By Cecil Angel
Detroit Free Press
In neighborhoods nationwide, millions of dollars worth of Norway spruce and white pine trees are mysteriously turning brown and dying this summer, and the chief suspect is a new lawn chemical.
State officials and lawn care professionals say they think Imprelis, an herbicide introduced last year for commercial use by DuPont, may be attacking pines and spruces as if they were weeds.
DuPont has sent its own teams across the country to check out complaints and, for the moment, has recommended not spraying Imprelis near those types of trees. The company says the herbicide may not have been handled properly.
Many landscapers in Michigan and elsewhere switched to Imprelis this year to control weeds such as dandelions because it was touted as safer for the environment than predecessors such as 2, 4-D.
So many trees have died — from the East Coast west to Iowa — that the damage is projected to be in the millions of dollars, and now many states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are investigating the possible link to Imprelis.
Amy Frankmann, executive director for the Okemos-based Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association, said she has not seen such widespread tree damage since the emerald ash borer decimated the state’s ash trees.
“I’d say this is right up there as far as the significance and losses,” Frankmann said.
Tree damage likened to emerald ash borer infestation
Mark Underwood says he thought he was doing the right thing, both for his family’s lawn-care business and the environment, when he switched to Imprelis, a new herbicide.
But a month after crews from his Adrian-based Underwood Nursery sprayed the DuPont weed killer on hundreds of lawns in southeast Michigan, the calls began.
“The customers are calling: ‘My trees are dying, what’s up?’ ” Underwood said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this.”
In what some say could be one of the biggest disasters of its kind since the emerald ash borer killed millions of trees, white pine and Norway spruce trees are turning brown or dying all around the country. Tree damage has been reported throughout the Midwest, in East Coast states and as far south as Georgia.
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