Tattered White Oak: June 2021

Fellow Scott County neighbors: Spring is here! We are happy to see and welcome the tender new blooming buds on our trees. This is also a stressful time for our family when we hold our breath to see if this year our trees will again be affected by the pre-emergent herbicide drift as they come out of dormancy after a long winter striving to make their food by opening their leaves to capture the sunlight.

We encourage you to please observe your trees, specifically Oaks, White, Bur, Hackberries, and Red Buds for deformed, tattered, shredded, and curled leaves. Most folks incorrectly believe that these leaf deformities are caused by pests. Two years ago, we were in our beloved Backbone State Park, the oldest in Iowa, and we observed pervasive tatters. The ranger thought the damage was caused by a pest.

Progressively for the last 20 years, during early spring mid-April thru May, we have observed and documented that when fields are being prepared for corn and bean planting and sprayed with a cocktail of pre-emergent herbicide, it coincides with the budding of the above species.

The resulting deformation of the emerging leaves is heartbreaking.

Over the last 20 years, we have called several times, and asked for an inspector to come and collect damaged leaf samples for the analysis by IDALS, the Iowa department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The results come back with a cocktail of noxious chemicals, and always include Acetochlor, Atrazine, and, in recent years, Dicamba and 2,4-D.

These controversial herbicidal active ingredients come from Monsanto now Bayer, Zeneca, and Dow Chemicals. and are present in such vastly marketed brands as Harness, Keystone, SureStart, Surpass, Volley, and Warrant. The documented presence of these deadly toxins in our dying sapling and adult oak tree leaves is prima facia evidence that adjacent corn and soy growers and commercial applicators are misapplying their herbicides during pre-planting season and/or the product volatilizes (drifts from the applied area to neighboring unapplied areas) despite the manufacturers’ claims otherwise.

In July 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld Monsanto and BASF paying $60MM in damages to Missouri peach tree farmers for the drifting Dicamba herbicide that destroyed 30,000 trees.(JusticePesticides.org/en/juridic_case/bader-farms-et-al-v-monsanto-and-basf/)

Unfortunately, Big Agra has more clout that the common citizens of Iowa. Despite the damning test results IDALS themselves generate, no actions or enforcement is taken to mitigate risk for non-corn and non-soy growers’ properties, trees, and plants. More voices are needed!

If you do observe deformed leaves, please file an “Incident Report” with the Department’s Pesticide Bureau by calling (515)281‐8591. This report must be filed within 60 days after the alleged date that the damage occurred. It is important that these incidents are recorded so that our regulators, foresters, policymakers, and politicians can make sound decisions about the ecological health of our state. We are part of this ecology; it also impacts us.

For the last 26 years of living in rural Scott County, we consider it neighborly to be responsible stewards of our land. We have cared for existing century oaks and planted thousands of native trees, including our state tree the Oak. Oak also happens to be a Keystone species. More creatures depend on it than on any other tree. As Oaks disappear from our landscape, we lose all the associated beneficial critters and the enumerable and essential ecological services that they provide to all of us. Folks, our Oaks are dying, they are disappearing rapidly from our landscapes, let’s protect them for our grandchildren!

Tony and Joyce Singh

Longtime residents of rural Scott County

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