Can we do without chemical pesticides?

Published in Poisons Beware

Are there alternatives to using chemical pesticides? Yes, of course.

Butterfly with cineraria Butterfly with cineraria Photo: Vivian Grisogono

In agriculture, chemical pesticides can be supplanted in various ways by more natural means of controlling unwanted plants, plant illnesses and insects. There are various methods for insect control, including one patented in 2006 which uses fungi to deflect insects from damaging crops (see the video below by Paul Stamets). Hvar has a wealth of plants which can be made into preparations used for organic agriculture. Not forgetting that the traditional method of controlling weeds in the vineyards was to plant beans in between the vines. So instead of grapes laced with hazardous herbicides, the producer finished up with two clean healthy crops. Sheep have always done a good job in keeping olive groves free of weeds. Organic agriculture does involve detailed manual work as well as an understanding of how plants grow and how they interact with their environment. The organic methods are ultimately much cheaper than chemicals.

Strimming for weed control. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

When I took on my own fields some ten years ago, the few trees - four olives, two figs, one sorry-looking almond - were well smothered among uncontrolled wild growth (ok weeds to most people) dating back several years. The fields were strimmed and rotavated twice to restore some order. Hand-weeding and strimming have kept unwanted growth at bay ever since. I have never used pesticides or artificial fertilizer. A couple of areas are left 'wild'. What are the benefits? I can safely eat whatever herbs spring up from the ground, as well as the fruits of the trees. I have rare joy when my favourite wild plants appear, whether aromatic herbs, fennel, tragopogons or my single solitary orchid.

Tragopogon, a favourite wild flower. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

There is also wildlife, with pheasants, fascinating insects and traces of other interesting creatures. My trees produce satisfying results, perfect for my needs. In 2016, my olives produced a fine 15% yield, my best yet.

Organic farming, weed control using sheeting. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Commercial farmers usually argue that chemical pesticides save them time. That's debatable. Chemical pesticides do not work, except in the short-term. In any case, there is a constant and ever-growing demand for organic produce, as consumers become more aware of its health benefits. Croatia's organic farming sector is pitifully small, but growing steadily, with eager customers ready to buy! Tourists on Hvar expect to find fresh organic produce. Their disappointment is damaging, not least financially. From every point of view, it is worth the farmers' while to go organic.

As for mosquitoes, are there better ways of dealing with them than blanket spraying of insecticides? Naturally! It's not so long ago that there were no pesky tiger mosquitoes, but plenty of bats, who will eat literally hundreds of mosquitoes given half a chance. Recreating the conditions for bats and other natural mosquito predators to thrive would be a major advance.



© Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon) 2016


You are here: Home poisons be aware Can we do without chemical pesticides?

Eco Environment News feeds

  • A thirsty wolf, an albatross chick and a family of capybaras are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

    Continue reading...

  • Women’s movement demand an end to unrestricted oil drilling and mining on indigenous lands and action on violence against land defenders in first meeting with president Lenin Moreno

    Amazon indigenous women leaders have told Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno to limit oil drilling and mining in their territories and combat the sexual violence and death threats they claim accompany the industries.

    The delegation of women dressed in traditional tunics and with intricately painted faces were granted a meeting with Moreno after nearly 100 of them camped in Quito’s central plaza in front of the Carondelet government palace for five days, earlier this month.

    Continue reading...

  • Unsustainable exploitation of the natural world threatens food and water security of billions of people, major UN-backed biodiversity study reveals

    Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people, according to the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade.

    Such is the rate of decline that the risks posed by biodiversity loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change, noted the authors of the UN-backed report, which was released in Medellin, Colombia on Friday.

    Continue reading...

  • Prof Thomas Hildebrandt has been collecting the samples with colleagues for about 15 years

    For over 20 years, Thomas Hildebrandt has harboured a dream: to save the northern white rhinoceros, the world’s rarest large mammal.

    On Monday the scientist received the devastating news that Sudan, the last male of the species, had been put down in his northern Kenyan home, aged 45. Hildebrandt’s office is full of pictures of him, on which he points out the species’ unique pearl-like skin, furry ears, huge feet for tackling swamps, and horns capable of lifting two tons.

    Continue reading...

  • Readers share their plans and inspirational messages for others planning to get involved in Earth Hour, a major electricity switch off on 24 March

    For one hour every March since 2007, darkness has swept the globe as grassroots environmentalists, schools, offices and those responsible for some of the world’s most iconic landmarks switch off lights in a symbolic call for more action on climate change.

    This year, the WWF, which manages the initiative, hopes to build on its growing success and says millions of actions will be taken in at least 180 countries and territories. A record 187 countries took part in the event’s record breaking 10th year.

    Continue reading...

  • EU’s subsidy system, that benefits big farming rather than sustainability, needs to change to prevent ongoing collapse in birds and insect numbers, warn green groups

    Europe’s crisis of collapsing bird and insect numbers will worsen further over the next decade because the EU is in a “state of denial” over destructive farming practices, environmental groups are warning.

    Continue reading...

  • Rescue operation under way to save 15 beached whales in Hamelin Bay near Augusta on state’s south-west coast

    One hundred and thirty-five whales have died after being washed ashore in Western Australia.

    A rescue operation began on Friday morning in Hamelin Bay, on the state’s south-western tip, to save the remaining 15, with volunteers and vets trying to keep the surviving short-finned pilot whales alive before deciding when to herd them out to sea.

    Continue reading...

  • Formal recognition would help protect those who increasingly risk their lives to defend the land, water, forests and wildlife, says the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment

    It is time for the United Nations to formally recognise the right to a healthy environment, according to the world body’s chief investigator of murders, beatings and intimidation of environmental defenders.

    John Knox, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said the momentum for such a move – which would significantly raise the global prominence of the issue – was growing along with an awareness of the heavy toll being paid by those fighting against deforestation, pollution, land grabs and poaching.

    Continue reading...

  • Two more defenders in Latin America have lost their lives challenging their country’s economic growth model which prizes profit at all cost

    As the Guardian and Global Witness revealed that almost four environmental defenders were murdered every week in 2017, War on Want learned of two more killings through our Latin American partner organisations.

    On 24 January, Márcio “Marcinho” Matos, involved in the fight for rights of landless peasants in Bahia in north-east Brazil, was shot in front of his son. Three days later, Temístocles “don Temis” Machado, a prominent figure in the struggle of Afro-Colombian communities across the Colombian Pacific, was murdered in his home in the Isla de Paz community.

    Continue reading...

  • This year, in collaboration with Global Witness, the Guardian aims to record the deaths of all people killed while protecting land or natural resources. At the current rate, about four defenders will die this week somewhere on the planet

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds