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Composting food or plants with pesticides?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 34
Location: Central Texas
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Hello, dear permies, the more I come to this forum, the more I get sucked in because y'all are awesome!


I've come across many videos, calls for action, signs, flyers, brochures, and people (usually crunchy or concerned about our planet) to compost your food waste and everything else plant-based, except oil. There are compost bins at Whole Foods and other places, there are instructions on how to easily turn your kitchen waste into worm castings, and I've done it myself, too.

However, every single time I cringe at the fact that they use conventionally grown foods or lawn grass with who knows how many chemicals sprayed on them for composting. They never talk about pesticide and herbicide residue on conventionally grown foods or plants in these more or less "official" videos, ads, etc. They don't say use only organic foods or unsprayed plants for composting. In these videos, they eat their lunch, and in the compost bin go the leftovers. Now, I'm not talking about youtubers doing the videos, although there are a ton of composting videos that totally fail to talk about pesticides in the foods/plants. I'm talking about ads you see on TV or health food store websites, that sorta thing.

Do pesticides get destroyed in compost? Do they stay in there? I'd love to hear just a snippet of information about this issue in any of the videos I've watched or articles I've read about composting. If they get destroyed, how? Which organism destroys them? Or do they get deactivated? I think this is interesting stuff and it's worth mentioning! But if they aren't destroyed/deactivated, then I'd like to hear about that too in every single compost video or flyer because I think this is very important.

The reason it's important is not only because you are putting pesticides into your "organic" garden. When foods and plants are composted, they reduce in size dramatically, maybe up to five times. That means, if the pesticides remain on them, they get super concentrated when your compost is done! I don't want to have that concoction anywhere on my property.


I guess I equally wanted to finally get an answer to this question after many years of learning about composting and rant about how dumbfounding it is for me that none of the more popular videos/articles I've seen mention this. And I've seen a lot of videos/articles/infographics/flyers on composting! I still don't know what happens to pesticides in compost bins. Personally, I wish to err on the safe side and use only organically grown food/greens for compost.
 
Posts: 94
Location: Golden Valley, AZ 86413
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I did a quick DuckDuckGo search and found this link to a California site:

http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/Threats/Pesticides/default.htm

There is also a PDF report.
 
Posts: 15
Location: Hungary
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the answer is really not that simple.
There are lots of herbicides with different structure and characteristics.
We have to see the two things meeting, one is the herbicide, each one degrades basically in different timeframe, and this time varies depending on temperatire humidity, etc. And the second factor is the environment itself, in this case your compost. First of all is it a closed systeme or can it leak? Its known that every chemical or biological compound is maybe faster degraded in the presence of different microorganism families. And as above mentioned temperatiure, moisture, pH of the environment.

So sadly its really not simple, i know pesticides which are broken down in one year or less and there are one which take longer. Theoretically the longer should/would be restricted more. But still there is no general answer sadly. And therefore it stays a risky question to welcome alien material to your ground.
 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Some herbicides in manure or hay-based compost are dangerously persistent: 

https://extension.umd.edu/learn/gardener-alert-beware-herbicide-contaminated-compost-and-manure

http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/f09Herbicide
 
Posts: 41
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So, if I am not mistaken, my takeaway is that mulches, grass clippings, and wood chips from commercial companies (including local utilities) would be suspect.  Choosing to ask for drop off from local tree trimmers (non commercial/home?) and private lawn maintenance would be okay? What about glyphosate/round up?

For my compost bin and plants, I just got cow manure from the organic farm that grows my grass fed beef, should i ask about their hay? Or their grass? It seems it could get complicated...

I have used the bunny poo from my granddaughter's bunny, but I know Mr Fluffykins only gets organic 'special' hay (straw?) for eating and his cage, so I have not worried...and the grass from the home I live in has been free of any sprays for at least 2 years, not sure before that, and the tree shavings from a daughter's home were spray free at least 2 years, if not more...some of the studies I read said that 'persistent' could mean as much as 12 years, probably more like 4 to 5 years of residue...makes my little adventure even more precarious, it seems.

Anyone have any ideas, oh, I also get worm castings from nearby, I think clean...now I will have to research again...  This has been a less than successful year for me, trying not to be discouraged...so, I am thankful for any help, I did read the referred sites by Tyler, thank you : )

Thank you for addressing this, and thank you for any additional thinking : ) 
 
gardener
Posts: 3551
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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My attitude is that if it didn't grow on my farm, then I don't trust it to be clean.

Sure, it's possible to talk to your neighbors to (attempt to) source clean materials for composting. I highly recommend communication about such things.

I have found that my family and neighbors are typically oblivious to what they are putting on their trees, lawns, and gardens. They will tell me that they only grow organically, when I can look with my own eyes, and observe the 2,4-D deformed dandelions in their lawn, and the lawn clippings laying in the garden. It is trivial to drive around a neighborhood, and notice which lawns are grown chemically, and which are grown organically. I trust my own eyes, more than I trust what people tell me. As a first approximation, if there are 30 species of broad-leaved plants growing in the lawn, and plants growing in the cracks of the sidewalk, then that's a good place to inquire about cleanliness.


 
gardener
Posts: 2278
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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i follow Joseph's technique. 

i get manure only from people who i have verified myself are clean of chemicals. 
 
gardener
Posts: 4886
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I totally agree with Kola Lofthouse and Roberto  BUT lets say you don't know good people and you can't find that good stuff anywhere, it doesn't mean you are SOL, it does mean you get to remediate materials.

For information, most of the currently used herbicides and pesticides are persistent, most of these products will be around for years and that is not a good thing.
However we can remove these products from what they were used on by incorporating a two or three stage composting regimen, leaving us with remediated materials for our compost and subsequently our gardens.
True it isn't as fast and certainly not as easy as having "clean" materials at the start, that doesn't mean we can't do it though, it just means it will take us a while longer to get that good stuff onto our garden soil.
Our first step, after acquisition will be mycoremediation, so we will be making mushroom slurries with oyster mushrooms being our go to species at first.
Our second step will be to incorporate some type of manure, preferably with "bedding material" mixed in, stables and cow barns are good places to find this portion.
Our third step will be to once again add mushroom slurries to our growing pile of materials.
at this point it would be prudent to take a break and let the mycelium work for at least a month.
In the mean time we can be gathering more "browns" and stockpiling them in heaps covered with tarps to keep the stuff where we want it.
Once your first heap is beginning to look a little white, with nice threads of hyphae showing, we can step into the second phase.

phase two is more of phase one with creating an actual compost heap added into the mix.
We are going to layer, starting with a good pile of our stockpiled browns upon which we will spread a layer of our mycelium rich first heap and we will repeat until we get all our stuff into one heap.
Now we give it a good spritzing of water and go read a good book, like war and peace or the harry potter series, when we are done, so will be the composting heap.

The third phase is to again re-stack the heap, this time adding lots of green materials so we get a nice, hot compost heap.
When that heat is through working its magic on the heap you are ready to use it in your gardens. The nasty chemicals will be broken down and harmless to your plants.
The compost will also be chock full of good microorganisms and fungi hyphae, a huge win for your garden soil.

Redhawk

 
Posts: 144
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama)
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Dr. Bryant Redhawk.  I would like to try this mycoremediation as part of an experiment and would like your thoughts. I can get liquid cultures of several different oyster mushrooms and have ordered 5 different varieties.  I will use 2 (Phoenix and Tarragon) to inoculate grain and then wood shavings before putting onto the manure bedding mix.  A friend got some of the old manure earlier this year and the only thing growing on it is some small mushrooms.  Maybe too much chemicals or just too much nitrate?
Should I use old composted horse manure (up to 2 years old) or more fresh?  Should I add a lot of wood chips to this so the oysters will grow faster?
I will use the rest of the mushroom liquid cultures to grow some food for the family, using straw logs and I can then use them as compost when they are done growing.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 4886
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Dennis Bangham wrote:Dr. Bryant Redhawk.  I would like to try this mycoremediation as part of an experiment and would like your thoughts. I can get liquid cultures of several different oyster mushrooms and have ordered 5 different varieties.  I will use 2 (Phoenix and Tarragon) to inoculate grain and then wood shavings before putting onto the manure bedding mix.  A friend got some of the old manure earlier this year and the only thing growing on it is some small mushrooms.  Maybe too much chemicals or just too much nitrate?
Should I use old composted horse manure (up to 2 years old) or more fresh?  Should I add a lot of wood chips to this so the oysters will grow faster?
I will use the rest of the mushroom liquid cultures to grow some food for the family, using straw logs and I can then use them as compost when they are done growing.



The best methods will first hot compost the manures (you can add wood chips at this stage as well as any other varieties of "browns" you have on hand.
Getting spawn going in grains is fantastic, you will be able to pock mark your just cooled compost heap with little globs of spawn that way as well as inoculate logs (straw or hardwood) for food mushrooms (don't forget that any "caps" that come up out of the compost are edible too *Addendum, this is only for compost that is known to not have contaminates, we don't want to eat any mushrooms that are remediating herbicides or pesticides because the caps will contain "over the safe limit"(if there is such a thing), I made this addendum because I noticed I failed to mention this safety precaution.

My personal general method is to gather our donkey poop until I have a large heap of it, then I layer up a compost heap (my layers are chicken coop roost litter, hog manure, donkey manure with pasture cuttings and lawn clippings as the between layers and I usually cap with donkey house bedding straw(this is poop free)).
It takes about 3 days for a new heap to heat up to temp (160-180 f) and the heating phase usually goes on for about 14 days, then the heap will begin to cool, I turn it at this point and wait to see if there will be a secondary heating, if not then I inoculate with oyster spawn and walk away for a month.
When I come back to the heap I turn it and check the mycelium content, then I walk away for another month.
Usually when I come back to the heap a quick one pitchfork lift of the compost will show lots of white (the hyphae of the oyster mushrooms) and if there has been a rain I might even get to harvest some fruits (my farm is free of any contaminates), if there aren't any I turn the heap one last time.
At the end of that month after the last turn, the compost is usually ready for use any way I decide to use it.

Mushroom logs that have exhausted their food supply can be kept going by simply using them to inoculate new food supply sources (logs, straw logs, bags of wood chips, garden areas that are full of wood chips) this keeps you in good food mushrooms with no new expenditures.

Redhawk
 
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