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Airborne Chemical Drift Threatens Ohio Wineries, Jeopardizing Grape Harvests
Ohio Ag Connection - 06/05/2023

Ohio's wine industry has experienced remarkable growth, with the number of wineries expanding from 13 in 1975 to 400 this year. However, alongside this flourishing industry, Ohio wineries face a significant threat in the form of airborne chemical drift, which is endangering their grape harvests and profitability.

According to Donniella Winchell from the Ohio Wine Producers Association (OWPA), the surge in wineries is attributed to several factors, including the increasing popularity of wine and the relatively accessible process of obtaining a license for winery establishment. Additionally, robust programs offered by Ohio State University, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the Ohio Grape Industries program have contributed to the growth by providing guidance and support to aspiring winemakers.

While wineries continue to thrive, a new concern looms over their operations. Winemakers are reporting that their biggest threat is the use of herbicides, specifically 2,4-D and Dicamba, which are being sprayed by commercial applicators. Grapes are highly sensitive to these herbicides and prolonged exposure can lead to cancerous growth, causing irreversible damage to the vineyards. Signs of damage may take days or weeks to appear, resulting in the loss of several years' worth of hard work.

Chemical drift incidents have been reported across the United States, with Ohio recording 34 incidents affecting over 2,200 acres of land in 2021 alone. The Ohio Department of Agriculture states that there are currently no plans to change regulations or restrict the use of these herbicides, as the authority for such decisions rests with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The issue of herbicide drift extends beyond Ohio, as other states, such as Texas, also face similar challenges due to the use of these herbicides in different crops. The complexity lies in the fact that farmers using these herbicides are often trying to protect their own crops, inadvertently causing harm to neighboring vineyards.

While legal actions continue against the EPA and herbicide manufacturers, Ohio wineries like Meranda-Nixon Winery persist in their passion for growing grapes and producing award-winning wines. Despite the threats they face, they remain committed to sharing their exceptional wines through tastings and invite visitors to witness their dedication firsthand.

The ongoing battle against herbicide drift highlights the need for increased awareness, dialogue, and potential regulatory changes to safeguard the flourishing Ohio wine industry and preserve the hard work and investment of winemakers throughout the state.

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