>Solving *management* problems
>with *genetic* solutions is misguided and misleading, and benefits
>only those whose business it is to create yet another new round of
>genetic solutions to problems.
Think system, not atomized categories of "problems". Genetics and
management are intimately intertwined in crop production. If I were
going to reduce these interactions to simply categories, I would point
out that the norm is solution of genetic problems by cultural practices.
A example is late planting of cowpeas. You just can't plant them
early, because they are not genetically adapted to chilling (yet). On
the other hand, farmers (despite our protestations!) keep planting corn
earlier and earlier, because they can obtain a yield advantage (if they
are lucky), and spread their planting season.
Is this a problem or an opportunity? Is the glass half empty or half
full? Farmers are optimists, and they are willing to gamble, and plant
early, especially if they can blame the seed company if the corn fails
to emerge. So we are driven by competitive pressures to improve our
seed vigor. Progress in this is good for my company. Is it good for
the farmer? You bet! It produces stability.
>I would suggest that focusing attention on purchased
>products distracts attention from the REAL source of the problem(s)
>(see above). Problems should be avoided by properly designed
>rotations and soil/fertility management, proper selection and use of
>cultivars, and probably, by better integration of crop and livestock
>enterprises - rather than by buying some new gadget, product, or
>biological entity to *solve* the problem after the fact.
So your real complaint is against capitalism. I can respect that. The
idea that "purchased inputs" are something different in kind from
everything else a farmer does is a popular idea, but a false dichotomy.
Everything a farmer does has a cost. Rotations are expensive.
Management is expensive. Hiring a consultant to do IPM is just as much
a cost as putting in the time yourself.
And, by the way, "solving the problem after the fact" is often the most
environmentally responsible course, because you can wait and see if
there really is a problem. Take preemergence vs postemergence
herbicides, for example. Why till in a pound of a persistent chemical
to solve a weed problem that may or may not materialize, when you can
spray an ounce of a non persistent chemical later, only if needed?
Transgenics are helping to enable this.
>That may be true. If so, why is Pioneer in business, if farmers are
>going to solve their own problems anyway? How much of the problems
>faced by farmers today are, in fact, created by previous products or
>advice given to them by ...... agribusiness, either directly or via
>research funded by them?
This too, is myth. I've talked to the old timers, about the weeds
growing like trees in the wheat, the clogged cutters and binders. About
the potato plants defoliated into little sticks by the beetle. How they
were so happy to spray lead arsenate on the potatoes, and the apples to
control codling moth. There are still fields in Idaho where certain
crops won't grow, due to the arsenic. Lead arenate was a low tech
solution. They new it was dangerous. (Modern insecticides are MUCH
To be sure, many of the problems were and are anthropogenic, but the
causes lie in improper land use, tillage, exotic species introduction,
monoculture, globalization of human culture. The effects of all our
"high tech" efforts are like a candle in the wind compared to these
>As discussed above, the reason for the plethora of short-term gee
>whiz stuff at public universities is the drying up of public funding
>and the increasingly obligatory dependence upon private money - e.g.
>from companies like yours. Ann
People like novelties and curiosities by nature. When money is
available, scientists find a way to spend it. And as long as one gets
tenure by publishing three papers a year for six years (no matter how
trivial), little substantial will be done. How can society provide
oversight and incentives to ensure that long-term agronomic research
will be performed in the public sector. The private sector is probably
not going to do it. But they might help support it. Where can the
leadership and vision come from? I don't see it coming from
environmental activists, because they seem to have a political or
ideological axe to grind.
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