Sunday, June 3, 2007

16. Herbicides/Pesticides

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Herbicides/Pesticides (and fertilizers which are thrown into this category) are actually a larger issue of agricultural organization--which involves erosion.

The images above show what has happened in only 50 years of poor agricultural practices: there are holes in the ocean--deoxygenating destroying malestorms, killing everything in its path, and leaving hundreds of square miles of oceanic rotting death.

Note the rate of increase.

Note the single corporation that is hugely responsible and its history.

The World According to Monsanto (2008)
109 min.

"On March 11, 2008, a new documentary was aired on French television (ARTE – French-German cultural TV channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin, The World According to Monsanto - A documentary that Americans won't ever see. The gigantic biotech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years."

For alternatives to this, see the soil-creating forms of agriculture and permaculture without chemical herbicides and pesticides.

Besides the herbicide and pesticide monopolies, we can just utilize "despored mycelium" that Stamets talks about in this short video. Get rid of the synthetics entirely, the old fashioned way. Very old. About 3 billion years old.

Utilize mycelium's properties as a pesticide as well as soil creator.

Then watch everything grow sustainable from the novel pristine base. Like the runners of mycelium, the use of mycelium for pesticides has many 'organic factory' aspects for other connects to the commodity ecology of a local area without the synthetic monopolies like Monsanto.

Mycelium is an excellent base for starting the commodity ecology, because literally it was the basis for all land base life: the first land dwellers that prepared everything chemically for soil formation that other creatures that was utilized as the base of life. See this short stunning video, below. Just put in some local mycelium in as a pesticide, and you have a clean basis of organic agriculture.

Paul Stamets: 6 ways mushrooms can save the world (17 minutes)

"Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas. There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet."

Re-basing commodity ecology, the ecologizing of human commodification, on mycelium seems the sounded basis to start. Moreover, it is probably to be expected because mycelium was the first arriving "'life organ' of ecology" that these species would be an integral start for life--and for other commodity ecology paths. It has THE MOST cross-connects or overlaps SO FAR with leads into other categories. It connects very well with:

58. Remediation
16. Herbicides/Pesticides
6. Soils/Dirt/Hydroponics
5. Garbage/Garbage disposal
7. Drugs/Medicines
11. Mycelium based food
72. Packing Materials (for seeding forests, mycelium and seeds embedded)

THAT means mycelium's many local multiple consumptive positional uses makes it a good place to start upon the commodity ecology for branching in multiple directions from this locus. He says 6 ideas. I count seven. Really, all the difficulties with sustainability are already solved. It merely means putting all the pieces together combined with challenging the corrupt developmentalism with the bioregional state institutional arrangements, challenging the arrangements that keep sustainability, sustainable politics, and territorial states from happening.

Learning about mycelium is the excellent basis of a commodity ecology. And Paul Stamets is an excellent introduction.

Additionally, instead of active attacks on bugs and diseases of plants, make the plants hardier as the solution. This is a quote from the short video about Forest Gardening:

"The high art of organic production is producing really good compost...[with a really large] variety of materials. The best are woody plants, though obviously they take a very long time to rot down, so they have to be shredded....The most striking features of the garden are its fertility and lack of pests and diseases. "I don't use chemicals on this place at all but use...sprays of seaweed, liquid comfrey, and liquid nettles. These do not have the effect of destroying bugs and germs, but build up the disease and pest resistance of the plants."

Forest Gardening with Robert Hart ... a film by Malcolm Baldwin (1 of 2)
7 min 25 sec


There is the issue of waste plastic. Why? Because plastic, being lipophilic, absorbs many oil-based chemicals and concentrates such herbicide/pesticide wastes into the food chain more intensely when the plastic-chemical admixtures are swallowed--killing sea life in the process or eventually getting back to human consumption of plasticized/polluted fish that way. This is a side issue, though another real world implication of utilizing synthetic pesticides/herbicides that become highly concentrated poison pills back into ocean and animal life--and then to ourselves.

Watch this 13 minute video on the garbage accumulating in the oceanic gyres, as problematic a result of poor material choices as the herbicide/pesticide induced 'dead zones' in the ocean.

Alphabet Soup - A Trip to the Eastern Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre
12 min 49 sec

A Canadian filmmaker travels to the north Pacific Ocean to discover a world of unknown plastic pollution.

An uncle of mine who is retired from DuPont NEVER HEARD OF EITHER OF THESE ISSUES of dead zones or oceanic gyre garbage...which shows the extent of scientific specialization and hubristic ignorance institutionalizing nearsighted crops of humans, generation after generation, in the current unconnected monocultures of the universities.

More interscientific curricula are required likely as solving these agricultural issues because the difficulty is with human ignorance certified falsely as knowledge, instead of it being something only to do with the commodity change per se.

The origins of dead zones origins and how a chemical cocktail of nitrates and phosphates and other pollution leads to their creation can be found at this link on the bioregional state and the oceans over at Toward A Bioregional State.

Completely removing forms of chemical agriculture (which will increasingly save the humic soil as well) means an entire reformation of agriculture. This will likely entail particular localized solutions that are more conservative of biodiversity. Certain forms are already in existence in some locations and their commonalities are they move away from monocropping toward other forms of permiculture, forest gardening (multi-level agriculture), perinneals agriculture (instead of based on breeding for fast growing annuals), 'no-till' forms of agriculture (for soil conservation, incresingly no-till additionally means no-pesticide as well in some versions), and using interactive species (sometimes even other plants cross planted with others that kill pests instead of just alternative insects) to remove agricultural pests. It's all about knowing of the lateral relationships instead of focusing on the commodity at hand. And the bees. Use native bees associated with what particular crops they most efficiently utilize. Carting around bees should be phased out.

Stop Phosphating and Nitrating the Oceans

A short treatment of the origin of such pesticide laden phosphate frameworks from the chemical industry is found Karen Steingraber's _Living Downstream. It came mostly from decommissioned warmaking factories making chemicals--that then kept up production and simply turned the phosphates and nitrates and other things useful in explosives. Then there was the ecological and social terrorism of the so called "Green Revolution" of agrochemical pesticides sales worldwide, which massively impoverished local forms of agriculturalists and send then hurtling toward the slum cities.

For the historical origin of artificial nitrates see the book _The Great Guano Rush, and The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben (on the Haber process). Both started the whole downhill ecological destruction of agriculture. We can turn that aruond with mycelium applications for pesticides.

Of course there are the wallflowers who sigh romantically and say it started with agriculture itself, though that is silly because it is a categorical argument when it is exactly what kinds of agriculture is the issue: actually many forms of agriculture have survived over millennia in China in the same areas (though with versions of economic shakeout and regional specializations that launched millions into endless poverty and instability of course by the Yuan into the Ming).

Second, the Aztecs had some good ideas for durable organic fertilizer based agriculture in their milpas.

Third, the difficulties with poor soil agriculture in Amazonia has been solved toward stable forms of tenure that demotes the endless ecocline erosion frameworks destroying the forests there in some populations. There was an interesting article in the British magazine The Ecologist about this. This was before what I can only surmise was a recent 'editorial coup/lobotomy' that in my opinion dumbed down the magazine from discussions of political economy toward shallow editorial lines of thinking that change comes only from the consumer instead of from blaming the organizational frameworks themselves. Most consumers are held hostage to this clientelistic framework hardly of their own design or blame.

Anyway, before the lobotomy at The Ecologist, this article was printed concerning a man working over 20 years in and out of academia in experiments in Latin America. He solved ‘solved’ the jungle/poor soil frameworks of agriculture, fuel provisioning, and salable commodities through a form of ecological modernization. The magazine The Ecologist wrote a short article about it several years ago, aiming for wider coverage of it’s combined features of local consumptive durability, poverty alleviation, and ecological security--all addressed simultaneously. [cite: “Rainforest Saver: After 20 years work a British tropical ecologist thinks this can save the world’s rainforests” [and generate income for local people without destroying it],” The Ecologist, Volume 35, No. 1, p. 56]

Fourth, on biodiversity as agriculture instead of against it, read Kenney Ausubel's Seeds of Change, and Gary Nabhan's Enduring Seeds. Both argue some forms of agriculture are more conducive to maintaining biodiversity that destroying it.

Additionally, The Slow Food Movement should have a chapter in every watershed worldwide.

In short, ideally, to institutionalize biodiversity it is paramount to integrate it into agriculture. I've got lots of notes about other forms of agriculture organization that can additionally remove the requirements of the category of pesticides. See some of the comments about that. Perhaps I'll post a summary article below about this as well.

For the moment, here is a draft of an encyclopedia article I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Social Problems, on "Erosion." Read it at the commodity category on soils/dirt/hydroponics.


Mark said...

1. textiles to 16. herbicide:

Quoting from the textiles commentary:

Unlike most products where waste is created in the processing, there is no waste created during this production process. All byproducts are conceived as products designed to safely return to biological systems. In fact, we use the selvage and trimmings from the fabric to create felt. This felt is used by farmers in Switzerland as ground cover for crops.

The felt controls weeds and insulates the soil instead of using conventional plastic. Gradually the felt decomposes and becomes food for worms and microorganisms.

Mark said...

An Indian village says 'no' to pesticides
Posted: 29 Sep 2004

by Kavitha Kuruganti

In 2003, a small village in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, declared itself pesticide-free. Since then, its farmers have stopped using pesticides for crops like cotton, Bengal gram, chilli and paddy - all known to use notoriously high quantities of pesticides. Kavitha Kuruganti reports on the greening of this village.

The pesticide-free status of Punukula, a predominantly tribal village, is creating ripples in Andhra Pradesh (AP) which, in the past five years, has had frequent spells of drought and reported thousands of farmer suicides. An estimated 1,200 suicides were reported in the period June-August 2004. One of the reasons for the rise in suicides has been the crushing burden of debt: many farmers buy expensive seeds and pesticides and when the crops fail, their own survival becomes difficult.

But Punukula farmers of the Khammam district claim that they are able to save up to Rs 3 million (1US$=Rs 46) every year on agricultural inputs by adopting eco-friendly methods towards pest management. There is a total of 600 acres of farmland and, on every acre, they have made a saving of at least Rs 5,000 since reducing their dependence on expensive pesticides.

Resistent pests

Their success in eliminating the use of artificial pesticides from cotton fields has been the most remarkable. Farmers who migrated from Guntur district brought the cotton crop to Punukula more than 15 years ago. Local farmers saw the Guntur farmers use pesticides on their cotton crop quite frequently and soon started using them in their own fields. Initially, the pesticides worked well and several pesticide shops soon opened in the nearby town of Palvancha. Pesticide dealers would give local farmers the latest pesticides on credit.

But gradually, the pests became resistant to the pesticides being used. Monocrotophos, methyl parathion, chlorpyriphos, endosulfan, synthetic pyrethroids - nothing seemed to work. The pests would only come back in greater numbers. Soon after, the cotton crop needed greater quantities of pesticides, which meant a higher investment.

Simultaneously, in addition to supplying seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, the dealers started extending loans at high interest rates to the hapless farmers. The debt trap was fast closing in on the farmers whose yields were greatly affected by pests. Farmers in Punukula, like elsewhere, started committing suicide.

Health problems

The high use of pesticides was also resulting in a variety of problems for the villagers. For instance, Srinu, farmer Hemla Nayak's son, had to spend Rs 18,000 to get treated for acute pesticide poisoning in 1999. Women, who did most of the spraying, complained of skin problems, blurred vision and body ache.

In 1999, the Socio-Economic and Cultural Upliftment in Rural Environment (SECURE), a local NGO, stepped in and suggested that the farmers try out ecological methods to control pests.

Women's Self-Help-Group, Punukula, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Women's Self-Help-Group hold a meeting in Punukula
© Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
However, the determination and support of the five self-help groups (SHGs) run by the village women helped to make this ecological shift in pest management possible.

SECURE initially began work with 20 farmers, including a few women. Earla Dhanamma, whose husband Nagabhushanam represented the interests of several pesticide companies, also joined in. The farmers were sceptical in the beginning. But the method of preventing pest attacks by understanding the pests' life cycles did appear both simple and affordable. Instead of chemical sprays, the farmers began preparing sprays made with local and inexpensive materials like neem seed powder and green chilli-garlic extract. The sprays were supplemented by hormone traps to attract the moths and destroy them before they start mating. Some farmers also used 'crop traps': along with the cotton crop they would grow another crop (marigold, castor) that attracted the pests more.

Positive difference

One season was enough to show the positive difference: useful insects like spiders, wasps and beetles - which feed on cotton pests - returned to the fields once the chemical pesticides were stopped. In the next season, many other farmers came forward to try out the new approach. However, there were several men in the village who found it easier to go to a pesticide dealer and buy a container of chemical pesticide rather than take the trouble of preparing these new, greener methods

Farmer, Earla Dhanamma, Punukulu, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Farmer, Earla Dhanamma, has stopped using pesticides on her farm.
© Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
At this point, the women's SHGs firmly stepped in. They successfully persuaded their men to stop buying pesticides when the alternatives were already available. "We knew that the savings with the new methods were enormous - upto Rs 10,000 per acre at times. Why, then, would we need to go back to pesticides?" says Dhanamma. Others also realised that pesticides meant higher debts as well as high medical costs. The women even took on the additional work of preparing the anti-pest sprays from neem and chilli-garlic paste. They also ensured that no one brought pesticides into their village.

By 2003, most farmers in this 200-household village had stopped using the harmful pesticides. Pesticide dealers stopped coming into the village as sales dropped dramatically. Besides covering 400-odd acres of cotton, the new method was also used in fields growing chilli and paddy. No pesticides were sprayed in its 600-odd acres of farmland during the 2003 kharif (post-summer) season. Even during the first crop season of 2004, no pesticides were required.

In August 2004, the women's groups also bought a neem seed crushing machine (extracts for the sprays are prepared from the resulting powder) with support from SECURE.

Today, Punukula is a centre of attraction for other villagers who are inspired and impressed by its healthy crops. Just 15 km away, villages in Julurpad block have high pest incidence despite the use of pesticides.

Punukula farmers now have the money to invest in house repair, buy land, and invest in livestock. Most farmers say their incomes are higher, enabling them to repay old debts.

The villagers now firmly believe that the way to get rid of pests is to rid their farming of pesticides.

Kavitha Kuruganti is a Banglore-based journalist, with a special interest in development issues.

Source: Women's Feature Service

From our website, see also:

* Feature: The new farmer

* News: Bangladeshi farmers banish insecticides

* Feature: New boss on the farm in Canada

* Feature: SUCCESS STORY - Perfect maize, in three simple steps

* Feature: Helping farmers fight pests

People & the Planet 2000 - 2005
people and food and agriculture

Mark said...

Interview Steve Varga, ProGrass Landscape Horticulturist.

WHAT: Wilsonville-based ProGrass announces NaturalCare: Natural
Solutions For A Healthy Landscape. ProGrass NaturalCare becomes the
safest, most natural landscape care service available to Oregon

WHERE: Yard, Garden & Patio Show, Convention Center, Booth # 1030

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 24 - Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006, 10a-9p Fri & Sat, 10a-6p Sun.

WHY: Concern for the environment

Concern for the health; safety of children; pets

Confusion about how to create a vibrant, healthy landscape

Confusion over the when/how/why to use chemicals in landscape care

To improve the health of your landscape by improving soil quality

NaturalCare creates sustainable landscapes by providing long-term solutions rather then short-term results

NaturalCare provides a new way of caring for your landscape. Your goal will be lots of biological activity in the soil so healthy grass
can form a thick cover to discouraging weeds and an extensive root system that is resistant to drought. Healthy soil means lots of
earthworms and microorganisms, which need plenty of organic matter to flourish. Doing this successfully is a difficult task for homeowners and requires specialized knowledge and products not available to the general public.

When you use only chemical fertilizers, your lawn can become more susceptible to drought and disease. Over time, lawns can become chemically dependent. Natural organic fertilizers work in a different way, providing the key elements to develop rich, healthy soil that is the building block of healthy plants.

VISUALS: Steve will demonstrate how NaturalCare provides a safe & healthy alternative for landscape care. Comparison chart listing ingredients of both NaturalCare and well-known national fertilizer products.


· Mychorrhizae - Naturally occurring soil organism which promotes
root growth in plants. This contributes to water absorption, nutrient
uptake, general plant growth, decreases in plant diseases and improved
tolerance to heat and stress.

· Humates - Organic acids which are abundant in natural minerals.
They help transfer nutrients from soil to plants, improve water
retention of soil and stimulate the development of microorganisms in
the soil.

· Fishmeal - Natural form of nutrients and soil mulch used by
Native Americans. Supplies nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

· Organic fertilizer - Dry and sterilized form of animal manure,
bone meal or feather meal which release nutrients when decomposed.

· Sea kelp - Provides natural plant hormones and nutrients for plants

· Yucca -- Natural extract from desert plant acts as wetting agent to allow materials to move in the soil freely.

· Biological control- Insect control derived from a
naturally-occurring bacterial or fungal spores such as Bacillus

· Botanical control - Insect controls derived from plant extracts such as pyrethrum.

· Horticultural soaps - Insect control products from soap-based fatty acids which kill soft-bodied insects.

CONTACT: Jack Rubinger, Media Relations, 503-788-7325

Steve Varga, ProGrass Horticulturist, 503-969-8950

Mark said...

Soil Remineralization can be simultaneously a fertlizer substitute as well as form of herbicide/pesticide by increasing the hardiness of the plant as well as by seemingly repelling pests by application. Thus, with soil remineralization, a seasonal dousing with (particularly treated) rock dust could simultaneously be soil aid and herbicide/pesticides--in one treatment.

"Remineralization has been shown to cause a phenomenal growth of the microorganisms in the soil. It increases the nutrient intake of plants. It counters the effects of soil acidity, prevents soil erosion (for this reason alone, it would be worth applying rock dust), increases the storage capacity of the soil, contributes to the building of precious humus complexes, has anti-fungal properties, and when you spray it on plants it repels insects as well. The plants and trees become highly resistant to insects, disease, frosts, and droughts."

[additionally see the summary at the soil/hydroponics category.]

Mark said...

Prairie inspired farming:

Prairies hold the soil, resist pests and weeds, and sponsor their own fertility, all without our help.

Prairie-like polycultures using edible perennial crops and biofuel candidates like switchgrass would over winter, making plowing or planting every year obsolete.

Mixtures of plants would give farms resilience, reducing the need for oil-based pesticides. Instead of an extractive agriculture that mimics industry, prairie-inspired farming is a self-renewing agriculture that mimics nature while sequestering significant amounts of carbon.

Mark said...

Hemp as Weed Control, A short examination of the literature on hemp's ability to clean fields of weeds

D. P. West, Ph.D.

Weed control is a recalcitrant issue in crops grown for organic certification. One approach is the prior use of a competitive crop.

In his textbook, Modern Weed Control, A. S. Crafts cites as potential weed smothering crops: millet, Sudan grass, sweet clover, sunflower, rape, barley, rye, reed canary grass, crested wheatgrass, sorghums, buckwheat, soybeans, alfalfa, cowpeas, clovers, hemp, Jerusalem artichoke, and ensilage corn.

Of these only one, hemp, can be taken seriously as an adequate weed controlling mechanism.

The historical testimonials to hemp's ability to control weeds are numerous.

For example:

" is certain that hemp contributes more than any other crop towards repairing the damage done by its own growth through the return of the leaves to the soil, besides other matters while it is undergoing the process of retting. Hemp is an admirable weed killer and in flax countries is sometimes employed as a crop in rotation, to precede flax because it puts the soil in so good condition."
--Charles Dodge, Director, Office of Fiber Investigation, 1890.

"There will be little trouble with weeds if the first crop is well destroyed by the spring plowing, for hemp generally occupies all the ground giving weeds but little chance to intrude....In proof of this, a North River farmer a few years ago made the statement that thistles heretofore had mastered him in a certain field, but after sowing it with hemp not a thistle survived, and while ridding his land of this pest the hemp yielded him nearly $60 per acre where previously nothing valuable could be produced."
--C. Dodge, Hemp Culture, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1895

"Hemp prevents the growth of weeds and other vegetation which would be found on such soils in most other crops or after others are laid by, and its cultivation also seems to make the soil more uniform in character."
--Lyster Dewey, The Hemp Industry in the United States, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1901

"Very few of the common weeds troublesome on the farm can survive the dense shade of a good crop of hemp...In one 4-acre field in Vernon County, Wis., where Canada thistles were very thick, fully 95 per cent of the thistles were killed...."
--Lyster Dewey, Hemp. USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1913.

"Hemp has been demonstrated to be the best smother crop for assisting in the eradication of quack grass and Canada thistles....At Waupon in 1911 the hemp was grown on land badly infested with quack grass, and in spite of an unfavorable season a yield of 2,100 pounds of fiber to the acre was obtained and the quack grass was practically destroyed."
--Andrew Wright, Wisconsin's Hemp Industry, 1918.

"Hemp has been recommended as a weed control crop. Its dense, tall growth helps to kill out many common weeds. The noxious bindweed, a member of the morning glory family is checked to some extent by hemp."
--B. B. Robinson, Hemp, USDA Agric Bull #1453, 1943

"Among the species studied, the hemp species proved itself to be the best in fiber production. This plant was all the more interesting owing to its low fertilization requirements, and its ability to grow without being irrigated and without chemicals, whether it be for weed or pest control."
--Barriere, et al. 1994 (1)

"Hemp grows quickly, soon covers the ground and chokes out the weeds. So weed control is not necessary."
--Eddy A. A. de Maeyer. 1994 (1)

In Holland, Lotz, et al. tested hemp's superior weed suppressing ability (Figure 1) against four other cropping situations in a controlled experimental setting.

The target weed was yellow nutgrass (Cyperus esculentus), a weed also common in the US, which propagates by tubers and is difficult to control. The authors conclude, "...hemp was the most competitive crop in this study. Selecting this crop in a rotation will cause the strongest population reduction of C. esculentus on infested farmland. This control option of hemp against harmful weeds as C. esculentus is an attendant benefit of the introduction of hemp as a commercial crop."(2)

1 From papers delivered at the Conference on Alternative Oilseed and Fiber Crops for the Cool and Wet Regions of Europe, Wageningen, The Netherlands, April 7-8, 1994.

2 Lotz, L. A., P. R. M. W. Groeneveld, B. Habekotte, and H. van Oene. 1991. Reduction of growth and reproduction of Cyperus esculentus by specific crops. Weed Research 31:153-160.

Then you can take the hemp and sell it as something useful. See sections on 'communications technology' (for paper) for instance.

Mark said...

"Research into terpenes has found that many of them possess qualities that make them ideal active ingredients as part of natural agricultural pesticides."

Terpenes are a large and varied class of hydrocarbons, produced primarily by a wide variety of plants, particularly conifers, though also by some insects such as swallowtail butterflies, which emit terpenes from their osmeterium. They are the major components of resin, and of turpentine produced from resin. The name "terpene" is derived from the word "turpentine".

When terpenes are modified chemically, such as by oxidation or rearrangement of the carbon skeleton, the resulting compounds are generally referred to as terpenoids. Some authors will use the term terpene to include all terpenoids.

Terpenes and terpenoids are the primary constituents of the essential oils of many types of plants and flowers. Essential oils are used widely as natural flavor additives for food, as fragrances in perfumery, in aromatherapy, and in traditional and alternative medicines. Synthetic variations and derivatives of natural terpenes and terpenoids also greatly expand the variety of aromas used in perfumery and flavors used in food additives.

Mark said...

Herbicides that can be missing, and still be there, rather cheap to let water carry the memory of the herbicide instead, electronically tailored:

Vol 3 No 5

Digital Biology and the Memory
Effect of Water

with Jacques Benveniste, M.D.
by Wynn Free

Will the eternal "Understand I do not, therefore it is not" prevail forever in science? Can we not say once and for all "bye-bye" to Galileo-style prosecution and replace it with genuine scientific debate?

Given my painful ten-year experience, we may as well start by throwing out the "pire-review" system which has become, behind its facade of excellence, the main antibody blocking the nearly deceased scientific free exchange which once was the cornerstone of scientific progress.
—Jacques Benveniste, M.D.

Dr. Jacques Benveniste is a medical doctor who has discovered certain scientific properties of water which defy explanation by the tenets of mainstream physics. His science, which he calls Digital Biology, is based upon two breakthrough observations that he can prove in experiments that have been duplicated by other scientists:

1. If a substance is diluted in water, the water can carry the memory of that substance even after it has been so diluted that none of the molecules of the original substance remain; and

2. The molecules of any given substance have a spectrum of frequencies that can be digitally recorded with a computer, then played back into untreated water (using an electronic transducer), and when this is done, the new water will act as if the actual substance were physically present.

The applications of Digital Biology are endless. Some of them include digital fertilizers and growth enhancers, detection of contaminating organisms in agriculture, digital pharmaceuticals, digital homeopathics, water analysis and purification, and electromagnetic pesticides.

Dr. Benveniste is a French medical doctor and researcher who studied at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California, for three years. We spoke with him by phone at his research facility in Paris, France.

Wynn: Could you just briefly state what it is that you have discovered?

Jacques: It's known as the "memory of water." When you add a substance to water and then dilute the water to the point where there are no more molecules of the added substance left in the water, you can still measure effects of the water as if the originally diluted substance were still present.

Wynn: What made you curious enough to start your research?

Jacques: It was an accident. There was a technician in my lab who accidentally diluted more than she thought, and realized that for the amount of molecules that were left there shouldn't be any indication of the original substance. But there was.

We kept diluting, and the action kept coming back. So we knew we had a new phenomenon.

Wynn: That would it mean if I had a giant lake and I poured something into the lake...?

Jacques: No, it doesn't work that way.

First you have to add the substance to the water in a fixed proportion: one to ten, one to a hundred, one to a thousand... So it's a very small amount of information that you bring.

Wynn: Why do you think those specific proportions are meaningful?

Jacques: We don't know. But out of serendipity and experience, we have shown that without those proportions, it doesn't work as well.

Then, between each dilution, you have to agitate violently for 20 seconds to incorporate the little amount of information you put into the test tube.

So for instance you might put one drop of the diluting medium into nine-hundred-ninety-nine drops of water, then agitate for twenty seconds with a violent motion — in what we call a vortex.

Only then do you get the transmission of the information.

You wouldn't be able to shake your lake.

Wynn: A vortex is like a spiral?

Jacques: Exactly, like a funnel inside of the water.

Wynn: How do you determine that the water has the memory of the original substance?

Jacques: You get a specific effect.

Here's an example. Let's say that you apply a histamine to the skin of an animal and it creates an irritation, like a blister. Then if you apply water that has been given the memory of histamine to the skin of the same animal, you will also end up with a blister. That's what I mean by a specific effect.

We added histamine to an isolated guinea-pig heart and found that the effect was the same whether we used a high dilution or the original strength. We did the same with other compounds and got the same result.

We can take this one step further. We can record the activity in the water that has a diluted substance on a computer, and then play the recording to untreated water. And the computer-treated water will have the same effect as the water that was treated with an actual substance and diluted.

Wynn: Let me see if I understood what you just said. Instead of putting the substance in the water, you can put the frequencies of the substance in the water?

Jacques: We don't like to use the word "frequency," because that implies we know what the frequency is. In fact, it's exactly the same thing when you record something on your computer — a song or a voice — and then you replay it. Your ear is vibrating the same way as if the person were in the room. The ear is fooled by the recording. The ear reacts just as if the singer were singing live in the room. You don't know the frequencies involved, you just know that the voice coming out of the speaker exactly emulates how the singer would sound if they were live in the room.

In the same way, you can record the frequency spectrum of a substance.

Wynn: By what interface do you get the spectrum from the treated water into the untreated water?

Jacques: Instead of replaying to a loudspeaker, we use the loudspeaker outlet of the sound card, and plug in a copper coil. The frequency spectrums are always within the audio range of 20 to 20,000 cycles per second.

The point is that we have solved one of the mysteries of classical biology. The phrase "molecular signal" is one of the most used references in biology, except no one has known or asked, "What is the physical nature of the signal?" And we have discovered that at least a good representative signal of the molecule is between 20 and 20,000 Hertz, which makes sense, as only a low frequency can get through water.

Wynn: How do you record a signal from a substance?

Jacques: Think of a microphone without a membrane, just an electromagnetic coil. You plug that electronic coil into the female receptacle of the sound card. Then you put the molecules in a test tube next to the coil. When those millions of molecules in this liquid vibrate, it's enough for the coil to pick them up.

We are just using commercially available components to measure this.

Wynn: So these experiments sound as though they can be duplicated very easily.

Jacques: Actually, it takes very stringent conditions for the experiment to be repeatable. That's because when you replay to water, the water may or may not take the signal, depending upon local electromagnetic conditions.

For example, now you are recording my voice on tape, and if you put a magnet over the tape, you will erase my voice. But if we were talking face to face, you could put the magnet in front of my mouth and you would still hear my words. So there is a difference between the electromagnetic recording and the real voice, even though they both sound the same.

So the electromagnetic fields in the environment affect whether or not the signal is transferred back to the water.

A lab in Chicago duplicated my experiment where they recorded 26 samples, of which half, or 13, were a control group of random frequencies, and half were actual molecular signals of various substances. Then they sent the untitled computer .wav files to me — so my lab didn't know which was which. But we were able to recognize and identify the 13 real substances, as separate from the control, with a very high significance.

When I published this, no one believed it at first. They thought it was impossible to send molecules over the Atlantic. But they never could point to anything wrong with the experimental protocol.

Wynn: What is it in water that holds the memory?

Jacques: This is the multimillion-dollar question. People will have to rethink the ideas they have on water.

From the get-go, water doesn't behave as it should. There are more than 30 physical constants of water that are "wrong."

For example, water is a mixture of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen, that become liquid at ordinary room temperature. That's totally impossible. Water shouldn't exist.

Why is water liquid? The physicists don't understand this. None of this can really be understood by the common laws of physics. So even though it's inexplicable, all I can do is to repeat my experiments and demonstrate that it works.

Wynn: What's the connection between your discoveries and homeopathy?

Jacques: That has actually become an area of controversy. I am not an alternative practitioner, but a very classical doctor. But I was accused of supporting homeopathy. Regular doctors get very upset when you do something that seems to validate homeopathy.

Yet my experiments do show irrefutably that even when you highly dilute a compound, you can still get activity. So in essence my experiments give a scientific explanation of how homeopathy can work.

It's like a CD. When you break open a CD, the singer is not inside. But you can get the same effect. You don't need the real thing.

Wynn: What are some of the other applications of your discovery?

Jacques: One application is that you can put a detector anywhere in the world and detect any bacteria that are around. You can go to the middle of nowhere in Africa, and if you have a telephone or satellite, in seconds you can send anywhere the signal of the bacteria which are in proximity to the detector. You can then identify the specific bacteria. We do it every day in the lab.

The old way of doing this is to manually collect samples of water and send it to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), where they will manually analyze the water for traces of bacteria.

Wynn: So if you were working with a very contagious bacterium, you could analyze it without being in direct exposure to it. But couldn't the signal of the bacteria make someone sick?

Jacques: I don't believe so, unless you would put this person inside of a huge coil and send thousands of watts with the signal of the bacteria through the coil. Then if the bacteria generated a toxin in the body, the toxin could be duplicated through the coil. But by diffusing the signal in the air, it would just be too weak.

Wynn: What are some other applications?

Jacques: We think we could detect the AIDS virus at concentrations way below what is commonly measurable. If someone is contaminated with AIDS, there is a period where the antibodies do not appear, yet the person is very contagious. This is a nightmare for blood banks. This could be done very cheaply as compared to DNA analysis.

So far, we are working on a very small budget, so we've haven't been able to develop these protocols yet.

Another application would be killing pests with the field. This would allow pests to be eliminated without contaminating the environment with toxic chemicals.

Wynn: How have you funded your experiments?

Jacques: I am not funded at all. I have created a company with my collaborator called Digi-Bio. We financed our company with small investors, but we are currently looking for larger sponsors so we can develop applications for this technology. There are many other possible applications yet to be discovered and proven.

Right now there are only three people working on this project. But someday I believe there will be thousands of researchers experimenting on this technology, and then the applications will develop fast. But perhaps that will be 30 years from now.

There's nothing described in physics that explains why, when you put two molecules in proximity to each other, there would be any kind of exchange of information except with radioactive substances. The only way that molecules could communicate is by their vibrations. It is known that molecules vibrate. This has been known for 50 years.

So what we are saying is that the vibration is not separate from the molecule. And these vibrations are the way molecules communicate. Digi-Bio is demonstrating the validity of this communication, and this is a significant breakthrough.

Wynn: Thank you very much for taking your time to explain this research to our readers.

Jacques: Thank you for giving me the opportunity.

NOTE: This is a bilingual pun: The French word pire, which is pronounced the same as the English word peer, means "worse."

Dr. Jacques BenvenisteJacques Benveniste is a Doctor of Medicine and a former resident of the Paris Hospital System and research director at the French National Institute for Medical Research. He is known worldwide as a specialist in the mechanisms of allergy and inflammation, and achieved recognition in 1971 by his discovery of Paf (Platelet Activating Factor), a mediator implicated in the mechanisms involved in allergy pathologies (for example, asthma).

In 1984, while working on hypersensitive (allergic) systems, by chance he brought to light the so-called "high dilution phenomenon," which was picked up by the media and labeled "the memory of water."

The DigiBio website contains a wealth of information about experimental protocols that support Dr. Benveniste's discoveries, the many applications to which this new technology might be put, and the beginnings of a theory to explain how molecules actually communicate. You can contact him by email at

Mark said...

Pesticide Action Network's Alternatives to chemical pest control database

Many alternatives to toxic pesticides can be used to manage pest problems effectively. This page provides links to other organizations that provide information on non-toxic or least-toxic approaches to pest management. Links are organized by the following categories:


Mark said...

Soil Remineralization can be simultaneously a fertlizer substitute as well as form of herbicide/pesticide by increasing the hardiness of the plant as well as by seemingly repelling pests by application. Thus, with soil remineralization, a seasonal dousing with (particularly treated) rock dust could simultaneously be soil aid and herbicide/pesticides--in one treatment.

Mark said...

Instead of active attacks on bugs and diseases of plants, make the plants hardier as the solution:

This is a quote from the short video about Forest Gardening:

"The high art of organic production is producing really good compost...[with a really large] variety of materials. The best are woody plants, though obviously they take a very long time to rot down, so they have to be shredded....

"The most striking features of the garden are its fertility and lack of pests and diseases.

"I don't use chemicals on this place at all but use...sprays of seaweed, liquid comfrey, and liquid nettles. These do not have the effect of destroying bugs and germs, but build up the disease and pest resistance of the plants."

Forest gardens still have a lot of labor for mulching all year round, though a definitely solution for the externalities of monocropping. Permaculture is lower labor forms. Perhaps finding something that could be fast growing that could overtake other weeds, that would then be cut down to be mulched.

Perhaps a mulch layer and 'week overtaking' layer of hemp as this hypothetical "eighth layer" of forest gardening/permaculture?

Mark said...

Research Entomologist Prescribes New Form Of Pest Control

July 1, 2007 — An Ohio State University entomologist affiliated with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center has recommended a new, innovative and chemical free variety of pest control, in the form of nematodes. The microscopic pest-killing nematodes aim to execute the same functions as traditional chemical pesticides, but minus the potential hazardous pollution. According to the scientist, nematodes also promise to be animal, human, and environmentally friendly.

Fruits and veggies are good for us, but the chemical pesticides they're sprayed with are not. Now, scientists are looking at ways to use the food chain to naturally battle bugs.

Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live in the soil and are waging war on pests. Parwinder Grewal, Ph.D., a nematologist from The Ohio State University, is studying how to use them. "Among the biocontrol agents, nematodes are the most intensely researched nematodes because potential is seen," Dr. Grewal says.

The nematode first tracks down an insect, invades its body, releases bacteria, and it is dead within 48 hours. The nematode eats the bacteria and insect to mature into an adult to reproduce hundreds of thousands of nematodes looking for a new bug. "So their life cycle continues by finding newer insects," Dr. Grewal says.

The are advantages of using nematodes over chemical sprayers. First, they're already part of the ecosystem and are natural -- and they don't pose harm to people and wildlife. So, it's cheaper in the long term. "We cannot keep producing chemical pesticides," Dr. Grewal says. Nematodes can be used with standard sprayers, and could even be shipped to you at home -- collected in a sponge. The main limitation is shelf life. Right now, nematodes only last about five months but scientists are working to get that to a year. Dr. Grewal says nematodes could take care of about 60 percent of soil pests.

They're now looking to isolate certain genes to make them even more effective.

BACKGROUND: Biocontrol agents are becoming more popular as both the public and regulators recognize the environmental and human health risks associated with chemical pesticides. One type of biocontrol agent is nematodes, which have proven to be highly effective against a wide variety of plant, animal and human pests.

WHAT ARE THEY? Pest-killing nematodes are tiny roundworms that can be applied through sprayers or irrigation systems to do the same job as chemical pesticides -- minus the potential pollution. Unlike parasitic nematodes, which cause disease in plants, animals and humans, beneficial nematodes are used to fight costly insect and slug pests in vegetables, turf grass, citrus, strawberry, cranberry and ornamental crops. They have also shown promise against fleas, ticks and lice. For instance, citrus growers in Florida rely on the microscopic worms to combat the root-feeding citrus weevil.

Nematodes eat grubs and rid lawns and groves of other common insect pests, such as black vine weevils, beetles, leas, and cutworm, by releasing a bacterium that kills the pest. Nematodes are best applied when soil conditions are wet -- right after it rains, for instance -- with a soil temperature of at least 60 degrees F. They should be applied late in the day, or when it is cool and overcast, since exposure to ultraviolet light will kill them. Nematodes are non-toxic, and start becoming effective within 72 hours of being released into the soil.

THE ABCS OF NEMATODES: There are more than 15,000 known species of nematodes, and a single handful of garden soil may contain thousands of the creatures. They can lay more than 200,000 eggs in a single day. The nematode has an unusual skin that secretes a thick outer shell -- called a cuticle -- that is tough yet flexible, and is shed four times in the nematode's lifetime before it reaches adulthood. The head has a few tiny sense organs, and a mouth so food can be pulled into the throat and crushed. Because they have no discrete circulatory or respiratory system, they are vulnerable to environmental conditions. Many nematodes can exist in a state of suspended animation (called cryptobiosis) in order to survive extreme conditions, such as dryness, heat or cold, returning to life when the environment becomes more favorable.


Mark said...

Natural Pest Control: Tiny Pest-eating Insect Fights Fruit Flies

ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2007) — Farmers and vineyard owners have a new weapon in their pest management arsenal. A commonly used parasitoid, or parasitic insect that kills its host, has proven to be quite effective in the control of fruit flies in vineyards. These tiny pest-devouring insects are considered to be powerful "biocontrol agents" since they reduce the need for chemical pest management applications.

Jean Pierre Kapongo, Ph.D., an entomologist specializing in environmental health at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, recently published the results of a research study that will aid vintners and fruit farmers in their ability to produce healthier crops. According to Kapongo, vineyard owners and farmers can now control fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata) with Muscidifurax raptor, an insect currently used in the control of other types of pests.

The study investigated the use of Muscidifurax raptor to control fruit flies in vineyards. Until recently, fruit flies were usually controlled with chemical insecticides and selected natural enemies. Kapongo explained that these traditional control methods were not popular with farmers because of the adverse effects of chemicals and the unreliability of using living parasites.

"Now we have discovered a parasitoid that is easily produced and effective in controlling fruit flies.", Kapongo commented. He added that insectaries, where parasitic insects are commercially produced and sold, are ready to increase production of the insects in response to market demands from vineyard owners.

Kopongo noted that using the Muscidifurax raptor parasitoid to control flies benefits the environment and promotes agricultural sustainability because the method lessens the need for chemical pesticides.

Researchers believe that the study results will have additional application for controlling flies that threaten animals in confined environments such as poultry houses, dairies and horse stables.


Mark said...

Stealth Worms May Improve Insect Pest Control

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2005) — Nematodes comprise a worm family so large it literally covers the earth. They range in size from less than a micron in length to as much as 26 feet. Worldwide interest has begun to focus on microscopic nematodes that live with symbiotic bacteria.
See also:
Plants & Animals

* Pests and Parasites
* Soil Types
* Bacteria
* Nature
* Insects and Butterflies
* Extreme Survival


* Roundworm
* Larva
* Japanese beetle
* Biological pest control

"We study these nematodes - which are actually insect killers - not only to understand how diverse they are, but also to use them as biological control alternatives," says Patricia Stock, a nematomologist in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

"We want to see how they interact with the local insects. Using native biological control alternatives is more environmentally friendly than importing other pest control agents."

Known as entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN), the juvenile stage of these tiny worms travels with bacteria in its intestine that specifically kill certain insect species. Nematodes in the family Steinernematidae are associated with Xenorhabdus bacteria; those in the family Heterorhabditidae harbor Photorhabdus bacteria. Both types of EPN operate in similar ways.

In the soil or in encrypted habitats such as the pockets behind the bark of trees, the juvenile nematode waits for (or sometimes actively seeks) an unsuspecting host - a grub or a larva - to jump on it and penetrate it through the insect's natural openings - mouth, anus, spiracles. Or the nematode may enter the host directly by using a dorsal tooth.

Once inside the insect, the nematode vomits the pathogen, which kills the host within 24 to 48 hours and even digests its tissues, creating a perfect environment for the EPN to grow and multiply. One or more adult generations live entirely inside the decaying insect. The third stage infective juvenile is the only one that can live outside the insect host. Numbering about 150,000 strong or more, these juveniles exit the dead larva, carrying the bacteria, and look for other hosts to begin the cycle again. These juveniles also can survive dry conditions in soils for long periods of time before they infect more insects.

This naturally-occurring relationship between the nematodes and their mutualistic bacteria has existed for millennia. EPNs are found in terrestrial environments, including deserts, rainforests, grasslands and other ecological systems, offering a tremendous array of possibilities for study. Stock, who has been researching and interpreting the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for the past 15 years, has collected them in Arizona and from other locations worldwide.

In Costa Rica, for example, she is working with a collaborative team from four universities: the University of Vermont, University of Florida, University of Nebraska and University of Costa Rica, to learn where EPN communities are concentrated. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

"We're looking at all groups of nematodes in tropical rainforests," Stock says. "We sweep from the tops of the trees all the way to the ground, searching for nematodes that are potential insect pathogens. The misconception is that they are concentrated more in temperate zones, but this is not true. We're trying to unveil the mystery of nematode diversity in the tropic regions."

In Jordan, she and her colleagues are surveying insect-parasitic nematodes from soil-inhabiting insects and other habitats. The International Arid Lands Consortium, which includes participating institutions from the United States and the Middle East, is sponsoring the project. The study will offer new information and tools for developing non-chemical and non-toxic pest control programs in desert and semi-desert areas.

"These nematodes from Jordan have the potential to provide an environmentally safe alternative for controlling insect pests in agricultural and forestry systems, and also for controlling insect pests of human and veterinary importance," Stock says.

In each location the scientists start with biotic surveys to find out which nematodes and their corresponding bacteria meet local pest management goals. Then they gather samples from soil or other habitats for testing in the laboratory. The nematodes are accurately identified and analyzed using traditional morphology (structure and function) techniques and through molecular screening, including PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and DNA sequence analysis.

The researchers determine the nematode's temperature and moisture requirements, the insect hosts it colonizes and other characteristics. Lists of EPN evolutionary associations, called phylogenies, are assembled to show how the nematodes have evolved in relation to each other and how they are related in a geographic region to affect similar hosts.

"We always look at the insect and nematode interactions in the laboratory first, then go out and look at the crops and environment," Stock says. Some of her work involves comparing commercially available formulations of nematodes with custom- made applications of local nematodes.

In Arizona, Stock's team is collecting native species of EPN for pest control trials in citrus and iceberg lettuce, with funding from the Arizona Citrus Research Council and the Arizona Iceberg Lettuce Research Council. Ninety percent of the citrus orchards in the state have the parasitic citrus nematode.

"We're looking for options in pest control," Stock says. "We're using the entomopathogenic nematodes to antagonize the citrus nematode and other plant-parasitic nematodes and disrupt their life cycle and their infection into the citrus roots." This study is using commercially available nematode products along with isolates of nematodes collected from Arizona's sky island (mountain) regions. For the lettuce trials, native nematodes gathered from the soil in Yuma will be used.

"It's better to use native rather than exotic nematodes to preserve biodiversity," Stock says. It's possible that similar species of nematodes can be used singly or together in reducing pest insect populations.

Once the right nematodes are identified, they can be suspended in a gelatinous matrix, or dried in powder, then mixed in water and sprayed, broadcast or irrigated onto crops.

Large numbers of infectious juveniles are released to inundate and kill the pest insects quickly. Depending on climate conditions, this method works best on greenhouse ornamentals and vegetables, citrus, cranberry, turfgrass and other crops, rather than on high-acreage crops like cotton and soybeans.

"The beauty of this is that in the last 20 years nematodes have been formulated and commercialized," Stock says. "They are more expensive than a chemical product, but so far they have been demonstrated not to harm humans, livestock, beneficial insects or the environment. Nematodes usually have to be underground; their targets are soil insects."

The formulations keep improving as newer isolates of nematodes are found, and there is a lot of commercial interest in matching nematodes to pests, Stock says.

"Yet these nematodes are so powerful and pathogenic not in and of themselves, but because they live in symbiosis with bacteria," Stock concludes. "Both the bacteria and the nematode need each other to survive, making them not only good as biological agents, but also as model systems for understanding basic questions in biology." Given the number of nematodes that exist in the world, the possibilities for discovery are immense.

"The whole nematode phylum is estimated to have 500,000 to a million species. About 25,000 species have been identified so far," Stock says.


Mark said...

Environmentally-Friendly Controls For Peach Tree Pests

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2008) — Peach growers combat several insects that harm their crop, usually using chemical pesticides to do so. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Ga., are seeking environmentally friendly alternatives.

See also:
Plants & Animals

* Trees
* Insects and Butterflies
* Invasive Species

Earth & Climate

* Exotic Species
* Forest
* Water


* Water hyacinth
* Gypsy moth
* Biological pest control
* Roundworm

ARS entomologists David Shapiro-Ilan and Ted Cottrell, along with colleagues at the University of Florida and the University of Georgia, are evaluating two tiny, soil-dwelling nematodes as possible biological controls. They were used to thwart damage caused by the plum curculio weevil (Conotrachelus nenuphar), and two clear-winged moths, the peachtree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa), and the lesser peachtree borer (S. pictipes).

Shapiro-Ilan and Cottrell used the Steinernema riobrave nematode to defend against plum curculio larvae—producing a suppression rate of 78 to 100 percent.

For the peachtree borer, the researchers used another beneficial nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae. They found that a single field application of S. carpocapsae provided 88 percent suppression when applied to mature peachtree borer infestations in springtime. In a recent field trial, three applications of S. carpocapsae during the peachtree borer's fall egg-laying season completely suppressed all damage.

The scientists knew from lab studies that another peach pest, the lesser peachtree borer, is also highly susceptible to S. carpocapsae. But the researchers also realized that controlling the lesser peachtree borer would be more difficult because they attack trees aboveground—where the nematodes dry out and are less effective.

To deal with this problem, the researchers applied S. carpocapsae nematodes to tree wounds and then covered the wounds with moisture-holding bandages. In the first trial, 100 percent lesser peachtree borer mortality was attained in five days.


Mark said...

New Microbial Insecticide As Potent As Bt

ScienceDaily (June 30, 1998) — MADISON - By isolating and characterizing the biochemical properties of a new-found natural insecticide, scientists have taken an important step toward augmenting the sparse armamentarium of biological pest control.
See also:
Health & Medicine

* Pharmacology
* Infectious Diseases
* Staying Healthy

Plants & Animals

* Pests and Parasites
* Bacteria
* Agriculture and Food


* Organic farming methods
* Biological pest control
* Transgenic plants
* Pest (animal)

Writing today (Friday, June 26) in the journal Science, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison describe the properties of a family of insecticidal toxins produced by Photorhabdus luminescens, a bacterium that, in nature, infects and kills insects with the help of a tiny worm or nematode.

The toxins produced by Photorhabdus are active against a wide range of insects and are at least as potent as the insect-killing poisons produced by Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt, the reigning king of natural insecticides, according to Richard ffrench-Constant, a UW-Madison professor of toxicology in the department of entomology and the principal author of the new study.

"These new toxins are highly efficient killers of insects and they hold for the future the same promise first revealed in Bt more than 30 years ago," said ffrench-Constant.

Widely used for decades in the home, in forests and on farms, Bt is also a bacterium and is considered to be a safe, effective and environmentally benign weapon in the war on insect pests. Moreover, in the last few years the genes that govern the production of the Bt toxin have been moved from the bacterium into crop plants, which this year account for 20 percent of the U.S. cotton crop and nearly 10 million acres of transgenic corn, mostly in the Midwest.

As a form of biological pest control, Bt is the only bacterium from which widespread commercial insecticidal applications have been possible, giving it, in effect, a microbial monopoly on insect control worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But the development of new, naturally occurring insecticides has taken on new urgency in recent years as resistance to Bt has been reported in some populations of insect pests.

"Potential resistance to Bt is now a big issue," said ffrench-Constant. "Developing new biological agents for the control of insect pests is therefore essential."

Photorhabdus, ffrench-Constant suggests, may become an important alternative to Bt, or could be deployed in concert with Bt to prolong the effective life of both biological insecticides by delaying the evolution of resistant strains of insect pests. He described the deployment of Bt transgenic crops as the biggest experiment in natural selection for insecticide resistance since the introduction of chemical pesticides 50 years ago.

"What we have with Photorhabdus and other bacteria is a natural source, almost an infinite variety" of toxic molecules, says ffrench-Constant. "We can't afford to hook ourselves to a single bacterium or a single toxin."

In nature, Photorhabdus bacteria live inside the guts of nematodes that invade insects. Once inside an insect host, the bacteria are released from the nematode, kill the insect, and set up rounds of bacterial and nematode reproduction that turns the insect into a "protein soup," food for large numbers of nematodes.

Moreover, the insect corpses left behind glow in the dark as the microbe produces luminescent proteins in addition to potent insecticides.

Previous studies have shown that, in concentrated doses, the toxin can be used as a spray or fed directly to insects. The greatest potential application, however, lies in transferring the toxin-producing genes from the bacteria to crop plants.

The incentive to confer crop plants with their own insecticides is huge. Farmers now spend more than $575 million annually on chemical pesticides to protect corn alone.

In addition to ffrench-Constant, co-authors of the Wisconsin study include David Bowen, Thomas A. Rocheleau, Michael Blackburn, Olga Andreev, Elena Golubeva and Rohit Bhartia.


Mark said...

Demise Of Organophosphate Insecticides Spurs Development Of Environmentally Friendly Alternatives

ScienceDaily (Jan. 22, 2005) — Since World War II, organophosphate chemicals have provided an inexpensive, easy-to-use and effective method for controlling insect pests on the farm, in the home and garden, and even on household pets.

But these insecticides are also toxic to many nontarget species, including humans and wildlife, and their uses are being severely curtailed as the result of a major overhaul of federal pesticide regulations triggered by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. As of 2002, 42 of 49 organophosphate products that were registered in 1996 had been either cancelled or their uses significantly curtailed.

Fortunately, the demise of organophosphate insecticides -- including well-known products like diazinon, chlorpyrifos and malathion -- has resulted in a trend toward less-toxic and more environmentally friendly insect control on California farms. This includes innovative and technologically advanced methods such as the use of pheromones to disrupt insect mating, "biological control" of nonnative pest insects using their natural enemies, and applications of less-toxic and more insect-specific alternative pesticides.

In a special 48-page issue of the University of California's (UC) peer-reviewed California Agriculture journal (January-March 2005), scientists explore the range of alternatives to organophosphates currently available and look to the future. The current issue of California Agriculture, including PDF versions of all peer-reviewed research articles, can be viewed in full online at:

One classic example of biological control -- using natural enemies to keep insect pests in check -- is the introduction of the vedalia beetle in 1889 (sic) to control cottony cushion scale, which was a major citrus pest at that time. The vedalia beetle has been so successful in controlling cottony cushion scale that it is now virtually taken for granted by growers.

The same is true of many other successful biological control agents. "Growers are naturally concerned with pests that are causing crop damage, and are often unaware of those pests that are present in the crop system but held in check by the continued success of introduced biological control agents," write Nicholas Mills and Kent Daane, co-directors of the Center for Biological Control at UC Berkeley.

The special issue of California Agriculture discusses numerous successful alternatives to organophosphates, including:

* The use of pheromones -- chemicals secreted by insects for communication -- to disrupt insect mating and thereby reduce populations. Important successes to date include the control of codling moth in pome fruit, oriental fruit moth in peaches and nectarines, tomato pinworm in vegetables, pink bollworm in cotton and omnivorous leafroller in vineyards.

* Cultural controls that make the crop less palatable to pest insects, such as improved field sanitation, targeted planting dates, crop rotations, and improved irrigation and fertilization schedules. Successful examples include reducing dust in orchards to prevent the buildup of spider mites, and the cleanup of unharvested grapes to limit overwintering pests.

* Less toxic, more pest-specific alternative insecticides, such as pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, insect growth regulators and other novel chemistries. While these products also have drawbacks -- such as toxicity to nontarget organisms, or the development of pest resistance or secondary pest outbreaks -- they are significantly less toxic than organophosphates.

The special issue of California Agriculture also explores novel strategies such as microorganisms (including widely used Bacillus thuringiensis), beneficial nematodes, petroleum oils and particle films, genetically modified plants, and "natural" products well known to organic growers (including sulfur, pyrethrum, and neem oil). These occupy a small but important niche in insect control for California agriculture.

"The elimination of the uses of many broad-spectrum pesticides has resulted in the development and registration of numerous reduced-risk products, as well as alternative pest- control strategies," said Robert Van Steenwyk, UC Berkeley entomologist with and co-chair of the special California Agriculture issue. "University researchers have been at the vanguard of this change, and in providing cost-effective new methods and technologies that growers can use."


Mark said...

Research into terpenes has found that many of them possess qualities that make them ideal active ingredients as part of natural agricultural pesticides.


Mark said...

Herbs 'can be natural pesticides'

Common herbs and spices could help protect crops against pests

Common herbs and spices show promise as an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional pesticides, scientists have told a major US conference.

They have spent a decade researching the insecticidal properties of rosemary, thyme, clove and mint.

They could become a key weapon against insect pests in organic agriculture, the researchers say, as the industry attempts to satisfy demand.

The "plant essential oils" have a broad range of action against bugs.

Some kill them outright while others repel them.

Details were presented at the Fall Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington DC.

These new pesticides are generally a mixture of tiny amounts of two to four different herbs diluted in water.

The research was led by Dr Murray Isman, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Some spice-based commercial products now being used by farmers have already shown success in protecting organic strawberry, spinach, and tomato crops against destructive aphids and mites, Dr Isman explained.

"These products expand the limited arsenal of organic growers to combat pests," he said.

"They're still only a small piece of the insecticide market, but they're growing and gaining momentum."

Unlike conventional pesticides, these "killer spices" do not require more limited approval from regulatory bodies and are readily available.

An additional advantage is that insects are less likely to evolve resistance - the ability to shrug off once-effective toxins - Isman says. They're also safer for farm workers, who are at high risk for pesticide exposure, he notes.

But the herb-based pesticides also have shortcomings.

Since the essential oils made from these herbs tend to evaporate quickly and degrade rapidly in sunlight, farmers need to apply them to crops more frequently than conventional pesticides.

Some last only a few hours, compared to days or even [deadly] months for conventional (sic, undirectedly toxic) pesticides.

As they are also generally less potent than conventional pesticides, they must be applied in higher concentrations to achieve acceptable levels of pest control, Dr Isman said. [If you have pest difficulties, you have ecological balance difficulties. That is fixed then the pests are fixed.]

Researchers are now seeking ways of making the novel pesticides longer-lasting and more potent, he added.

"They're not a panacea for pest control," Dr Isman explained.


"It comes down to what's good for the environment and what's good for human health."


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