by Kim Erndt-Pitcher, Habitat and Agricultural Programs Specialist at Prairie Rivers Network
The warm weather is here again…
While you are getting ready to plant, weed, and harvest the fruits of your labor or when you pause to taste some spinach, smell a flower, or watch a bee, please take a moment to look closely at your plants and trees. Over the last few years, many trees and other broadleaf plants throughout Illinois expressed symptoms of off-target herbicide damage. This was likely the result of exposure to volatile plant growth regulator (PGR) herbicides such as dicamba and/or 2, 4-D that are used for weed control on row crop ag fields.
When these PGR herbicides volatilize, they can move long distances and land other places at concentrations strong enough to harm trees, crops, and other plants.
Stunted, twisted, discolored, curled, and/or cupped leaves are some of the more obvious signs of potential off-target herbicide injury. Redbuds, dogwoods, sycamores, oaks, box elder, pecan, peach, and apple trees are among the many trees that have shown symptoms. Also, many native wildflowers and important food crops such as fruit and nut trees, tomatoes, and grapes can be sensitive to these herbicides. If herbicide injury is a likely cause, you should notice symptoms, sometimes to varying degrees, across multiple species and plant types in an area. Observing symptoms on a variety of plant types in an area can help you rule out other possible causes such as insects or disease. To see photos of plants exhibiting the typical symptoms of herbicide damage see the Prairie Rivers Network (PRN) website.
PRN, and our partners are working hard to keep these herbicides from harming you, your property, crops, orchards, organic farms, and our environment. We realize that many people don’t even know what symptoms of herbicide injury look like and where to report injuries. However, now more than ever, this information is critical to our ability to push for protections against harmful chemicals.
You can do two things! If you see symptoms, please document them! Information on how to monitor can be found on our website. If you have a google account, you document symptoms through our online monitoring form using your smartphone or home computer. Here you can upload your photo and document what you see in just a few minutes. Visit www.prairierivers.org/report. The more we know about when and where symptoms are occurring, the better we can protect specialty growers and our environment.
Additionally, we also ask that if you suspect herbicide damage please fill out a complaint form on the Illinois Department of Ag (IDOA) website. We urge you to do this, even if you live in the middle of town! Reporting damage to IDOA is important. They use the complaint information to make regulatory and enforcement decisions.
We can all do our part to protect specialty growers, wildlife habitat, and our precious trees from these volatile herbicides. You can do your part by reporting symptoms using our monitoring program and by filing a complaint with IDOA.
This article was submitted by Kim Erndt-Pitcher, Habitat and Agricultural Programs Specialist at Prairie Rivers Network. Kim wrote on a similar topic two years ago for our guest blog series: Reporting Herbicide Drift Damage on Wild Plants. The article represents a conscientious effort to update some of the older but still relevant blogs on our site. Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.