Tag Archives: herbicides

More profit and higher yields through organic farming in India

Increase your income and your yields with traditional farming methods? That’s what’s happening in India.

Nishika Patel blogged 11 May 2011 in The Guardian, Organic farming – India’s future perfect?

India’s struggling farmers are starting to profit from a budding interest in organic living. Not only are the incomes of organic farmers soaring – by 30% to 200%, according to organic experts – but their yields are rising as the pesticide-poisoned land is repaired through natural farming methods.
How did this happen?
Organic farming only took off in the country about seven years ago. Farmers are turning back to traditional farming methods for a number of reasons.

First, there’s a 10% to 20% premium

Continue reading

11 year old is onto Monsanto and how to fix the food system

The “dark side of the industrialized food system.” as related (accurately) by Birke Baehr at TEDxNextGeneration Asheville.
Conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers made from fossil fuels. Then they mess with the dirt to make the plants grow. They do this because they’ve stripped the soil from all nutrients from growing the same crop over and over again. Next more harmful chemicals are sprayed on fruits and vegetables. Like pesticides and herbicides to kill weeds and bugs. When it rains, these chemicals seep into the ground, or rise into our waterways, poisoning our water, too.
His personal goal:
A while back, I wanted to be an NFL footall player.
I decided I’d rather be an organic farmer instead.
That way I can have a greater impact on the world.
He’s got a turn of phrase:
We can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital.


Monsanto Spraying Itself

Tom Philpott asks in Grist about Why Monsanto is paying farmers to spray its rivals’ herbicides
…Monsanto has been forced into the unenviable position of having to pay farmers to spray the herbicides of rival companies.

If you tend large plantings of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” soy or cotton, genetically engineered to withstand application of the company’s Roundup herbicide (which will kill the weeds — supposedly — but not the crops), Monsanto will cut you a $6 check for every acre on which you apply at least two other herbicides. One imagines farmers counting their cash as literally millions of acres across the South and Midwest get doused with Monsanto-subsidized poison cocktails.

The move is the latest step in the abject reversal of Monsanto’s longtime claim: that Roundup Ready technology solved the age-old problem of weeds in an ecologically benign way.

Roundup, trade name for glysophate, doesn’t work anymore because the weeds mutated: Continue reading

Deep-Till: Back to the Future of Plowing

Roy Roberson writes in Farm Press about http://southeastfarmpress.com/cotton/herbicide-resistance-0525/:
Deep tilling of crop land pocked and rutted by heavy equipment used on rain and snow soaked, often frozen farm land may not only clean up the land, but may have a significant positive effect on managing herbicide resistant weeds, especially Palmer pigweed.
Back to the future! “Deep tilling” is the current buzzword for plowing. That’s how my father farmed, with a bottom plow, a subsoiler, a harrow, and a cultivator.

The same article continues to defend no-till:

There is no doubt about the many benefits of minimum or no-till cropping systems. Reduced-tillage saves farmers money in equipment, improves soil quality, improves the environment by making the soil more porous and produces better drainage. The list of benefits goes on and on.
Promotes more erosion, is my observation. And how does no-till save farmers money if they have to pay for increasing amounts of pesticides to try to deal with mutant weeds like pigweed? Continue reading

Cultivating Organic Peanuts

Leeann Drabenstott Culbreath found this YouTube version of a Georgia Farm Monitor report on an Organic Peanut Field Day:

Note the cultivator. The host had to explain what it was and show it several times so people would understand it. Yes, that’s how farmers used to control weeds before pesticide vendor propaganda convinced people of things like “don’t throw dirt on peanuts.” The cultivator throws dirt on weeds next to the peanuts, thus suppressing the weeds and releasing the peanuts.

Gretchen remarks:

Organic growing isn’t a specialty market, it’s a matter of safety. Chemicals sprayed on peanuts, soy beans, cotton and corn are TOXIC. Good management and kindness to the earth can grow crops in a sustainable way. Just say no to chemical spraying.
Peanut growers may not like manual labor, but they’re having to resort to that anyway, because their pesticides have produced the mutant pigweed, which pesticides don’t kill. Spraying more and different herbicides doesn’t do it, either. The only way is physical removal of the pigweed. And a cultivator can do that without manual labor (the report mentions that). Oh yeah: and you don’t have to pay for pesticides to apply with a cultivator.

So, it’s time to stop poisoning our air, water, plants, animals, and people and move away from petrochemical pesticides. Organic is the way to go, and we know how to get there.


Pesticides more valuable than “any associated detriments”?

Pesticide use is not just bad, it’s getting rapidly worse, according to Carey Gillam writing in Scientific American:
The rapid adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton has promoted increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and more chemical residues in foods, according to a report issued Tuesday by health and environmental protection groups.

The groups said research showed that herbicide use grew by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008.

The report was released by nonprofits The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS).

What’s the cause of this increased pesticide use?
The rise in herbicide use comes as U.S. farmers increasingly adopt corn, soy and cotton that have been engineered with traits that allow them to tolerate dousings of weed killer. The most popular of these are known as “Roundup Ready” for their ability to sustain treatments with Roundup herbicide and are developed and marketed by world seed industry leader Monsanto Co.

Monsanto rolled out the first biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, in 1996.

Monsanto officials declined to comment on the report. But the Biotechnology Industry Organization, of which Monsanto is a member, said the popularity of herbicide-resistant crops showed their value outweighs any associated detriments.

Any associated detriments? Dead and mutated wildlife? Poisoned drinking water? Pesticides in school children? Cancer and asthma? Well, I suppose those are all economic externalities of no interest to the producers of these seeds and pesticides.

Solving the 10,000 Year Old Problem of Agriculture

Richard Harris reports on NPR, 21 Oct 2009, about Prairie Pioneer Seeks To Reinvent The Way We Farm. Wes Jackson wants to solve the 10,000 year old problem of agriculture:
The problem, Jackson explains, is that agriculture in most places is based on practices that use up limited resources. The major grains, like wheat and corn, are planted afresh each year. When the fields are later plowed, they lose soil. The soil that remains in these fields loses nitrogen and carbon.

This worries Jackson because vast quantities of soil are washed out of the fields and down the rivers, and the soil that’s left is gradually losing its nutrients.

Trying to figure out how to solve this problem, Jackson realized the answer was right in front of him. It was the patch of native prairie on his own farm — full of grasses from ankle to shoulder height, peppered with white and purple flowers, and surrounded by shrubs and cottonwood trees.

“Here is a steep, sloping bank with a lot of species diversity, featuring perennials,” Jackson says. “This is what I call nature’s wisdom.”

Perennials are plants that put down strong roots 10 feet or more into the ground and hold the soil in place. Perennials live year-round, unlike annual crops that get planted every year. In Kansas, perennials survive the harsh winters and the blazing hot summers.

The solution will have to be somewhat different for each region, Continue reading

Organic Farming Yields often Better Than with Agrochemicals

Catherine Brahic writes in New Scientist that Organic farming could feed the world:

Numerous studies have compared the yields of organic and conventional methods for individual crops and animal products (see 20-year study backs organic farming).

Now, a team of researchers has compiled research from 293 different comparisons into a single study to assess the overall efficiency of the two agricultural systems.

Ivette Perfecto of the University of Michigan in the US and her colleagues found that, in developed countries, organic systems on average produce 92% of the yield produced by conventional agriculture. In developing countries, however, organic systems produce 80% more than conventional farms.

So developing countries don’t need Monsanto to feed themselves after all. Quite the opposite: they can do much better with organic methods.

Perfecto points out that the materials needed for organic farming are more accessible to farmers in poor countries.

Those poor farmers may buy the same seeds as conventional farms use in rich countries, but they cannot afford the fertilisers and pesticides needed for intensive agriculture. However, “organic fertiliser doesn’t cost much – they can produce it on their own farms”, says Perfecto.

And if their crops fail, they can replant, because they can save seeds. And if they don’t all use the same seeds, there’s less chance their crops will all fail at once.

Getting certified as organic is another story.

Organic Farming Promotes Biodiversity

Rob Goldstein writes in Conservation Maven:
A new study finds that organic farming promotes biodiversity compared to conventional agricultural practices. While past research has found similar results, this particular study is groundbreaking in that it detected ecological benefits from organic farming at both a local and a landscape level.

Researchers looked at the uncultivated, semi-natural borders between organic and conventional agricultural fields in Sweden. They found that the borders between organic fields had significantly higher plant species richness and abundance. The researchers hypothesize that this is likely due, at least in part, to the unintentional impact that herbicides can have on non-target species.

This is good news and not just for plants. Increases in plant species diversity likely trickle up the food chain benefiting the insects that eat plants (and the birds that eat insects).

It’s always good to see research validate what we see on the ground (pun intended).