Wednesday, February 11, 2009
In traditional and modern farming, pesticides and herbicides or manual weeding are a given. This is fighting life with death, and in a real world farm, practically the definition of a Sisyphean struggle.
In a conventional farm, the soil is tilled and fertilized, and between the plants and crop rows, left bare! It is only inevitable that whatever seeds that fall on this ground will germinate and grow vigorously. Inevitably, these will be seeds of non-crop plants. Pulling out weeds by the root only creates habitats for more weeds.
Insect infestations are also invited due to the monoculture on most farms - insects proliferate rapidly in the presence of the abundant food supply, and the variety of natural predators is also low due to the artificially non-diverse ecosystem. The use of insecticides kills all insects and spiders, creating an ecological vacuum where insect population explosion down the line in inevitable.
These toxic chemicals inevitably enter the food supply, persisting and accumulating in the human body over time. And of course, the monetary, energy, and labor costs of these chemicals are enormous.
Actively increasing the plant biodiversity on the farm with a large variety and types of plants, including nitrogen fixing ground cover, takes care of both of these problems. With a beneficial cover crop, the weeds are naturally out-competed, and the few that may to take hold serve to increase biodiversity. It is important to remember that weeds occupy completely different ecological niches from crops, and so don't usually compete with them for resources. Due to the diversity of plants and absence of poisonous chemicals, frogs, lizards, spiders, etc. thrive, and naturally control the insect population.
Thus, expensive, harmful, and labor intensive interventions are not necessary for controlling pests, and life can be controlled with life far more easily. In his own words, here is Fukuoka explaining why pesticides and weeding are unnecessary.