Gardening Do you worry about contamination from persistent herbicides / pesticides in your materials?

katek8

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Hello Mark (and everyone else on the forum),

I've heard stories and rumors over the years about gardeners inadvertently poisoning their gardens and sickening or killing their plants via loads of manure that were still contaminated with persistent herbicide despite them ageing it.

I haven't heard of any cases of persistent pesticides killing friendly insects but it seems hypothetically plausible.

It makes me a tiny bit uneasy every time I get a new batch of raw materials.

Do you think this is actually possible? Do you worry about it? How do you go about finding reliably safe sources of materials like manure, sugercane, woodchips, etc?

Thank you.
 

Mandy Onderwater

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I don't really worry about it at the moment personally as what I buy is unlikely to be contaminated. But oif you are worried, perhaps you could buy from local farmers so you can ask what they use (or dont). If you ask around, you would be surprised at what may be available.
 

Grandmother Goose

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Generally speaking, buying those types of products from an established business that's been around for a while will get you safe products. If a business was selling gardening stuff that was killing people's plants due to residual herbicides and the like, they wouldn't stay in business for very long. So I recommend doing that.

I suspect if you investigated it well enough you'll find that most of the people that have claimed they got a product full of herbicide or insecticide that was in quantities high enough to be concerned about (I say it that way because whether or not something is toxic to any living thing is all about the dose, everything can be toxic if at a high enough dose, even water!) it'll turn out in the end that they...
a) got their products from somewhere dodgy, like someone giving it away or selling it too cheap (if the price is too good to be true it's probably not good).
b) claimed the product contained pesticides or herbicides and blamed it when it wasn't that but something else (disease, pH level, or just their own gardening failures). Correlation vs causation can be hard for some people to grasp.
c) are attempting to sell a like product and are using a fear tactic to do it, "Other products may contain harmful stuff, mine doesn't so you should buy mine!" usually accompanied by anecdotal stories about people using the competition's products and it causing a disaster of some sort. As they say, follow the money.

So yeah, just consider the logic behind any fear mongering stories like that and keep in mind that if gardening products were killing people's plants, it wouldn't be good for business and go with companies that have good reps and recommendations.
 

DThille

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I can't speak to pesticides, but with respect to herbicides, the ones used in our part of the world supposedly break down in sunlight. So, if one has the time and space, setting the materials out where they can get sunlight for a few weeks before using shouldn't hurt the situation. Herbicides are generally contact based as well, so if you prevent the materials of concern from touching your plants (e.g. mulch shouldn't be directly against a plant ideally in the first place) that should also help. In my neck of the woods, wind makes that a challenge.

Another piece related to this is getting information. I'd love it if we could trust the chemical manufacturers and our regulators to give us the full story, but feel free to call me a skeptic to put it mildly. Far too many of these things have been put on the market to later be found to be carcinogenic or having other issues for me to trust they've been thoroughly tested.
 

Grandmother Goose

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I can't speak to pesticides, but with respect to herbicides, the ones used in our part of the world supposedly break down in sunlight. So, if one has the time and space, setting the materials out where they can get sunlight for a few weeks before using shouldn't hurt the situation. Herbicides are generally contact based as well, so if you prevent the materials of concern from touching your plants (e.g. mulch shouldn't be directly against a plant ideally in the first place) that should also help. In my neck of the woods, wind makes that a challenge.

Another piece related to this is getting information. I'd love it if we could trust the chemical manufacturers and our regulators to give us the full story, but feel free to call me a skeptic to put it mildly. Far too many of these things have been put on the market to later be found to be carcinogenic or having other issues for me to trust they've been thoroughly tested.
That's where looking at where something comes from can make a big difference. In the USA, there's still a dark ages tendency to allow a product to be used until it proves to be harmful. In Europe that used to be the case as well but nowadays they do things the opposite way around, new things aren't allowed to be released onto the market until they're proven to be safe (or at least safe when used correctly as intended with whatever precautions are required to keep it safe - petrol isn't safe, but imagine what would happen to the world if that was banned! So if in doubt, look at what the EU has to say about it, just be aware that just because something isn't allowed there, it doesn't automatically mean it's not safe, it may simply awaiting for more evidence to come in to prove it either way.
 

DThille

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Good point…always something to consider that I haven’t thought of…now whether I will remember to check is another point of contention for this aging character.
 

Mark Seaton

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In Australia, in general, most "bad" pesticides and herbicides have been banned. Even a lot of fertilisers have.
My dad is old school and has used all sorts of things in the past such as systemic pesticides, pre emergent herbicides (that were so bad for you they actually contained tear gas to keep you clear when they activated) and fertilisers such as superphosphate. No days large scale pest control is more about bio control, such as adding predators that attack the bugs that are attacking your plants.
This being the case, unless you are getting your mulch etc from an old cocky that still has stock of some of these old chemicals, you should be pretty safe in what you add as most of the products are so safe, they have a hard time controlling the pests let alone damaging yourself ;)
 
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