Texas winegrowers concerned about pesticides' impact on vineyards

Jan 4, 2017

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Texas winegrowers are concerned that federal approval of new herbicides for some cotton crops will eradicate the wine industry in the Texas High Plains.

As The Texas Tribune reports, Texas winegrowers are seeing more and more damage to grapes that are withering from chemical damage from herbicides used on genetically modified cotton seeds.

The culprits are dicamba and 2,4-D, which are two high-volatility herbicides commonly used on cereal crops, pastures and lawns.

The fear is use of the chemicals may soon expand to include 3.7 million acres of cotton fields in the High Plains, where weeds are invading cotton that has built up immunity to the long-used Roundup pesticide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved Monsanto’s new formulation called XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, which contains dicamba. The EPA has also proposed approval of Enlist Duo, a Dow AgroSciences formulation that contains 2,4-D. That decision is expected early this year.

Both will be used on cotton crops planted with seeds genetically engineered to resist the spray.

At least two vineyard operators in the region think the use of those chemicals could spell disaster to the wine industry in those parts.

"I could see it basically killing the [wine] industry, honestly,” Garrett Irwin, owner of the 20-acre Cerro Santo vineyard in Lubbock County, told The Texas Tribune. “If we get the levels of damage that I’m afraid we’ll get, vineyards will not be able to recover or produce grapes at any sustainable level, and we’re just going to have to go away.”

Regulators, however, say the new pesticides are formulated to drift less than old versions.

Aware of the damage that pesticides can do, the EPA stated that both Xtendimax and Enlist Duo are updated versions of the old dicamba and 2,4-D, and they have new additives that lower their ability to vaporize and drift as gas to nearby crops.