Putting Pests in Their Place

By Dr. Richard Freeman, aka Dr. Rick 

By now everybody knows that pests and pesticides are a big problem in the Cannabis industry.  With a grow house full of nitrogen-rich, moist pot plants, the little critters are going to come, by hook or by crook.  And, what’s a farmer to do? The answer depends upon the farmer and the alternatives that are available.

Fortunately, alternative farming systems do exist.  One of these systems is ecological agriculture, a synthesis of practical farming and scientific research that applies ecological patterns to agriculture, eliminating the expensive and harmful chemical addictions that commonly degrade modern farming.

Professor Miguel Altieri, UC Berkeley, represents what ecological agriculture is all about. On one hand, Dr. Altieri and his colleagues have created a lucid, science-based methodology for designing farms based on ecological patterns.  On the other, he has helped apply these methodologies to a range of endeavors, from assisting the global campesino movement in its effort to thrive in a tough environment to helping California grape growers avoid pesticide use.

A prolific researcher and writer, Altieri has written hundreds of books and articles on ecological agriculture, the methodology he’s helped create.  Eco ag is an ingenious approach to harnessing the full complexity of ecology with easy-to-implement practices.  The general goals are simple: build biodiversity and build soil organic matter.  The pay-offs are soil fertility, a natural pest management system, and in general, resilient and sustainable farms.

To build organic matter into the soil, the farmer can choose any combination of beneficial practices.  Adding carbon sources like compost and biochar, avoiding pesticide damage, and carefully choosing diverse plant species known to stimulate soil life are common Eco Ag tactics.

Planting diverse species also supports the goal of boosting biodiversity, and in addition to soil fertility, one of biodiversity’s perks is pest management.  A variety of plants confuses and distracts pests by exuding and emitting a diverse range of volatile plant oils that attract or repel them.  Many of these plants support pest predators, parasitoids and parasites by providing shelter, moisture, and food (nectar, pollen and pests).  The most commonly used tactic for building biodiversity is planting polyculture buffers, corridors, strips and blocks.  Buffers can offer crops protection from wind-borne and migrating pests, while corridors can lead beneficial critters to the target crop or to strips and/or blocks within the crop field.  In these systems, pest species take a small and balanced proportional position among a complex, diverse and abundant ecology, and they play their proper role as food for our hungry beneficials.  Eco Agriculture put pests in their place.

These simple practices are applicable to a wide range of farming scenarios, as Dr. Altieri has demonstrated.  Through his work with Food First! and other organizations, he has helped the global campesino movement adopt and promote ecological agriculture in several developing countries; through the Campesino-to-Campesino project, thousands of farmers are benefitting from and promoting ecological agriculture while forming networks for education and idea-exchange, plant genetics exchange and marketing.  Through his work on California vineyards, Dr. Altieri has helped grape growers replace pesticide use and conserve water with ecological practices in a big-money industry.  These growers are recovering from serious losses and systematic problems caused by conventional practices, while vastly improving the quality of their produce.

Vineyards depend much on the “terroir” of the grapes they produce – the deep, rich taste bestowed by the very land itself.  This revered relationship between ecology and quality is also common to our old friend Cannabis sativaa crop perfectly suited to ecological agriculture.  As the industry expands with the end of prohibition and as the herb emerges as a fungible commodity, margins are shrinking.  As margins shrink, farm resilience and sustainability are taking on more importance.  Fortunately, as these ecological systems mature and take root, their benefits increase, while conventional inputs (and money) disperse into the barren ecosystems they create.  For those looking to farm Cannabis into the future, Professor Altieri has charted the path.

Sponsor Wants Marijuana Cultivation Bill To Allow Fewer Plants

MISSOURI:  The sponsor of an ordinance to decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana plants has asked the Columbia City Council to again table the proposal after she pared back how many plants are permissible.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe is asking the council on Monday night to table the bill that would relax the city’s municipal marijuana laws until its Oct. 20 meeting. Hoppe said she requested the ordinance be tabled because Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas plans to be absent from Monday’s meeting and to give the city’s Law Department more time to review the changes.

Before the latest amendments, the bill would have altered city law so that someone caught by Columbia police cultivating up to six plants is subject to a $250 fine. Under the proposal, people deemed as “seriously ill” could have had six plants without facing any penalty. City ordinance defines “seriously ill” patients as those with multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, migraine headaches, arthritis, chronic severe pain or any illness a physician says is treatable with marijuana.

Hoppe’s amendments change the number of plants to two and add a provision that the plants must be kept indoors in a locked enclosure that children can’t get to. She said the amendments were meant to allay concerns about a bill she said can keep undeserving people out of legal trouble.

 

Morocco's Marijuana Farms May Become Legal

MOROCCO — Mustapha Tahiri, a cannabis farmer in northern Morocco, looks forward to the day he can sell his crop without worrying about jail. His country’s legislators may soon grant his wish. “I’d be a lot happier if the state leaves us alone,” says Tahiri, a father of seven whose home in the village of Beni Gmil was raided by government forces last year. [Read more…]