In some areas, damage is so severe that tree mortality is higher than from the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that has killed tens of millions of trees across 25 states
This is a heartbreaking and shocking article that should be read in full and circulated widely.
As many GMWatch readers will know, dicamba is a herbicide that is sprayed on GM dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton – but doesn't stay where it's intended to. It drifts off-target and kills and damages other crops.
"We’ve got it everywhere": Dicamba damaging trees across Midwest and South
By Johnathan Hettinger/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting
InvestigateMidWest, June 16, 2020
[excerpt only; read the full article at the above URL]
Everything in Campbell, Missouri, is peaches. Peaches are on the water tower. You can order peach ice cream at the Sugar Shack on the edge of town. There is even a mural downtown depicting rows of peach trees and a full basket of fruit that declares the town the “Peach Capital of Missouri.”
The largest orchard in the area belongs to Bill Bader. His 1,000 acres of peaches have supplied grocery stores across eight states for more than three decades.
But today, Bader can’t grow much of anything. His trees have been hit year after year by herbicides drifting from nearby farms. Bader’s farm has all but gone out of business. A couple years ago, in June, Bader went with his grandson to pick a peach, but couldn’t find a single one on the branch. The trees were so weak they couldn’t hold fruit.
It’s not only happening on Bader’s farm and it’s not only happening in the southeast Missouri town of Campbell, an investigation by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.
In recent years, farmers have been spraying an increasing amount of volatile herbicides - namely dicamba and 2,4-D - that are causing widespread damage to trees, native plants and natural areas across the Midwest and South.
A federal court recently banned in-season application of dicamba, which experts say is responsible for the most damage, after finding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unlawfully approved the herbicide in a number of ways, including by failing to properly consider its effect on the environment. A court challenge filed by the same plaintiffs, alleging that the EPA also failed to do so for 2,4-D is currently pending.
Forest health experts said trees are being damaged from Indiana to Kansas, from North Dakota to Arkansas. Cupped up leaves, the most easily recognized symptom, can be seen in towns miles away from agricultural fields, as well as in nature preserves and state parks set aside as refuges for wildlife, experts said.
“Symptoms are showing up in backyards, school yards, cemeteries, forested lands, prairies, land enrolled in taxpayer funded conservation programs, orchards, vineyards, and even over large areas of small rural towns,” said Kim Erndt-Pitcher, habitat and agricultural programs specialist at Prairie Rivers Network, an Illinois-based environmental nonprofit that has conducted its own monitoring program over the past couple years.
In some areas, the damage is so severe that tree mortality is higher than from the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that has killed tens of millions of trees across 25 states, experts said.
“Our No. 1 problem on our trees is herbicide damage,” said Laurie Stepanek, forest health specialist with the Nebraska Forest Service. Stepanek said the damage has no boundaries, ranging from urban communities to native forests to tree nurseries. “We’ve got it everywhere, unfortunately. It’s so widespread and affecting so many trees.”
Trees that used to shade cemeteries in Arkansas have less foliage. In Central Illinois towns, iconic trees that were around at the time of Abe Lincoln are being harmed year after year. Nurseries in the St. Louis suburbs can’t sell their trees because the plants are too deformed.
More than 60 areas managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, including state parks and nature preserves, reported herbicide damage in 2018 or 2019, according to records obtained by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting via the Freedom of Information Act. Some of the parks reported widespread death of mature oak trees.