Consider chemical drift in plant decline research

I read with interest Saturday’s story in The Maui News (March 21) by Dakota Grossman: “Study offers clues to restoring threatened silverswords.”

Reminds me of my work 60 years ago where I grew 8-inch silverswords in eight months next to the ocean in my Paia nursery, from seed donated by the national park, only to watch all plants in the project die from suspected herbicide drift. Silversword growing was ended at that point due to the demands of researching the same problem affecting an order of 400,000 papaya seedlings. 

Since then, I have identified indicator plants that can cheaply detect the presence of drift. With continuing chemical damage to nursery plants, I am now protecting susceptible plants through windbreaks, something I long thought could not be accomplished.

Yes, for over half a century I have believed that silverswords and many other plants are declining as a result of chemical drift. I have research backing these beliefs. My advice to researchers and others is to consider chemical drift also when doing their research.

Robert T. Martin



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