Environment — 2, 4-D often inadvertently damages grape vines; Oregon Winegrowers Association looking to educate involved parties

The issue of pesticides and herbicides has always been prevalent, but a strain of growth-regulating herbicides has been damaging grape vines, prompting the Oregon Winegrowers Association to seek solutions to the problem.

“Wine grapes are sensitive to certain types of herbicides. They can either drift over into vineyards if being sprayed on an adjacent property or some of the herbicide, it’s called volatilization, can be picked up by the weather and can be dropped even a couple of miles away,” said Jana McKamey, OWA government affairs manager. “It’s used commonly for broadleaf control and can have negative impacts on growth. Damage on the vines can range anywhere from having a lower yield to really having long-term damage for the grape vine.”by: COURTESY OF THE USDA - Raising awareness - Certain strains of herbicides, especially 2, 4-D, can spread to nearby vineyards causing short and long term damage. The Oregon Winegrowers Association is looking to raise awareness of the issue.

The specific herbicide they are raising awareness about is 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, commonly known as 2,4-D.

“We’ve been trying to educate our industry and other stakeholder groups about the damage these herbicides can cause,” McKamey said.

So far this has involved selling signs warning of the potential risks and meeting with a task force organized by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“Our goal is to really prevent damage to vineyards and a big part of that is raising awareness about the impact and reminding everyone to please apply these herbicides carefully because there are risks out there,” she said.

Doug Tunnell owns Brick House Wines in Newberg and has been an active proponent of the OWA’s efforts, especially after suffering herbicide damage on his vineyard years ago.

“I know personally of a number of wineries who have been hit really seriously this year, in fact it’s an ongoing issue and it’s something we really need to raise awareness of because it keeps happening,” Tunnell said. “We’ve talked and talked about it, but we’re just not getting through to the severity of the problem. When the drift occurs it is often lethal for the vineyard in question for the crop that year.”

He said there’s often evidence of long-term residual damage as well.

“They don’t bounce back as they should,” Tunnell said. Although he can’t be sure what the cause was, he had to replant some of his vineyard this year, the same section that was hit with herbicide years ago.

“They never reproduced as they should have and their lifespan wasn’t what it should be,” he said. “Healthy vines can live 100 years, mine were only 20 (years old).”

Although McKamey said the end goal isn’t an outright ban on 2, 4-D, Oregon Vineyard Supply recently announced it will no longer carry the herbicide.

“We certainly appreciate that step taken by OVS because they’re supplying to growers beyond wine grape growers, but it’s not something we’ve asked of them or other suppliers,” she said.

Tunnell agreed that the step is appreciated, but what he and OWA want is education and safe use of the herbicide.

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