One grower at the cotton field day said he has lost 50 acres of young pomegranates to the drift and wanted to know where to file a claim. Phenoxy herbicide can also damage grapevines.

“I am upset that the (Merced) county would grant a variance for 1,000 acres of 2,4-D in June,” said Michael, who has tallied damage to 1,700 acres at least at Bowles. “I know the applicator was at fault too, but the county put the loaded gun in his hands.”

“If I had done something like that, we could potentially go out of business. The county needs to change their policy on granting late sprays of 2,4-D. There is no reason to take such a risk to spray a pasture when there are so many sensitive plants up and growing.”

2,4-D is a well-known, expensive and effective herbicide that is widely used on winter wheat and even in dormant orchards and vineyards for weed control.

“I don't want the material taken away, but it needs to be used at the appropriate times,” said Michael.

The suspect application took place on a windy, hot day — two of the biggest factors that contribute to drift of the highly volatile herbicide. “The heat is equally as dangerous as the wind,” Michael commented. Those conditions could have created an inversion that could move the herbicide well off-site, he said.

Wright, Munk and Michael all cautioned growers to watch how the cotton reacts to the damage. It could well grow out of the damage as Goodman indicated, but Munk added that the herbicide could remain in the vascular system of the plant.

“We need a week to 10 days to see how plants grow out of it. Bill Weir (UC Merced farm advisor emeritus) thought it looked like 15 to 20 percent in yield reduction,” Michael said.

Years ago, 2,4-D drift was a common problem within and outside the valley, drifting into the valley from as far away as the wheat fields on the Central Coast. That is why the March 16 cutoff date was established.