life time of 2,4D will be massively higher in water. Itt will be less on your clippings but definitely longer in your soil in solution.
 
Eric Hanson
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OK, maybe a solution, but IFFFF

I don't know why I did not think of this earlier, but I was wanting the grass clippings for want of nitrogen.  I have about 4 acres of grass--old pasture that I do nothing to except mow once per year (local codes).  I have several trails through this field area (actually old pasture) and the paths are in desperate need of a mow.  The only thing holding me back from using the pathway grass clippings is that due to the excessive rains this spring, it has already gone to seed.  The grass is mostly field fescue and timothy.  The seeds are still green and immature.  If I use these grass clippings, are the green seeds still too young that they won't germinate?  If they are too young to germinate, then I would simply dispose of the contaminated clippings somewhere on my property and never use them.  However, I don't want to compost up a bunch of grass seeds that will become a headache in my garden bed.  Does anyone out there know if green seeds are viable or can I throw them into the compost pile and be done with them.  Try as I have, I still have not yet mastered hot composting.  I sometimes get a warm compost, but I doubt that the heat would kill off the seeds.  I would be planning on using this grass-and-leaf compost later this summer.

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
Laurie Dyer
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Location: Suburbs Salt Lake City, Utah 6a 24 in rain 58 in snow
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I'm wondering if you could use the tainted grass as mulch on a pathway. You could cover it with cardboard or newspaper to prevent growth. If looks aren't an issue, you could weigh down the cardboard/newspaper with rocks.
 
Eric Hanson
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laurie,

Are you referring to the 2,4D grass or the "seed" grass.  I could of course put the 2,4D grass on a pathway and just leave it there (not a bad idea at all, thank you).  I would not need to place cardboard on this.  So are you thinking about using cardboard to cover the "seed" grass?  If so, I kinda like the idea.  It would be handy to know how mature that green grass is.  When I get a chance I will send a picture of the grass in question.

Eric
 
Laurie Dyer
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Eric Hanson wrote:laurie,

Are you referring to the 2,4D grass or the "seed" grass.  I could of course put the 2,4D grass on a pathway and just leave it there (not a bad idea at all, thank you).  I would not need to place cardboard on this.  So are you thinking about using cardboard to cover the "seed" grass?  If so, I kinda like the idea.  It would be handy to know how mature that green grass is.  When I get a chance I will send a picture of the grass in question.

Eric


Hi Eric, I was confused, I thought the seed grass and the treated grass were the same . . . I'm thinking that you could use the cardboard on both!

Laurie
 
Eric Hanson
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That makes more sense now.  The 24D grass came from my lawn.  My trails are treated with nothing but rain and have grown so fast this spring that they have already set seed.  I don't suppose you know if the green early seed is viable yet, do you?  If it is not, then I will just mow my paths and rake up new green matter.

Thanks for the thought though,\

Eric
 
Laurie Dyer
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Eric Hanson wrote:  My trails are treated with nothing but rain and have grown so fast this spring that they have already set seed.  I don't suppose you know if the green early seed is viable yet, do you? 

Eric


If you have time, you could do a germination test; plant several dozen seeds and see if they sprout.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Eric, sorry I didn't find this thread earlier but here goes.

Grasses treated with 2-4D can be hot composted (140 f and higher) the heat will start the break down of the compound molecules into non poisons but this is just the first step.
The second part to be sure that the grass has been neutralized is to add fungi, specifically oyster mushroom spawn or spores this fungi loves to break apart 2-4D into the base atomic structures, it will take about 3 weeks of working on the finished hot compost.

The easy way to tell if grass seeds are going to be able to sprout is to squeeze them, if they readily crush then they are not viable seed yet. if they are hard enough to crack when you try to crush them, then they are able to sprout.
Fescue seeds get slightly darker green as they mature, so do Timothy seeds.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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Bryant,

That, is some very pertinent, insightful and totally applicable information.  I may just set my clippings to the side for a while.  Based on what you said about the seeds, I feel pretty safe that they are not viable yet.  The seeds appeared early this year, no doubt because of our warm and very, very wet spring.  Thank you so much for chiming in here.

Eric
 
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