Posts Tagged ‘pesticide’

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?


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?


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.
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.

Beautiful Fruit

This ;time of year the stone fruit trees, peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries, are in bloom and it is a very beautiful sight. Miles and miles of blooming orchards in various shades of pink and white. Fresno County has a driving tour called the Blossom Trail that is wonderful. Check it out if you are in the area.

This time of year a major project for the Plant Doctor is to make sure that a little insect called a Thrip Image

doesn’t get into the nectarine flowers and start feeding on the developing fruit. If they feed on the fruit the damage they do will cause a small scar that will expand into a very big ugly scar as the fruit grows. That scar makes the fruit ugly and people won’t buy it. This scar doesn’t do anything to damage the fruit in any way but to make it look ugly. It think it is unfortunate that we have to spray for insects just to make the fruit look pretty but people don’t want ugly fruit. They say they dislike pesticides but then they don’t like ugly fruit either. But if they won’t but scarred fruit, we have to keep it clean.

Check out my video to see how I check for thrip during the bloom period.


How much spray is too much?

July is here and now things start to get interesting. This year seems like it may be a relatively quiet year, pest-wise. We had a very cool spring and early summer. This puts many of the crop woefully behind schedule but it also makes for lower “bug” pest populations. For example, in the grapes I have not seen or sprayed for many of the pests I usually do. I have sprayed in the table grapes and in the stone fruit for pest but we usually do in “fresh” market crops. The trigger for when you spray in these crops is lower because the amount of damage you can have is lower. People do not like worm hole, insect scars, etc on the fruit they buy. I think if people were a bit more tolerant on how their fruit looked and allow for some superficial bug damage, I could spray even less. I finally saw some mites in the big walnut trees I watch. These are big trees and hard to spray and usually the mites get so bad by the end of the summer the trees are losing leaves. But I hardly see any mites at all. This is a good time to spray as I can use less pesticide to knock down a very small population. Usually in the summer when it gets hot the good bugs can’t control the rapidly climbing pest populations so when July comes I usually start to clean things up so I can use small amounts of pesticides instead of waiting for pest levels to explode and having to bomb them. I have some cotton I look at. The cotton crop is very far behind schedule. I can usually leave a small about of Lygus bugs in the field but this year I had to spray early. Why? These bug damage the flower buds and they fall off. Because the crop is late we cannot afford to lose the early crop that is now forming as we will not have time in the fall to get any later flowers to develop into cotton bolls. Every year is different.

When you look at news articles that groups like the Pesticide Action Network puts out about “Pesticide Use was up” is such and such year, do not just think farmers were irresponsible for some reason. Weather conditions dictate a lot of what goes on in a natural system and how farmers must respond. I bet pesticide use will be way down this year in California but you won’t see the Pesticide Action Network or other anti-pesticide group tell you that.