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OPINION: Miss Lily Peter Had The 'Eco' Idea About Agri Toxins

by Maylon Rice | July 28, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

In case you have been asleep, or in a coma induced stupor over the fumes from the farm chemical dicamba, and the ongoing ecological controversy on its use in fields in eastern Arkansas's agricultural economy, this chemical has now become mired down in political controversy and politics.

On a recent tour by state politicians of vast acreages of soybeans and other crops harmed by the "drift" of this chemical herbicide, agricultural officials and others a defining and startling showcase of just how toxic this chemical is to the ecosystem was sadly discovered.

The shade tree over the simple grave of Miss Lily Peter, a former state poet laureate, distinguished author, successful farmer, teacher, musician, conservationist and philanthropist, has been blighted and killed by drift from a nearby field sprayed with dicamba.

The Turner Cemetery, some 20 miles southwest of Helena, near her beloved home of Marvell, a simple country cemetery, has been ravaged by the toxic chemical.

That's a shame.

A senseless shame, disparaging and desecrating the final resting place of a lady who proved to her farming peers in the 1970s she could raise just as good, if not better, cotton crops free of pesticides and herbicides.

But now, sadly, the controversy over dicamba has ravaged hundreds of acres of crops, yards, cemeteries and even roadside vegetation and will cost the state, farmers and others, upwards of millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars.

And all of this could have been avoided if our governor and others had stood up to the major chemical company responsible for this dicamba nightmare.

Dicamba (a scientific name of 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid) is a broad-spectrum herbicide first registered in 1967. It is sold under the brand names for formulations of this herbicide including Dianat, Banvel, Diablo, Oracle and Vanquish.

Dicamba kills annual and perennial broadleaf weeds. Its primary commercial applications are weed control for grain crops and turf areas.

It is also used to control brush and bracken in pastures, as well as controlling legumes and cacti. In combination with a phenoxy herbicide, or with other herbicides, dicamba can be used for weed control in range land and other non-crop areas (fence rows, roadways, and wastage).

Dicamba is toxic to conifer species but is in general less toxic to grasses.

In plain English, dicamba is toxic stuff.

And it drifts in both water and granular forms and not for just a few minutes after application, but from one to six weeks after application.

Dicamba may cause damage to plants as a result of its absorption from the soil by plant roots.

Dicamba is mobile in most soils and significant leaching is possible.

Here is what all Arkansans need to read and be aware of about this chemical:

Dicamba is likely to be more rapidly degraded in soils with high microbial populations, but dissipates more slowly in hardwood forests and wetlands than would be expected from the results of laboratory studies.

So it can spread anywhere, field to forest, forest to stream, and the cycle never ends.

Just like Miss Lily warned us about years ago when she eschewed pesticides and herbicides for her plantation's cotton crop.

Though she struggled financially on a teacher's salary, she managed the farm well and eventually bought a second farm with her brother. After his death, she managed both farms and built a turquoise-colored cotton gin. Peter became a millionaire through persistent care of the two plantations. In the 1970s, she experimented with organic farming and was a leader in conservation and environmental issues.

One act Arkansans should remember was a gift of kindness and culture.

She brought the Philadelphia Orchestra to play at Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock for performances, on June 3 and 4, 1969, at her own expense.

She also raised awareness about the toxicity of synthetic chemicals used in farming, but it looks like time has all but erased that bit of activism.

We must in Arkansas stop this scourge of Dicamba before it kills all the trees – even those shading our forebears in tiny cemeteries all over our state.

Print Headline: Poet Laureate Lily Peter Had The 'Eco' Idea About Agri Toxins


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