Officials representing the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma Cotton Council met last week in Altus, Okla., to discuss ways to promote responsible use of phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D.
Succulent crops such as cotton, vines in vineyards and canola can be injured, often irreparably, when phenoxy herbicides come into contact with them. Such herbicides as 2, 4-D ester are highly volatile and when sprayed will drift for miles on days with high winds and high humidity. Drift can kill and stunt young cotton plants 20 miles away. The economic impact on a farmer's cotton crop can be devastating.
In force now is a state regulation preventing phenoxy herbicide use between May 1 through Oct. 15 in Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa and Tillman counties in Oklahoma, where the majority of Oklahoma’s upland cotton is grown. During these months, ODA field inspectors routinely check spray rigs used in the five country area. The inspectors take samples from spray rig tanks, sending them to ODA laboratories to check for the presence of phenoxy herbicides.
However, with the expansion of vineyard development in Oklahoma as well as new crops like canola increasing in acreage, phenoxy herbicide drift has become a problem in other parts of the state.
State Agricultural Commissioner Terry Peach, Associate Commissioner Steve Thompson, Agricultural Spokesman Jack Carson, all from Oklahoma City, and two ODA field inspectors, Larry Buchwald and Josh Branch, met with OCC Vice Chairman Lyle Miller, Phil Bohl, OCC board member, and other cotton farmers to discuss the problem before the spring planting season begins.
After discussing the matter in depth, officials pointed out that until phenoxy herbicides are added to the state's restricted pesticide list little can be done other than increasing education of the public on responsible pesticide use.
With more metropolitan dwellers buying homes on acreages in the suburbs, more people need to be educated on the use of pesticides in gardens and lawns. Phynoxy herbicides can easily be bought from garden centers and farm supply stores in containers large enough to provide enough chemical not only to kill weeds in his fence rows, but also unknowingly, at the wrong time, damage a new vineyard being started in the next county.
Meeting participants committed to provide information on responsible use of pesticides to the news media, 4H and FFA leaders, and garden clubs and to work more closely with Oklahoma State University Extension county leaders to spread the word.
Meeting participants also expressed intentions to work more closely with members of the Oklahoma Legislature to bring phenoxy herbicides into the category of restricted pesticides in the future.