New herbicides threaten Texas wine industry

Posted at 7:20 PM, Jan 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 20:09:55-05

Texas wine makers are worried that new crop technology that can harm grape vines could threaten the wine industry.

Vineyards located near other row crop farms are in danger of being affected by the weed killing chemicals that neighboring farmers use on their crops. 

Farmers using weed killing products on their row crops could be putting neighboring vineyards at risk.

These products contain 2,4-d and dicamba, chemicals that are designed to kill broad leaf plants like grapes, oranges, and pecans. These chemicals are considered volatile, meaning they can be carried by the wind to neighboring vineyards, damaging the grape vines for years to come.

New products containing chemicals that are less volatile and dangerous to grape vines are becoming available. But grape growers are worried that farmers will choose the older, cheaper sprays on their crops.

Paul Bonarrigo, CEO of Messina Hof Winery and Resorts, says that the issue affects his business every year.

"It actually forces us into a situation where we have to over contract because we just expect that we're gonna be sprayed," Bonarrigo said. "At least some of our vineyards are gonna be effected by 2,4d and dicamba every year."

Bonarrigo said that the effects of 2,4-d and dicamba can last for at least 3 years. Their vineyard in Halfway,Texas has been hit three times in the last six years. He says that the vineyard hasn't been able to produce a full crop ever since the first time it was damaged.

Grape growers around Texas are doing their best to spread the word about the issue. Bonarrigo said that grape growers in other states have systems in place to get the word out to neighboring farmers before any issues arise. He wants to see the same solution here in Texas. 

"I think part of that education is teaching them about viticulture and helping them understand what the impact can be," He said. "We can all work together to be able to make sure everybody is using the best practices they can as well as giving us an opportunity to continue to grow our industry."

*Correction: Previous versions of this story implied 2,4-d and dicamba are chemicals found in Roundup. Roundup is glysophate, a different weed killing chemical. Though it's not as volatile and dangerous to grape vines, glysophate can still be dangerous for grapes in nearby vineyards.

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