A cry of protest – A petition against pesticides in organic fertilizers
By Ulf Nilsson and Ulrica Otterling
Organic fertilizers mixed with pesticides seems like a very strange combo. Yet, for the past two years thousands of Swedish gardeners advocated to sustainable gardening have had their crops of tomatoes, beans and potatoes damaged and ruined by residues of pesticides included in the fertilizers and manure they have used in their gardens.
Aiming to put a stop to this, the Swedish Allotment Federation has launched a petition against pyralids, the herbicides in question. The result of the campaign will be handed over to the Minister of the Environment on June 5th, The International Environment Day.
Healthy tomato plant by Ulf Nilsson
The pesticides that contaminate fertilizers and manure have to be stopped. Everyone who wants to garden organically, without pesticides, must be able to safely do so. The government needs to recognize this as a threat to the circular bioeconomy and take action, says Ulrica Otterling, Secretary General of the Swedish Allotment Federation.
In 2020, after numerous reports from allotment holders and other leisure gardeners about ruined tomato and chili plants, the Swedish Leisure Garden Association, FOR, started investigating the problem. Analysis of several liquid organic fertilizers based on vinasse, a residual product from sugar production, showed that the majority of the tested products were contaminated with the pesticide clopyralid (Nilsson 2021). A substance that, even at very low concentrations, parts per billion, can damage sensitive plants and cause malformed stems, leaves and fruits.
Pyralid damaged tomato plant by Ulf Nilsson
Clopyralid, and the closely related substances aminopyralid and picloram (here called pyralids as a group), are herbicides which are used to kill herbaceous broad-leaved weeds in cereals, grasslands, oilseeds and sugar beet fields. They are significantly more persistent than most other plant protection products that are approved in Sweden. For example, the half-life in soil may be over 500 days for aminopyralid and picloram, and 250 days for clopyralid.
The problem with the contaminated plant fertilisers in 2020 was traced back to weed control, using clopyralid, in sugar beet fields in France, Germany and Poland. It was also found in Denmark, Norway and Finland that vinasse-based organic fertilisers intended for private consumers could contain residues of clopyralid (Haveselskabet 2021; McKinnon et al. 2021).
When the cause of the problems became known, several of the large Swedish retailers stopped selling fertilisers based on vinasse and manufacturers withdrew products from the market. Unfortunately, this was not the end of the matter.
In the spring of 2021, reports continued to come in to FOR from gardeners who suspected that their plants had been damaged by herbicides. In one allotment site in Stockholm, Pungpinan, where they had bought horse manure from a private stable nearby, 50 allotment holders reported damages to a number of vegetable plants. In another allotment area damages were caused by sheep manure.
As a consequence, 32 analyses were performed on organically based plant nutrition products and potting soils available on the Swedish consumer market. Horse manure and sheep manure used in three different allotment sites in Stockholm that had caused severe plant damage were also analysed along with other samples of chicken and horse manure, silage and straw.
The results of the analyses showed that pyralids were found in almost all tested organic raw materials, originating in agriculture, used by gardeners as plant fertilisers. Residues of clopyralid have been found in cow-, horse-, sheep- and chicken manure as well as in sugar beet extracts, aminopyralid in maize starch and cow manure, and picloram in horse manure.
It can affect gardeners who buy organic plant fertilisers at garden centres as well as those who pick up manure, straw or silage from horse stables or local farms. Not even gardeners who use chicken manure from their own chickens, fed with purchased feed, can with certainty avoid getting plant damaged. Furthermore, the extremely low amount of pyridine required to cause damage to sensitive plants make it very difficult for organic fertiliser manufacturers to handle.
The extent of the problem shows that it is a matter of system error, which allow these herbicides to be used in agriculture without at the same time ensuring that they do not cause damage at a later stage of cultivation in recreational gardens.
In addition to the herbicides destroying tens of thousands of plants of great economic value, it has also led to anxiety and reduced joy of cultivation for those affected. Many people are worried about how long the soil will be contaminated, a question nobody can give an exact answer to today.
Even more serious is that the gardeners trust in organic fertilisers has been severely damaged which is a threat to increased circular bioeconomy in gardening. A prerequisite for a functioning circular economy is that the cycles are not contaminated by harmful chemicals (Swedish Government Offices 2020).
According to EU- regulation 1107/2009, article 4 and paragraph 3C “a plant protection product shall not have any unacceptable effects on plants or plant products”. We believe that the content of this report shows that herbicides based on picloram, amino- and clopyralid do not fulfil this statement.
We started the petition to give everyone who thinks this is unacceptable a voice for their protest. We think it is highly appropriate that we will be presenting it to the responsible ministers on June 5, the International Environment Day, says Ulrica Otterling.
The petition demands that the government stop the use of pyralids. The Swedish Government can stop the sale of products containing these substances in Sweden and work for a ban of the substances in the EU.
This example underlines that we all garden, grow vegetables and farm on the same planet, regardless if we are leisure gardeners or professional farmers. It’s all connected. As this case shows, when the circular bioeconomy is contaminated it effects everyone in the end. That’s why it is so important to put a stop to pyralids. So, gardeners in Sweden, throughout Europe and elsewhere, be cautious and take action if necessary, so that pesticides will not destroy your enthusiasm to garden in a natural way, do not affect our health, plant health and finally, the health of our whole planet...
Jerusalem artichoke, damaged by pyralids, by Annika Ekberg
✓ The substances clopyralid, aminopyralid and picloram (here called pyralids as a group) are herbicides within the group of pyridine carboxylic acids. These herbicides are used in conventional farming. A few parts per billion (ug/kg) is sufficient to cause damage on plants.
✓ Most sensitive to pyralids are plants within the following plant families: Solanaceae (tomatoes, chili, peppers, potatoes), Fabaceae (peas and beans) and Asteraceae (dahlias, Jerusalem artichokes, asters)
✓ Pyralids are very persistent and can remain in the soil for several years.
✓ When pyralids are used on the fields, they do not only kill the weeds. They are also absorbed by the cultivated crops, such as cereals and rape. The crops become fodder for animals and the pyralids end up in their manure, which is spread on fields and in various forms in gardens and allotments. This way the whole the circular economy is contaminated.
damaged broad bean by Linda Wahl
A short version in English about the analyzes in 2021:
Pictures of pyralid-damaged plants (report in Swedish):
In this article worth reading, as part of the National Gardening Week, Phil Gomersall reports on the appeal of allotments.
In his unique way, he describes both his personal experiences that led him to his passion and the question of what makes gardening so special.
He emphasises the social and ecological aspects that lead to an increasing interest in new allotment garden plots.
Phil Gomersall, president of the National Allotment Society,
on his plot in Rawdon. Picture: Simon Hulme
Read the full article here and let yourself be infected by this passion.
Appeal of allotments as Leeds waiting lists grow: They're the 'best thing since sliced bread'
By Ruby Kitchen, The Yorkshire Post, 5 May 2022
National Gardening Week (2-8 May 2022)
Call from the Fédération Internationale des Jardins Familiaux and its affiliated federations upon all allotment gardeners at the occasion of the World Bee Day on 20th May 2022.
World Bee Day was celebrated for the first time in 2018. It can be traced back to the Slovenian World Bee Day initiative, which was launched in 2014. The date of 20th May was chosen because it was the birthday of Anton Janša, Slovenian master beekeeper under Maria Theresa. In the course of his work, Janša became a respected expert on bees and is considered a pioneer of beekeeping.
Why are bees so important for us?
Without bees, we would have a massive food problem, as around 75% of our food crops rely on bees for pollination.
But not only our nutrition, also our health would be affected without bees, as the pollination of medicinally used plants would not be given either.
Why are bees so threatened?
There are many reasons for bee mortality and it is probably the interplay of many factors that has caused the situation to deteriorate so drastically in recent years. One reason is the excessive agriculture in monocultures, which deprives the bees of food. Even the edges of fields are no longer provided with flowering plants. The use of pesticides in agriculture also kills not only the pests it controls, but also beneficial insects such as bees. Another problem is found in cities, where bees no longer find food, but only sealed surfaces and tidy concrete deserts instead of flowering meadows and diverse gardens. This also leads to wild bees no longer finding nesting sites.
What can we allotment gardeners do?
Our allotment gardens are often located in the middle of densely built-up urban areas, the best prerequisite for actively supporting and promoting bees.
• Let us plant wild flowers and herbs to provide food for bees and other beneficial organisms!
• Let's (continue to) not use pesticides!
• Let's create nesting sites with dead wood, dry stone walls and open ground to provide suitable nesting sites
for wild bees as well!
It doesn't take much to make your own contribution to supporting bees and other beneficial insects. And quite incidentally, with these relatively simple measures we also increase the biodiversity in our allotment gardens at the same time and thus contribute to keeping our cities liveable. Our allotment gardens remain places of biodiversity, retreats for animals and plants of all kinds and thus secure their high status in society.
The Fédération Internationale and its member federations call on all 2 million allotment garden families who are part of this federation to contribute together to the preservation and promotion of bees, beneficial insects of all kinds and in general to the preservation of biodiversity in allotment gardens and thus to maintain an environment worth living in for our children and our children's children.
Tuinhier VZW has participated on the garden days in Beervelde from May 6th to may 8th 2022. The jury found our exhibition stand tasteful decored and rewarded our stand with a golden metal.
Thanks to all volunteers for helping during the days of the exhibition and realizing of the beautiful stand. Special thanks to Bart Verelst, Leentje Grillaert, Jan De Simpelaere. Thanks to Renaud de Kerchove for the invitation.
We will participate in octobre's edition.
After two years the 18th Vienna Allotment Garden Fair could again take place on the usual spring date. From 29 April to 1 May the "Blumengärten Hirschstetten" (Flower Gardens Hirschstetten) and the organiser EvOTION welcomed numerous allotment garden friends. In good weather conditions almost 100 exhibitors offered their products and services as well as extensive advice.
The official opening took place on Friday at noon by Mayor Dr. Michael Ludwig. Under the moderation of the organiser Klaus Ranger, the host, City Garden Director Ing. Rainer Weisgram, as well as municipal councillor Mag. Gerhard Spitzer and district head Ernst Nevrivy, wished the exhibitors much success and the visitors a pleasant time.
In his speech, Mayor Dr Michael Ludwig pointed out the great importance of allotment gardens for the urban climate and their important contribution to increasing biodiversity. The mayor, who is an allotment gardener himself, visited the exhibitors afterwards and showed great interest.
In addition to the topics of planning, construction and renovation, the focus was on garden design, suitable with the location.
Those exhibitors, where visitors could find out about the latest trends and innovations in energy and heating, were particularly well attended. The stands giving advice on plant protection and natural gardening were also very popular.
The central federation of allotment gardeners of Austria and the regional federation of Vienna were again fully represented after two years of pandemic. The ladies of the Women’s Expert Group Floridsdorf sold their home-made products from their own garden for a good cause. The expert advisors shared their knowledge with the visitors. Of course, many questions about allotment gardening were answered. Not surprisingly, also this year, the most frequent question was: "How do I get an allotment garden? ".
Parallel to the fair, visitors could taste and consume to their heart's content at 22 stations on the „Genussmeile“ (Enjoyment Mile). Thus fortified, many visitors took the opportunity to stroll through the beautiful themed gardens.