Texas wineries, vineyards worried about new herbicide

Winegrowers across Texas are worried about an herbicide the EPA is looking to approve for use in the state
Winegrowers across Texas are worried about an herbicide the EPA is looking to approve for use in the state. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the United States Environmental Protection Agency looks to approve a new herbicide for use in Texas, winegrowers across the state grow more nervous.

It’s called Enlist Duo and contains what’s called “2, 4-D.” Currently it’s used in 15 states on genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybean crops. Now the EPA is proposing to allow its use on GE cotton, as well as in 19 more states, including Texas.

The herbicide would be a great asset for farmers of cotton and row crops in the Texas High Plains. Seeds of the crops are genetically engineered to resist the spray, so only the weeds are destroyed, but if the chemical drifts onto other crops, farmers say it’s a different story.

“Our crops don’t build up an immunity or resistance to the chemical, so they’re more susceptible,” said Robert Fritz, with Solaro Estate Winery. “And the stronger chemicals are made, often times is because of the resistance that large row crops have gained over the years.”

Fritz says many wineries in the Hill Country rely on grapes from the High Plains. He says if business is hurt there, it would have a ripple effect across the state.

“Its [wine industry is] an important, important part of the economy. And something like a chemical could literally ruin that, and I don’t mean injure, it could totally ruin the economy,” said Fritz.

On their website, Enlist says the product significantly cuts drift compared with traditional 2,4-D.

Wil Galloway is a consultant with the Texas Legislature, and works with many winegrowers around the state. “Obviously we want our neighbors to be able to maximize their profit and their crops, but at the same time, make sure they don’t harm us.”

Galloway says he’s encouraged by technology improvements, “The positive thing is there’s such a good amount of technology out there from spray nozzles, to the density of the spray that’s being put down, so that the spray goes right down into the crop, into the weed we’re trying to eliminate.”

He says there’s still major concerns around the state. “It’s elevated because we’re seeing new products, we’re seeing new crops that can be resistant to herbicides that our grapes aren’t resistant to,” said Galloway, who believes farmers across all Texas industries should have important conversations, so that no one business fears being wiped out.

The EPA is reviewing public comments, and is expected to make a final decision early this year.

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