Thursday, June 24, 2010

Changing Agriculture

Agriculture is in constant change as farmers develop new techniques for more effectively growing plants in changing environmental conditions or expanded ranges. One of the great changes in food production in recent years has been the movement away from mechanical tillage of crops to the use of chemical herbicides for the control of competing weeds. Mechanical tillage usually involved cultivating the centers of rows of crops to remove weeds and loosen the soil for absorption of rain water. Recent years have found an increasing dependence upon a single herbicide, Glyphosate, for controlling weeds. Glyphosate, originally sold under the name Roundup, is applied to growing crops of soybeans, cotton, corn, sorghum, canola, or alfalfa that have been genetically modified to tolerate the herbicide. These crops, called Roundup Ready, are not damaged by the herbicide sprayed across the entire field to control weeds. The use of Glyphosate has many advantages for the grower including lessening the need for mechanical tillage which is quite costly in equipment, labor, and fuel. Unfortunately, problems arise with the use of Glyphosate, as certain weed plants develop resistance to the herbicide. Roundup-resistant Palmer pigweed, growing to 10 foot heights, is forcing some Arkansas Delta farmers to return to cultivation of crops to control this hearty weed. Today’s photo shows a Delta farmer cultivating soybeans. Soybeans are important honey bee forage plants. Soybeans, members of the legume family, produce considerable amounts of nectar, from which the bees make mild and flavorful honey.

Just as row-crop farmers have to adjust their farming practices to changing conditions, bee farmers must adjust to changes in the environment of the bee hive. The continued introduction of honey bee pests and pathogens has led many beekeepers to move toward chemical-free techniques to prevent the pests from developing resistance to chemical treatments. Beekeepers develop Integrated Pest Management plans to help control parasitic mites, small hive beetles, a new strain of Nosema disease, and other hive problems while lessening the use of chemicals in the hive.

No comments:

Post a Comment