Agriculture

Going Willow: Accepting the Challenge of a Neonicotinoid Ban

What great news. The EU has voted to ban the outdoor use of neonicotinoid (nicotine derivatives) pesticides, due to their accumulative environmental harm on bee populations. Here are some, domestic and wild, that haven’t succumbed yet.

These are deadly nerve agents, specifically targeted for specific pests. They promised to reduce environmental harm by reducing the sheer volume of pesticides, eliminating drift, the killing of unintended species and general poisoning of water, soil and air. Unfortunately, general poisoning did occur, not immediately but over time. Still, the loss of these pesticides leaves a gap in industrial production’s need to eliminate human labour and mechanize the processes of the earth. One effective counter to such social destruction would be to re-wild our farms. That might, actually, not be so hard. Willows, and their bee-and-wasp attracting catkins, might play a role.

 

Their ability to attract a wide array of predator insects is profound, especially in the early season when many of the major pests of fruit trees are emerging to prey upon the fruit in blossom stage. Wasps and other solitary hunters gleaning small insects from tree branches for necessary spring protein could potentially remove large numbers of damaging insects, helping to prevent infestations rising to unbalanced levels. 

Imagine, replacing neonicotinoids with willow sugar. The willows could be pruned back in rotation every two years, quickly grow new shoots, and maintain productivity without taking needless space from productive trees. The resulting reduction of heavy spray machinery would, in turn, improve productivity of the trees by reducing soil compaction. One could either use this method to build early season honeybee populations …

 

… which would be a direct response to the damage done by nicotinoids, or to build populations of solitary bees and wasps, for the benefits I mentioned above.

This is just a small idea, but that’s it’s beauty: it is do-able, practical, cost-neutral, quick, and restorative. What’s more, it improves on the current German environmental model, which asks for dedicated fields of wildflowers to replace any agricultural land removed from production for production facilities such as chicken barns, pig barns, and so on; it replaces land currently alienated from natural environments, by making the actual agricultural land part of the restored system, without a loss in productivity. Those were the goals of the nicotinoids. They failed at it. So, yeah…

… we will do well to remember that reducing the populations of crop-destroying insects can be achieved through environmental simplification (poisoning of the insects, including pollinating bees, with a resulting loss of productivity) or environmental deepening (increasing the numbers of beneficial insects, accompanied by decreased mechanization and an increase in productivity to offset any lingering losses). And one more thing: high density orchards exist for three purposes: to increase spray efficiency, to decrease labour costs, and to manage the use of capital. All three are created by the high-density orchards they are designed to maintain. After all, an orchard with increased product value (pesticide free) and increased yield (low soil compaction) can afford the labour necessary to maintain a system that includes not only bees and willows but humans. I mean, you can reduce your labour costs by, say, $5,000 per acre, or increase your yield and profit by the same amount, or more. This struggle might, in other words, not be about neonicotonoids at all.

 

8 replies »

  1. Re: “The willows could be pruned back in rotation every two years, quickly grow new shoots, and maintain productivity without taking needless space from productive trees.” There’s a very easy way to get this done: moose.

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    • Excellent suggestion! They might mangle a few fruit trees in the process, though. My moose mama in the Cariboo prefered aspens, at 25 Below, at 1 a.m. Darned things snapped off 7 feet up like rifle shots. It was hard to sleep. I even went out on the porch one night and loudly instructed her in aspen etiquette. To no avail.

      >

      Liked by 1 person

    • not likely. But I am planning a handbook. Had to get that artificial intelligence stuff out of the way, but soon back to it. 🙂

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