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Book of the Week: Weeds — Control without Poisons by Charles Walters

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Weeds — Control without Poisons, written by Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters. Copyright 1999. #4005. Softcover. 352 pages. $25.00 regularly priced.

By Charles Walters

Andre Voisin, the great French farmer and scientist who wrote Soil, Grass and Cancer and Grass Productivity, once declared that most of what he knew came not from the university, but from observing his cows at grass. And so it is with much of what we know about weeds. Walking the fields with the late C.J. Fenzau in areas as separate as Indiana, Iowa and Idaho, I was able to take note of what weeds were trying to tell us during the early days of the Acres U.S.A. publication. Admittedly, this knowledge has been fleshed out since then. And recent findings build on, rather than tear down, those field observations.

Weeds – Control without Poisons

Weeds are an index of what is wrong — and sometimes what is right — with the soil, or at least with the fertility program. In every field on every farm, there are different soil types, and each has a potential for producing certain weeds, depending on how a farmer works the soil. Fall tillage, spring tillage, tillage early or late, if it takes place when the soil is dry or wet, all these things determine the kinds of weeds that will grow that season. As far back as the Dust Bowl days, it became transparently obvious to my Dad — after viewing rainbelt territory near Conway, Missouri — that dryland weeds generally don’t grow in territory that has rain pelting the soil with a steady squall. Thus the pres­ence of salt grass, iron weed, tumbleweed and all the wild sages in soils where flocculation is gone, and wind wafts dust skyward. There are soil conditions that almost always have restricted amounts of water, and consequently they do not require and cannot grow weeds that thrive when there is plenty of water. Continue Reading →

Poisoning Our Children: Pesticide Residues

In December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent out a news release to all the media outlets in the country about the results of its 2013 Pesticide Data Program (PDP). The headline: “Report confirms that U.S. food does not pose a safety concern based on pesticide residues.”

Poisoning Our Children by André Leu, on pesticide residues

Because people consume a variety of foods, with around 77 percent containing residues of different types of agricultural chemicals, most people consume a chemical concoction.

The news release contained the following statement from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “The newest data from the PDP confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans. EPA remains committed to a rigorous, science-based, and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people’s health and the environment.” So according to the EPA and the USDA, parents should have no concerns because the pesticides in food are safe.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers by scientists and researchers challenge this assertion. So, let’s look at the science to understand why experts have serious concerns about the safety of pesticides.

What Gets Tested?

One of the greatest pesticide myths is that all agricultural poisons are scientifically tested to ensure that they are used safely. According to the United States President’s Cancer Panel (USPCP), this is simply not the case: “Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety.”

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of chemicals used worldwide have not been subjected to testing. Given that, according to the USPCP, the majority of cancers are caused by environmental exposures, especially exposure to chemicals, this oversight shows a serious level of neglect by regulatory authorities. Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Podcast Episode 8: André Leu, Author of The Myth of Safe Pesticides

In the Acres USA world, André Leu is becoming much more than a household name.

Andre Leu

Leu, who has written for our magazine for years, published The Myth of Safe Pesticides in 2014. He has spoken on the dangers of pesticides for years and several times at our Acres U.S.A. Eco-Ag Conference and Trade Show, and will join us again this year. He’s currently the president of IFOAM – Organics International, and has more than 40 yeas of international experience in all areas of organic agriculture. He has been one of those human advocates, one of those forces of nature, that are pushing the agriculture movement into healthier directions.

We spoke with Andre Leu on Thursday, July 20, from his office in Queensland, Australia.

Hosted by Ryan Slabaugh.

Find all of the Acres U.S.A. Tractor Time Podcasts here.

If you’d like to hear more from André Leu, you can order and download more of his speeches and presentations from Acres U.S.A., or watch a series of free videos below.

Bringing Butterflies Back

Habitat-NW-central-strip-web-300x225

Native plants grown alongside a Walla Walla vineyard attract and sustain butterflies as well as natural enemies of pests.

Over the years, loss in natural habitat has seen the decline in numbers of around 50 species of butterflies in eastern Washington. But in a recent Washington State University study published in the Journal of Insect Conservation, researchers found that vineyards that create nearby natural habitats have three times the number of butterfly species and four times more butterflies than conventional vineyards.

WSU researchers recorded 29 separate species in “habitat- enhanced” vineyards, compared to nine species in conventional vineyards. In terms of raw numbers, they counted on average 20 butterflies in habitat-enhanced vineyards compared to five in conventional areas.

David James, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology, said butterfly increase was not the goal of the return of natural habitats. Instead, growers want to reduce pesticide usage. But as a side benefit, these vineyards are seeing the return of other inhabitants that had declined when natural habitat was removed.

To help control pests, they plant native sage-steppe shrubbery in and around their vineyards. These native plants, such as desert buckwheat shrubs, attract “good” insects like parasitic wasps, said James. Wasps feed on mealybugs and other “bad” insects that can be harmful to the vineyards.

“Conservation of butterflies is becoming an issue because all species are declining,” said James. “The habitat has been taken away by agriculture. This is a way of giving back. We’re showing that an agricultural industry can live alongside the natural ecology and help preserve and conserve it.”

This article appears in the July 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.