Posts Tagged ‘health’

Thankful for our food

As we prepare our Thanksgiving day feast it may be a good time to reflect on what it takes to get that food to your table. There are many people in many industries that work hard to bring us the abundance of food we have come to take for granted when we go to our local grocery store. As a plant doctor, I will use this post to summarize what my part of the “food chain” contributes to your Thanksgiving feast.

What is on your table?

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As you can see, without the benefits of crop protection products, organic or conventional, yields would suffer and the abundance of food we rely on would decrease making our Thanksgiving feast much more expensive.

Do you like pie?

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Plant bugs of all types are very hard to control. Even organic farmers have problems with these pests. Organic pesticides only deter these bugs for a short time making multiple applications necessary to protect the crop. Nasty little buggers!

Modern technology is doing more to increase yields and decrease the amount of pesticides needed to bring food to your table. Not so long ago many of our crop protection chemicals were broad spectrum and applied in pounds per acre. Now they are more targeted to the pest, safer for beneficial insects, safer for workers and applied in oz per acre. Better application techniques make spraying these low rates effective with less impact on the surrounding environment.

Agriculture has many challenges ahead of it to be able to bring more food to a growing population with less land and other resources.

There are still many challenges ahead. Environmental issues to solve. Promises of new technology such and Genetically Modified crops and other new technologies like CRISPer are just a few things science is looking into to make sure everyone on this planet has enough to eat. GMO technology has already  reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68% (from an articled penned by Klumper and Qaim in 2014; a meta study that summarizes his findings of 147 original studies on the impact of GMOs). 
With the help of modern agriculture techniques, hunger is disappearing but we still have a long way to go before the problems of food insecurity disappears as well.
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As our technology continues to improve, better solutions arise and agriculture continues to tackle the challenges of producing more food with less resources and keeping our environment, workers and families safe and healthy. The more we know the better we do. It is a challenge we take on with pride.
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How do you look at risk?

How do you evaluate risk in your life? Do you feel you can safely use your cell phone when you drive but cringe when you see someone else do it? Many of us feel risky behavior is not as risky when we are doing it because we are in control, or so it seems. But we don’t like it when someone else does it because we do not know if that person is going to do it safely enough to avoid hurting us. We will spray pesticides on our gardens, in our homes, etc when we see bugs, rodents, etc. Judging but the amount of these products use by homeowners it seems most people have no uneasiness in using them. Most people don’t like to share their living space with cockroaches and mice. But it seem there is a lot of uneasiness in some quarters about farmers using pesticides. We don’t know what they do, how they do it, we don’t know what the products are, etc. People tell us these things are bad and we are more likely to believe that because we view behaviors being done by others as risky. It is out of our comfort zone.

Let’s look at it from another angle. Let’s say you have an illness that is going to get very serious and may be life threatening. How you look at it will be determined a lot by how you feel about the disease you have. If it is cancer you will probably panic as that word has a lot of baggage attached to it. If it is something you have never heard of you may be less likely to panic but be pretty scared anyway. The doctor has two options for you. One is a very toxic dose of medicine with a high probability of nasty side effects but will probably get rid of the disease quickly. It is covered by your insurance. The other is not toxic but will take many more treatments over time and is not covered by your insurance. The toxic one will make you very sick and put a heavy burden on your family. But you have a better chance of recovery. What factors do you consider? Toxicity, cost, harm to others, quick recovery that has a high success rate, slow recovery with less of a chance at working. All interesting questions.

These are all very similar questions that a farmer and a pest control adviser must consider as well when treating a sick field. How bad is the problem? Does it need a quick fix? Will the quick fix be toxic to other things? What will those consequences be? How can they be mitigated? Will a less toxic option work? What are the economic costs? There are so many situations and possible solutions. These decisions are not made lightly or without due consideration. We do not live in a risk free world. Choices need to be made. You make them about your life, farmers make them about theirs. They are not evil doers, intent on poisoning your world or your children. When someone tries to scare you into thinking they are, remember, they live on that land and they have children too.

What is a Plant Doctor?

Like all living things, plants get sick and have health issues just like we do. You can probably find many websites and blogs from Plant Doctors that will give you advise on how to fix your roses or treat your begonias but this isn’t the place for that. This is the place to come and learn how a Plant Doctor helps farmers grow the food you eat. Many people have concerns about pesticide use but not many people know how they are used, what decisions go into determining when to use them, how to use them, which ones to use, etc. Just like we use medicines, vitamins, and other things to keep us healthy, farmers use many things to keep our food crops healthy. What are those things? How do the decisions to use them affect you? What do you want to know? From this blog I will try to shed some light on the process and let you know what this one Ag Plant Doctor does everyday.