What's killing the trees?

What's killing the trees?

A defoliated pepper tree on “Warangesda”, at Darlington Point.

A defoliated pepper tree on “Warangesda”, at Darlington Point.


Could spray drift be killing pepper trees, which have weathered drought and all else for a century, at Darlington Point?


ON OUR family property at Darlington Point pepper trees have thrived for more than 100 years. They are extremely hardy and drought tolerant. During recent autumns these trees, young and old, have suffered severe defoliation, sometimes to the point of apparent death. Miraculously most have recovered only to suffer the same fate the next year. Each year the trees become weaker and eventually die. We have now lost close to half of them.

I have seen and heard firsthand that pepper trees are suffering the same symptoms throughout this region.

Pepper trees are extremely sensitive to chemical drift. Two mandarin trees have also died and our lemon tree is struggling. I wonder if what’s happening now is caused by chemical drift?

This defoliation of the pepper trees occurs at the same time the local cotton crop is being defoliated. Cotton, a perennial bush, is killed to facilitate harvest. Mature perennial plants are difficult to kill quickly.

One of the main chemicals used to achieve this is Thidiazuron and the safety directions for using it include:

  • Do not allow spray drift to contact trees or crops other than cotton, as this product may injure or defoliate other crops, particularly citrus, grape vines and lettuce. Product must not be sprayed up wind of citrus with young leaves within a distance of 8km.
  • Do not plant lettuce or carrots where this chemical has been sprayed for nine months.
  • Do not allow chemical to be sprayed on humans. If they must enter a sprayed area soon after spraying they must wear a full suit of chemical protective clothing.
  • Do not graze treated areas or feed cotton trash to livestock.

This is a potent, long-lasting chemical.

If our pepper trees are being defoliated by this chemical, Thidiazuron, or similar, then not only are the pepper trees in danger, but also citrus, grape vines and other plants in the same area. Also, livestock over a wide area will be picking up traces of the chemical as they graze.

The gravest concern is that we are all unknowingly breathing this spray drift that is harmful to humans.

JEFFREY KING, “Warangesda”, Darlington Point.


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