Illegal pesticide spraying under scrutiny

Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry officials said 18,000 acres of wheat in parts of Tallahatchie, Sunflower, Bolivar and Coahoma counties were sprayed with Fury, a pyrethroid not labeled for use on the crop. The sprays, all made by air, were directed at armyworms, which came on unexpectedly toward the end of the growing season. All of the affected wheat was identified before harvest began.

“When Mississippi found their problem, they notified us and we had inspectors on the ground the next day looking at applicator records,” said Darryl Little, assistant director of the Arkansas State Plant Board.

“We started tracing the materials through the dealers to the farmers. We have found to date (May 31) around 4,500 acres where Fury was applied to wheat," he noted.

“That’s a lot of wheat, but we have 1.2 million acres in Arkansas, so it’s not widespread. Apparently, there were some dealers/consultants involved in making the recommendations in getting this material to the farmer.”

Little said around 2,000 acres are affected in Crittenden County, “and there’s a pocket up around Harrisburg and another area around Holly Grove. We are checking out a couple of leads in the southeastern corner of the state, a 45-acre field and one producer in southern Arkansas County, who we’ve not identified yet.”

Little said the board should be through with its investigations by June 4. “We’ll be working up enforcement cases on everybody that was involved in the misuse, from the crop advisor to the applicator.”

With good weather, Arkansas wheat harvest was to have begun in early June and elevators were very concerned about taking delivery of contaminated wheat, he noted. “We’re distributing what information we have about the growers that made the applications to any grain facility that requests that information.”

According to Bill Reed, vice president corporate communications and public affairs for Riceland, “the company has taken steps to protect our farmers who deliver wheat.” Riceland is asking growers who deliver wheat to the facility to certify that the wheat, “has not been sprayed with a prohibited, non-labeled pesticide, including FMC’s Fury (zeta-cypermethrin).”

According to University of Arkansas wheat and feed grain specialist William Johnson, methyl parathion is the insecticide of choice for armyworms on wheat. Warrior T, a pyrethroid, is also labeled in wheat for armyworms as is Lannate, malathion and Tracer.

In a letter to Delta wheat producers, Blake McGaughy, FSA county executive director for Bolivar County, Miss., says, “Only wheat that does not contain detectable levels of Fury can enter the channels of trade or be taken to a commercial grain storage site.”

According to the USDA Farm Service Agency, concerned producers may obtain a free analysis of their wheat by sending a grain sample to: Argus Analytical, 235 Highpoint Dr., Jackson, MS, 39157. Test results should be available three- to five-working days after the wheat sample is received at the lab.

McGaughy recommends farmers get their wheat tested.

“I have to assume that if you are considering placing the wheat in loan with our office that we will need to know if the wheat contains unacceptable levels of Fury. Since the analysis is available to growers at no cost at this time, it may be wise to go ahead and have the results just in case down the road our office requires a sample for loan/LDP eligibility,” he says.

To obtain the free analysis, send a clean, eight-ounce sample of harvested wheat, one for each field, in a Ziploc freezer bag, inside another Ziploc freezer bag to Argus Analytical. Each sample should be clearly labeled with the necessary information to connect the sample results to the affected field.

McGaughy says, “No one will have access to the analytical results that link a wheat sample with an individual producer name. Results will be sent only to the individual producer that sent the sample.”

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.