The Helpful Gardener
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The Terms For Abandoning Chemicals

Most people think that if chemical fertilizer and insecticides were abandoned agricuturla yields would fall to a fraction of the present level. Experts on insect damage estimate that losses in the first year of giving up insecticides would be about five percent. Loss of another five percent in abandoning chemical fertilizer would probably not be far mistaken.
So Sensei is predicting about ten percent loss to going cold turkey. Sounds about right in my experience this year...
The recuperative power of nature is great beyond imaginging and after this initial loss, I believe harvests would increase and eventually surpass their original level.
Me too...

HG
Scott Reil

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My garden is overrun by Marmorated Stinkbugs. they cluster around ripe tomatoes and suck at them, causing spots and blemishes to develop-- probably due to infection introduced either directly or indirectly. I'm going to have to switch to bringing in pink-stage tomatoes. Baby cucumbers yellow and fail to develop under their assault, and more mature ones are malformed. They also caused yellow/dried up spots on the cucumber leaves that are spreading. They are also on pole beans -- far less bean production this year, though they don't seem to go for black eyed peas, azuki beans, or edamame. I see clusters of various sizes on the upper leaves of my giant sunflowers, far too high to do anything about it....

I'm in a holding pattern as it were, waiting for something, anything, to form a rescue party. Were is my Garden Patrol!? :|

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My new gig is teaching me all sorts of new tricks availabe to the pros but still hard to impossible to find for homeowners. We now have mites to kill mites, wasps and midges to mess with aphids, and mematodes to control fungus gnat and thrips. Doug Tallamy's work is leaning toward insectoid controls of native plants. Some of the most effective fungicides now available are actually bacteria, and all of these are not just possible, but in realtime use in the horticultural and agricultural industries. Not widespread yet, but I feel sure it will make it to homeowner use soon.

We can find ways to do good works and get the results we desire working within natural frameworks, but occasional casualties are going to be part of every learning curve, and every adaptation of our fields and gardens. When we learn not to kill but to add life to control an environment, we are headed in the right direction. I can feel this in my bones.

AS, the cavaly is closer than you might think...

HG
Scott Reil

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you know, I'm as opposed to using chemicals to mask deficiencies of one sort or another, but I've been contemplating how we relate to those chemicals, and whether there is a moral element.

I've concluded there is no strict morality to assign to glyphosphate, DDT, or any other other man-made chemical. In fact, when I look at Nature, I see myriad examples of animals developing chemicals for defense, communication, etc... In each of those instances, a disadvantage is gained with each advantage evolved. The organism is not stronger, it is merely better adapted.

We are just like the bombardier beetle. The difference is that we develop and deploy our arsenal without care. We waste these precious arsenals concentrating wealth in common into the pockets of an ever-shrinking elite. This is where morality comes in - not whether or not we work against Nature (which is not possible from within Nature), but whether or not we work against ourselves, and the least among us.
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muland
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When we bombard our fields with herbicides we are not working "within" nature. We are acting as agents which were once living within nature but now somehow have come to believe that we are above nature. Other creatures use chemicals as defence and even eat each other for food, but they never go on a mission to destroy other forms of live. That's really what we are doing when we douse the planet with chemicals, or try to eliminate ALL of the wolves and mountain lions in an area because they are preying on our precious cattle. We are acting like we believe that the laws of ecology somehow don't apply to us. The world was made for human beings to exploit in any way we like, right?
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka
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My industry has been dealing with decreased effect from chemical means for some time, resistant strains of insects are on the rise (anyone notice aphids aren't quite the knockovers they used to be?). I have yet to see an antelope get resistant to lions. Natural predation makes far more sense, limits the effect to often VERY specific targets, and in general works within the framework and fabric of the ecosystem.

If I use mites to kill mites, have I intervened outside of natural farming? If I use a biorational pesticide derived from a naturally found source, have I gone outside the boundaries of natural farming? It seems I have, and yet the harm is not yet readily apparent to me...(but that does not preclude the thought that I may be doing harm...)

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It's an interesting question. Again, there is the story of Sensei's putting wood ashes in the field. How could that hurt? But the spiders disappeared the next day. We simply don't know what the long term affects of our seemingly harmless actions might be, let alone the long term affects of introducing genetically modified organisms.

Interestingly, Fukuoka used pyrethrum during his early years of natural farming. He ground up the flowers and sprayed them on certain vegetables to control things like cabbage worms. He didn't like doing it, but he did. Eventually, as more habitat for insects developed the natural insect balance returned to the orchard and he stopped spraying. :)
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka
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muland wrote:When we bombard our fields with herbicides we are not working "within" nature.
I wish that were true, because in that case the disastrous effects of indiscriminate pesticide use might also be not "within" Nature. We are manipulating natural elements to "create" wealth out of dearth by spreading the cost of production to the humanity at large. We divert entire rivers to irrigate the desert for the farmers, and the fishermen suffer.

So we can be really stupid, and we have enough power to hurt ourselves and a buttload of other species, we don't have the power to escape Nature, and I see no reason to think of our species is so exceptional. But if we feel just a bit of responsibility to each other, we have right there the reason to heed Fukuoka.
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This morning, to my horror, I realized the stinkbugs are all over the developing rice seed heads as well. At least most of them willingly jump into a cup of plain water and promptly drown -- no soap needed. :twisted:

And guess what? there was a very large Praying Mantis on a leaf of a Pattypan squash vine that is trying to find a way into my little rice paddy/bed. :D

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The recuperative power of nature is great beyond our imagination....

its actually become a fine science similar to the science of the deep see; not all is known.
My grandfather wrote 2 books. Peter Wege's Economocology
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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AS - Yay for praying mantis!

Perhaps next year you can release a few extra? You can buy their egg cases.

Is your patient work offering them water to drown themselves in (that is pretty funny that they will do that) not reducing the numbers any?

Is there a trap crop you can use to lure them away from your food plants?

Here's a little bit from an article about that:

Small plantings of species such as triticale, sunflower, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, soybean, field peas and okra, provide superior food plants for the bugs while also attracting their natural enemies. Sorghum, millet, triticale and buckwheat are amenable to ratooning, i.e., mowing, to change crop phenology. This characteristic can be exploited to better manage and extend the timing of the trap crop attraction versus the cash crop, hence prolonging the efficacy of the trap crops and reducing the cost of trap crop reestablishment....Buckwheat is planted because it is easy to obtain and culture, grows quickly and is highly attractive to stink/leaffooted bugs when in seed. The flowers also provide pollen and nectar to bees and wasps as well as tachinid fly parasitoids of stink bugs. Okra, field peas and sunflowers also provide nectar and pollen or alternate hosts (aphids, whiteflies, mites) for beneficial insects, as well as vegetative structures and large seeds attractive to stink/leaffooted bugs. Millet and sorghum provide highly attractive seeds.
https://ufinsect.ifas.ufl.edu/stink_bugs/bug_trap_crops.htm
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re the chapter. I think this is an important one, because I constantly hear that justification and have seen it posted here in several versions:

I could change my garden to more organic, but of course we can't farm that way because there's no way we could feed our 6 billion people with organic farming which obviously reduces yields dramatically. (Often said as "to a fraction of what they were." I guess this is true since 90% or 95% is of course still "a fraction," but they meant SMALL fraction.)

I have seen this said so many times in nearly the same wording that I have to wonder if some propaganda machine out there is promoting this.

I think it's important for people to keep hearing, yields will not be dramatically reduced, over time they will be increased as balance is restored and soil fertility improved. And clearly if you take a field that is now mono-culture corn, one crop per year (and around me there are miles and miles and miles of that, through much of Ohio and Indiana) and plant it with spring crop, then corn interplanted, with other stuff, fall and winter cover crop, you will get a lot more from that land. Not necessarily more corn, but more food, more useable organic material, etc.
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rainbow, I think the arguments you refer to depend on a couple of ideas. first, the assumption that agrarian work is necessarily less fulfilling or leads to less happiness than a life built on manufacturing or service industries. and second, the idea that chemistry is cheaper and easier to deploy than a labor force is.

of course, we don't need Fukuoka to tell us that farming can be just as engaging and challenging as any job, and that as we learn more and farm better, growing food efficiently, safely, and with elegance becomes more and more a sophisticated and challenging pursuit.

But who will pay for these brainy farm workers? Why bother, when we can produce in a factory for a penny, that which would take a dollar of labor? We can go on about how we are just trading on a resource held in common to create the illusion of cheap food, and that natural farming can compete if we give it a chance and have a little patience, but that doesn't feed a single mom who depends on subsidized corn.

Can the agrarian life be sold? Can we create mechanisms that teach to react in positive ways to our food challenges? Given the reality of overpopulation, are we just a bunch of people with sufficient means to experiment?

I believe natural farming, polyculture, succession planting, and a manual labor renaissance are the future. But I have yet to see it described in a way that I can repeat to someone who would like to believe, much less those who find the idea of sustainability and greater dependence on teamwork and the creation of value in common (as opposed to extraction and concentration) abhorrent.
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Toil try[url=https://www.billmckibben.com/deep-economy.html]Deep Economy by Bill McKibben[/url](my hero! 8) ) The most compelling argument to date for localized EVERYTHING, including agriculture...

The vast monocultures that fuel our dependency on cheap, crappy food are not going to be sustainable with the few people currently engaged in farming. Those that are are barely making ends meet in the depleated market this cheap garbage has caused. Until we are ready to pay real market values for real food, we will not generate the economy to pay the wages to fuel polyculture. To put that in context, the average human on the planet is most likely to spend half their wages on food. Here in the US we spend on average, 16%.

That's a big leap forward...

HG
Scott Reil

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I too believe that no-till polyculture is the necessary future for food production and for society in general. As Scott points out the market for locally grown produce is marginalized the way it is now by massive subsidies for industrial agriculture. Besides the direct subsidies, think of all the costs of modern farming that are externalized, that is, they are not added to the cost of the food itself but are passed on to society nevertheless. Using fossil fuels is one obvious example, also the cost of building factories to make tractors and agricultural chemicals, actually producing those things and all the resources they require (and where do these resources come from?), mining the soil's organic matter which has developed over thousands and thousands of years, creating pollution, treating all the human diseases caused by people's lousy diets and the stress of living divorced from nature's healing influence, and on and on.

Far from being a lower occupation than say manufacturing or banking or law or government work or pushing papers around in an office, Fukuoka-san considered natural farming as the noblest of professions. It's not he saw any intrinsic difference from other occupations existentially, it's just that natural farmers, working in nature all the time have many more opportunities to see nature as it is. They not only feed themselves but are also good caretakers of the land. As the land is restored people's spirit is also restored. It becomes easier to see God/Nature as he called it. Yes, he used the G word all the time. God and nature, according to sensei, cannot be separated. It exists in every flower and blade of grass, every insect, both lady bugs and aphips, and, of course, in ourselves.
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka
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