Evolution strikes back

Ford Denison drew attention to this astonishing photograph of giant ragweed1 lording it over a crop of harvest-ready maize.

Weed-resistant giant ragweed Ambrosia trifida

Nothing unusual about that — being a giant anything gives you a licence to lord it over lowlier things. The point, of course, is that the corn crop is Round-up ready and so, of course, is the weed. More facts and figures at The International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds.

Ford also pointed to an interesting discussion on the difficulties of defining anything as slippery as farming philosophy by talking about what is and isn’t permitted.

To give the consumer a clear, black and white choice, organic marketing strategy offers a black and white world where all human-made pesticides and fertilizers, and all genetically modified crops are bad, regardless of their value to farmers or to sustainability. Even limited use is prohibited because it would blur the marketing lines.

Amen. Although let’s not forget that good old-fashioned soft soap is as human-made as anything. In the old days, I always advised beginning allotmenteers to blitz an unkempt plot with glyphosate and then get as holy as you like about being organic. Nothing is more soul-destroying than discovering couch grass or ground elder infesting the asparagus and strawberry beds. Of course, today, it might take more than glyphosate.

  1. And you gotta love that binomial: Ambrosia trifida. []

One Reply to “Evolution strikes back”

  1. I do wish that we could have better labels (or bar codes to web pages with more info). If it’s important that consumers know more about their food to make ethical choices, then it’s important they get more balanced information and not depend on restricted (and sometimes illogical) method-labels. It wasn’t that long ago you could use rotenone on organic crops! And farmers who correctly use IPM and other good practices (but sometimes use synthetic pesticides) get lumped in with farmers who don’t bother to change methods until they see resistance. That’s unfairly externalizes costs that only some farmers actually pay thru good management.

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