Experiences in the US with changes in pest behaviour echo similar
observations elsewhere. The semi-arid drought prone areas of the deccan
region in India for instance have been reeling under the impact of the pod
borer, (helicoverpa armigera). Crop failures of cotton and pulses such as
pigeonpea have driven scores of debt-ridden farmers to suicides, consuming
those very pesticides which were more 'efficient' when it came to human
beings than they were with pests. The increase in the population of these
pests were attributed to over spraying, increasing tolerance of the pests,
changes in rotation practices, monoculture and so on. But the problem
seems to be now widespread, even in areas where farmers carry on
traditional practices, using little inputs, and local
varieties.Sorghum-pigeonpea rotations which were earlier believed to be
immune to the pod borer are now no longer so and are among the worst
effected. Fallow-sorghum rotations and pigeonpea-fallow systems which were
similarly supposed to be highly sustainable, and low risk options, are
succumbing to the pests. The pest has become a voracious eater of
everything from vegetables to pulses, to coarse grains and cotton. Part of
the problem of course is related to monoculture, indiscriminate spraying,
and development of tolerance by the pasts. Part of the problem is the
inability to develop what has been called 'social capital' - inability of
farmers in villages to come together and act concertedly. Those who use
pesticides jeopardise neighbouring organic fields.Yet another aspect of
the problem is undoubtedly related to the changes in climate and weather
patterns, - humid and wet spells tending to occur during the peak
reproductive seasons of the pests.
Given all these, what do we do. The trick I think is not to make large
scale interventions with the halfbaked knowledge that we possess. We need
to cooperate at all levels. Above all everyone needs to have the power and
the knowledge(which is especially lacking in the developing countries) to
make decisions and act for what they believe to be for their own good.
This power has taken out of the hands of corporations and governments,
which is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the movement for and towards
Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts and regards to all
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology, Powai
Mumbai, 400076, India
Phone: 091 022 576 7372
On Thu, 22 Oct 1998, Greg & Lei Gunthorp wrote:
> In my area(North east Indiana), wheat is not a viable option unless you need
> the straw, can use the ground for fall pasture, value labor and equipment
> reductions because of harvest in a different season, etc. Its all about
> complimentary enterprises. It is mostly diversified crop/livestock farms
> that are the only ones still growing wheat or oats. A large percentage of
> it is so the confinement livestock guys have some where to go with manure
> from July to October.
> We still use wheat. We frost seed clover into it in the spring. The fall
> pasture from the clover (for non bloating pigs) easily lets wheat compete
> with corn and beans BEFORE we count in the value of straw. A smaller
> combine, dryer, etc could be an added benefit. Wheat acres can also grow a
> very high yielding crop of brassicas for fall and early winter pasture. Its
> also a good nurse crop for seeding hay fields. Small grains should have a
> role in sustainable crop production.
> In my area, alfalfa is also a very legitimate alternative. We have a
> large amish community and we are also getting a sizeable number of horse
> owners. Alfalfa competes VERY favorably with corn and beans, especially on
> the marginal ground. Its biggest drawback is marketing.
> A lot of this boils down to the fact that we are convinced that science is
> going to find a solution for every problem we ever come up with. There is
> yet no real need for crop rotations. Most of the people I know of that are
> using intricate crop rotations are simply doing it for philosophical reasons
> or because of OCIA requirements. (I don't consider corn/beans anything more
> than a crop alternation.) We do need some legitimate alternatives. I still
> believe the biggest overlooked choice in the US is hay or pasture. A
> concientious effort by some one to put grass fed animals on an equal footing
> with feedlot animals would do as much for crop rotations as anything. We
> have to acknowledge where all these corn and soybeans are going some time.
> It isn't for human consumption.
> Best wishes,
> Gunthorp's Pasture-ized Pork
> LaGrange, Indiana (a stones throw from Ohio & Michigan)
> visit our farm at www.grassfarmer.com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jim Quinton <email@example.com>
> To: PetersFarm@aol.com <PetersFarm@aol.com>; frederickr.magdoff
> <firstname.lastname@example.org>; sanet <email@example.com>
> Date: Thursday, October 22, 1998 11:53 AM
> Subject: Re: Re Interesting Article
> >Any crop can be grown on Mr. Pool's land, but the returns are not
> >sufficient to match it's use for the two-crop rotation of corn and soybeans
> >(...not a "monoculture")... It's very likely that soft red winter wheat
> >could be worked into his cropping system better than any of the others you
> >suggest, but even that would not likely come within $50/acre of the
> >potential net returns in the corn/soybean rotation. IF "double-cropping"
> >the winter wheat with soybeans following were possible (it's too far north
> >for that), there could be the rotation change you ask about, but that
> >hasn't been feasible up to now.
> >At 10:50 AM 10/21/98 -0400, PetersFarm@aol.com wrote:
> >>Dear Dr. Magdoff -
> >>..............They don't have alternatives? Why in $%^%#@ not?
> >>Why can't they grow barley, oats, wheat, rape, sugar beets, whatever, for
> >a few years? Why can't they diversify - don't 1,400 acres of any one crop
> >invite trouble? Is monoculture the real culprit? Do the rules governing
> >federal subsidies prohibit alternatives? Are corn and soybeans the only
> >crops that can yield profits? $16 an acre for 1,400 acres = $22,400 cost
> >for one insecticide each year - for one farm. How much profit do the
> >insecticide companies get out of that?
> >>I guess these questions should really be addressed to Dr. Steffey, but
> >>some SANeters have answers to offer?
> >>More than curious,
> >>Betty Gras
> >Jim Quinton, Risk Management Coordinator
> >Agricultural Conservation Innovation Center (ACIC)
> >2234 S. Hobson Ave.
> >Charleston, SC 29405-2413
> >phone: (843) 740-1327
> >fax: (843) 740-1331
> >e-mail: Jim.Quinton@agconserv.com
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