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To The Editor

in Issue 33 by

Dear Editor,

Subject: Lack of thinking hinders ag development

Agricultural development has a future. Scientists in Kenya at the International Centre of Inset Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and Rothamsted Research, UK in collaboration with other partners developed a natural method for controlling the corn-borer moth. A ground-cover plant, silverleaf desmodium, dissolves moth eggs laid on it; planted in fields between rows of corn, desmodium gives off compounds that repel the stem borer moth. Its roots suppress weeds including striga, a serious parasitic weed of corn. Napier grass, planted at the edge of fields, attracts stem borers out of the field to lay their eggs on it instead of the corn. The sharp silica hairs and sticky exudates on the Napier grass also kill the stem borer larvae when they hatch, breaking the life cycle and reducing pest numbers. The Napier grass is progressively cut and fed to cattle for high protein feed. Over 40,000 smallholder farmers in East Africa have adopted this farming system. Their yields tripled as a result.

There is a growing movement in agriculture toward a better way of farming. These agriculturalists ask “What if” questions about common problems farmers face and seek logical and optimal solutions to them. They are often associated with “organic farming”. And they are succeeding in producing higher yields than high-volume toxic-chemical farming. Yet many farmers and their suppliers are slow to change. Two analogies illustrate this.

It was only early last century that the importance of a germ-free surgical environment was appreciated by those who understood the new germ theory of disease. If all surgeons were eager truth-seekers instead of being mired in old habits and misconceptions, then the change to sterile operating rooms would have been made in a matter of a year or less. Instead, surgeons wearing their street suits, moving from one patient to the next without washing, continued the harmful practice of septic surgery for decades. Why? They weren’t doing two things:

  1. Paying attention to research facts and investigating them.

  2. Thinking (for themselves) about the consequences of the facts.

Today agriculture is no different. Harmful practices to humans, the soil, and the rest of the ecosphere continue by those oblivious to the long-term consequences. Some who do not have scientific training and experience have been duped into believing sales science. A salesman drinks glyphosate on the sales floor, and because he does not fall dead then and there, the farmers observing the demonstration conclude that it is safe. It would be like a tobacco company representative in the 1950s lighting up a cigarette to show that smoking was safe.

Basic facts are being overlooked. Agriculture is primarily biological, not chemical. It involves plants and animals as both products and pests. All are biological organisms. Would it make sense for an engineer to try to solve an electronics problem by building a refinery? Or a machine? Or pounding a nail in a piece of wood? Yet that is what “modern farming” tries to do; it uses chemical solutions to try to solve organic or biological problems.

Dennis Feucht,

Cayo ag observer

Dear Ag Report:

RE: Belize a future bee sanctuary for region?

I’m sending you this info because you will know what to do with it in Belize.  It’s pretty much a lost cause already in the UK – but there’s still hope for Belize.

Future bee sanctuary of Central America and the Caribbean?

Bees pollinate roughly seventy percent of the roughly 100 crop species that we use for food.  They have already started hand-pollination of some crops in China because of the loss of bee populations.

30-50 per cent of the bee population of the US is now dying every year.

Clothiadinin and Imidacloprid are two of the insecticides that are chemically similar to nicotine.  The EU banned them about three years ago after some really good studies (especially one in Germany) showed that neonicotinoids disrupt the bees’ direction-finding abilities.  The bees become unable to find their way back to their hives after they have found food.  They are also unable, with their “message-dances,” to tell the other bees in the hive where to find the food.

The EU (and the Brits) have just renewed Monsanto’s (and other companies’) licence to sell and use neonicotinoids.

The chemical companies claim that these insecticides do not kill bees.  At normal usage levels, they don’t kill the bees, they just make them lose their minds!

They lose their ability to learn and to memorise. Bees associate colour and smell with good food sources.  You can teach them to remember and identify smells that will lead them to food.  They are so good at this that the military are now using bees to sniff out explosives like landmines or IEDs.  They will cluster around the explosives. The neonicotinoids make the bees unable to remember the colour, smell, or the way to and from the food … so they can’t communicate this info to the rest of the hive.   So the hive diminishes and dies.

See attached link :

Thelma Disch

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