Seedtime & Harvest Newsletter This week’s produce is bright, beautiful and delicious!
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View from the Country
Since I am a farmer, and a very small farmer at that, I only know what I read and what I see on the farm. Yes, we grow organically. This is a heart-felt decision on my part. I know nothing about the chemicals used in conventional / modern-day farming. I do realize that organic insecticides are also ‘chemicals’.
Here are some of my thoughts, concerns, questions, experiences …. My main concerns about banning the use of neonicotenoids:
What are we missing?
Neonicotenoids are probably not the sole problem concerning bee death. Once neonicotenoids are labeled as the sole culprit, will society go back to sleep and stop looking for the ‘correct / complete’ answer(s)? (Not an original thought on my part but something discussed in Randy Oliver’s articles.) http://scientificbeekeeping.com/neonicotinoids-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-science/
Then I also think about: Everything is energy;
everything has frequency.
Where do these energy/frequency generators fit in the scenario?
What about genetically modified crops’ pollen/nectar?
Jerry Rosman, former director of the Sioux City Farmers Market, lost his farm and extended family due to pseudo pregnancies in his sow herd upon the feeding of GMO Starlink corn. Could GMO crops’ pollen be affecting the bees also?
This fall, stories rolled over the countryside of baby calves in calf huts sick and dying during the weeks of corn silage harvesting. If silage trucks and wagons, traveling on the roads next to calf huts, released enough GMO dust to harm young calves, could that dust be affecting humans and tiny bees? https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/gefood/mold100902.php http://www.cbsnews.com/news/frankencorn-ears-eyed/
Not all ‘organics’ are safe for bees.
Example: We use Entrust (OMRI listed) ($439 for a quart!) to combat corn rootworm beetles i.e. cucumber beetles. Entrust is also effective for Colorado potato beetles, coddling moth, and thrips, plus many different worms and moths. Entrust is highly toxic to honey bees, earthworms, some fish, etc. Due to its toxicity to bees, we only spray, if necessary, for cucumber beetles and only after dark, when winter squash blossoms have closed and bees are in the hive. “Other than reducing the target pest species as a food source, Entrust SC does not have a significant impact on certain parasitic insects or the natural predaceous arthropod complex in treated crops, including big-eyed bugs, ladybird beetles, flower bugs, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, assassin bugs, predatory mites or spiders.” Specimen label at www.groworganic.com/media/pdfs/pbi405-b.pdf
See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinosad
Our first choice of insect control is healthy plants.
Insects do not eat healthy plants. We have found better success for insect control by feeding our plants, both thru fertigation and foliar sprays, than any type of organic pesticides.
Example: An aphid infestation on over-wintered spinach growing in a hoop house.
No amount of different organically approved insecticides slowed the aphids. Total coverage is also difficult with the equipment we have available. Eventually, the crop was pulled out and composted. The aphids had also moved to the tomatoes inter-grown with the spinach. When we provided enough nutrition, the tomato plants were able to shrug off the aphids.
In the cut flower hoop house, we have experienced aphids suddenly disappearing when desired nutrition levels were reached.
The man scouting the farmer’s crop is the man selling the chemicals.
This should not be.
What does the farmer think the recommendation will be? I’ve seen the local chemical dealer in the field with our neighbor and a day later, the field (and our acreage) was covered with aerial sprays. When I tried discussing the matter with our neighbor, he said he knew nothing about bees, the benefit of bees in his soybean crop, what was sprayed, etc. He only knew there were aphids in the area, other farmers were spraying, and he could possibly lose bushels if the aphids were not stopped.
And all I wanted to say was, “Your crop is sick, Man! That’s why the aphids are there; they came to clean up a sick crop. Heal your soil, feed the microbes, heal your plants. Aphids can’t burp or fart. If soybean sap has enough sugar/nutrients, the aphids will swell and die.”
Loss of a variety of forage. Miles and miles of mono crops.
When landing in Minneapolis airport, I had a vision of sorts ….
Acres and acres of farmland with mono crops …. However, also acres and acres of terraces, ditches, water ways, fence rows. Acres of trees surrounding acres of water. Acres of lawns. All in mono-grasses and mono-trees.
All these precious bits of idle land should be covered with a variety of blooming plants and trees. Why are all ditches in Sioux County planted in brome grass? Why not clovers, phecelia, Queen Anne’s Lace, yarrow, Baby’s Breath, Alyssum?
What about cover crops? Why not buckwheat, fennel, parsley, carrot, dill, radish, nasturtiums, annual clovers, caraway, coriander, etc?
Why does the neighbor spend an afternoon in his Bobcat tearing out any bush that ‘clutters’ his fence line? Shouldn’t fence lines be hedges of wild plums? Sour cherries? Russian sage?
Why are wind breaks of only one or two species? Why not a mix of blooming trees and bushes?
And lawns … acres and acres of lawns. Perfect green grass with the only flowers confined to pots. http://thehoneybeeconservancy./tag/beehabitat/
“Thought has energy,” they say.
So I’m visualizing flowers and green plants, mixed grasses and trees … on every spare parcel of land. Everywhere.
And while I’m visualizing, what can I do now to start the change? Looking around this little farm, where can we grow more forage plants for bees?
We plant strips of yellow sweet clover between rows of veggies. Yellow clover is a biennial, germinating and developing the plant one year, blooming and dying the second year. We plant two strips each year and mow two strips each year.
We plant beds of poppies, sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos. We allow broccoli to go to flower before cutting it down. Beds of buckwheat bloom in succession. Plus all the rows of cucumbers, squashes, peppers, tomatoes, and beans. Dill, cilantro, and basil are allowed to bolt and bloom.
Our honey bee results for 2014:
We had a maximum of nine hives of bees this summer. By fall, three hives bustled with bees and honey. Two hives had only worker bees, no queen and no honey. Four hives had been totally robbed; the bees either died or moved into other hives and all honey combs chewed open, the honey removed and flown to the stronger hives.
Nine hives in the abundance of summer; three hives going into winter. Yes, we were hit with an aerial overspray for the soybean aphid. The spray vapor floated over our little farm, taking away our breath, burning our nose and lungs. Did we suffer from a honey bee kill? I couldn’t honestly tell as all our hives stand over or are surrounded by grass. When crawling under the largest hive, there was an abundance of dead bees; accumulated over how many weeks, I do not know.
Yet, my conclusion is we suffered from a lack of bee forage, flowering plants. We grow on 10 acres and are surrounded by miles of GMO corn and soybeans. This lack of quantity and variety of flowers blooming every day of the summer…we can plan and plant crops to rectify. We do not have contacts or superhuman power to change our neighbors’ thinking here or around the world. But we can start at home, on this little farm. We can plant every spare bit of earth into flowers.