Dear Mr. Howe,
I read your front page article about methyl iodide Jan. 12.12 in the Monterey Herald. I am a University of California Davis researcher and I have first hand experience with methyl iodide. I have some comments.
1. Methyl bromide (MB) is phased out due to its persistence (months) in the atmosphere that results in ozone depletion. Methyl iodide breaks down fairly rapidly in soil and within hours in the atmosphere as it is sensitive to degradation in sunlight. The statement of Mr. Marsh that methyl iodide is “long-lasting nature” is not correct. Methyl iodide is shorter-lived than MB, not longer.
2. Most methyl iodide will be applied via drip chemigation – under impermeable plastic through the drip irrigation system. Only 2 applicators would be in the field when the application is made. All the farmworkers will have completed their work before the application is made and will not be in the field when the application is made. And given the buffer zones and the need for impermeable films the comment from Placencia in Oxnard (pg 9 your article) that “plastic sheeting pops up and they receive aerosol dose” is misleading. First I have never seen bed tarp (plastic mulch) pop up as it is anchored well and intended to remain there for 9 to 15 months. It does not “pop up”. Second there are no aerosols – the fumigant is injected in the irrigation flow at 10 psi in a closed system under impermeable films. Ms. Placencia is confusing methyl iodide with traditional methyl bromide applications that covered the entire field – broadcast fumigation. It is true that broadcast film does lift and split in the wind occasionally. Given the high cost of methyl iodide it is doubtful that it will be applied broadcast. Most methyl iodide will be applied through the drip system.
3. Much is made of the scientific panel that recommended that recommended against registration of methyl iodide. What about the fact that scientists at the USEPA and the Calif. DPR both coming to the same conclusion – that methyl iodide can be applied safely? Does this count for nothing? what about the fact that people are using methyl iodide in Florida safely - does this count for nothing?
4. What is the alternative to methyl iodide? What is the alternative to fumigation in general? We are working on those questions. We are working on anaerobic soil disinfestation, steam and substrate production. Research is tedious and takes time but we will solve these problems.
5. why is there no forum for thoughtful discussion of this issue? If methyl iodide is banned what then? it is simply not realistic to have 37,000 acres of strawberry convert to organic. this would require a 4 year rotation and hence 148,000 acres of land available. there is not 148,000 acres of land available that are suitable for strawberry.
6. if methyl iodide is banned it will likely force MB to remain in the market place for a long time. Think about that one! The strawberry industry (including organic) requires disease free plants that now come from soil fumigated with MB. Methyl iodide is the best replacement for MB in the strawberry nurseries. Where will the healthy plants come from if there is no MB or methyl iodide?