The Damaging Effects of ‘Cides
January 2, 2023
Many farmers have become dependent on the ‘cides: herbicides, insecticides, bactericides, and fungicides. While these ‘cides may have their place, regenerative farmers want to understand the foundational reasons why these weeds, insects, and diseases appear in the first place.
William Albrecht states that “Insects are nature’s garbage collectors and diseases are her cleanup crew”. In other words, insects and diseases do not occur by chance; they only show up when plants aren’t healthy. It’s really that simple. Improve plant health by balancing nutrition, and disease and insect pressure will decrease.
What happens when insects or diseases appear? Too often, chemicals are applied. This is being reconsidered by many in agriculture, because of the damaging effects.
Insecticides suppress insects: in addition to killing insect pests, these insecticides have the potential to kill bees and other beneficial insects, which seriously weakens your farm ecosystem. According to Jonathan Lundgren, there are 1700 beneficial insects for every insect pest. A 1700:1 ratio! Amazing! Many of these beneficial insects will keep insect pests at a manageable level. Add proper nutrient management, and you have a win.
Bactericides suppress bacteria. However, the problem is that too often they don’t differentiate between the good and bad bacteria. The bad bacteria (disease) might be suppressed, but so are the good beneficial bacteria, which means that the plant no longer has good defense mechanisms. Soil bacteria can also weaken, which means that fewer nutrients are now available to plants. When that happens, we need MORE bactericides.
A similar thing happens with fungicides. Fungicides suppress fungi, but again, not differentiating between the good and the bad, which means less mycorrhizal fungi in soil. Mycorrhizal fungi attach to plant roots to promote better nutrient uptake. Again: less nutrients; more disease.
Let’s also consider Glyphosate, a common weed-killer. Glyphosate does not kill plants directly like you may think. Instead, it ties up the trace minerals in the plant, then the plant dies from a disease. The problem is that this tying-up does not occur only 1 week, or two, but many years. In fact, the half-life of Glyphosate is expected to be about 50 years, active all the time to some degree. These means that trace minerals can be tied up and not released properly to plants, and presto, diseases thrive. Trace mineral balance is of utmost importance for plant health.
So before you apply herbicides, insecticides, bactericides, or fungicides, consider this message. Ask yourself if there’s a better way. Connect with a farmer or friend who is successfully doing with less. And remember to give yourself transition time; the problem wasn’t created in one day, neither will it be corrected in one day.
The key is to start in that direction. Focus on improvement and the true outcome that you desire.
There’s a saying, “It is impossible to have a positive outcome out of a negative focus.” It’s true in relationships; it’s true in agriculture. When you enter your fields, what is your intention? Are you seeking to kill or are you seeking to enhance?
And neither do we have all the answers. In fact, we have very little; for Nature is complex, but we take comfort that it was designed to work. Let’s use what we know. The revolution has already begun.