Geoff Kuter: Herbicide use most effective way to control weeds at new playing fields
To the editor:
Photos of children in gas masks may grab attention and instill fear, but they do not accurately address the issues surrounding the use of a herbicide at the Florence sports fields. Although the city should look to reduce or avoid the use of pesticides whenever possible, the facts as outlined in the memo provided by the city’s departments of Planning and Sustainability and Recreation support the controlled use of a common herbicide to control weeds at this place and at this time.
Contrary to comments made by those opposed to the spraying, Roundup can be safely used without damaging the surrounding organic growing activities. Unlike other products, Roundup does break down in the soil after a relatively short period and, unlike other products (e.g. DDT), does not accumulate in the food chain or leave behind harmful residues in the soil.
Unfortunately there are no organic products with nearly the same degree of effectiveness and if the fields are to be used next year the weeds need to be removed prior to seeding this fall. Organic products promoted for weed control are not effective for established weeds and must be applied at specific times if they are effective at all. Research performed at both UMass and UConn has shown that when organic methods are used to maintain sports fields there is poor weed control, especially where fields are subject to heavy use.
There are no environmental reasons to restrict the one-time application of herbicide on the Florence fields. Roundup is recognized as having a low toxicity for birds and insects (including bees) and there is no evidence from numerous scientific studies that a one-time application will have any negative impact on the surrounding vegetable farming activity.
The city is in desperate need of new sports fields and the new fields in Florence will take pressure off the existing fields that are being overused. I hope that all the residents of the city will recognize the need to use science and not respond to unsubstantiated fears to make decisions regarding use of various products to build and maintain these fields.