Earlier settlers plowed under the natural tall grasses that covered the plains and planted crops they had planted in the wetter East. When the drought came, the crops failed, the ground was uncovered and the incessant winds produced the dust storms.
WW1 – British Victory Garden Explosion and WWII Americans…
Crops compete with 80,000 plant diseases, 30,000 weed species, 10,000 insects and 3,000 worms
Animal production depended on pest management methods that are basically the same today as they were then. Producers sprayed chemical directly on their animals to protect them from external parasites.
Spraying Apples 1940’s
Spraying apples 1940s
Experimental Plot Spraying
Fertilizer consumption has increased exponentially since the 1950s, so much so that 50% of all commercial fertilizer ever produced has been applied since 1984.
WestFertlizer Company Explosion – April 17, 2013 ammonia nitrate caused the explosion in West, Texas – 15 people died and over 160 injured
Week 5 - Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
Top 10 Reasons
WHY DIY COMPOST
IS SO MUCH BETTER
beneficial microbes to get
it on instead of squashing
their hopes and dreams.
Hello three-eyed fish!
surface runoff while
are highly soluble,
You can’t trust bagged soil
from a billionaire
(Miracle-Gro = O.M. Scott = Roundup = Monsanto)
Let’s inject our
food with more
Synthetic fertilizer is
like a one night stand!
It feeds off short-
growth and then
leaves your plants
feeling used and
Instead of contaminating
the soil, compost actually
neutralizes toxins such as
and heavy metals.
“Caution! You should avoid
contact with skin or eyes
when using Miracle-Gro.”
Guess what folks?
Your pets, kids, and Uncle
Rico can play in the
compost all they want to.
plant health and
fertilizers burn plant
roots leaving them
vulnerable to pest
Too Much isn’t Always a
Why do we need
the first place?
It’s silly to pay for soil
when making your own
compost is free!
“wet” or “green”
Provides protein to the microorganisms
Coffee & Tea
Spent Houseplants, Garden Cuttings,
Hair (Dog & Human)
And yes, Human Urine…
* non-diseased and bug free plants
“dry” or “brown”
Energy/food to the microorganisms
Hay and Straw
Sawdust / Woodchips
Napkins & paper towels
Waxed paper - milk cartons
Newspaper & Paperboard (shredded)
Corn Cobs (takes awhile to compost)
Pine Needles (too much slows down pile)
Beverages – flat soft drinks (mix it in
so sugar doesn’t attract flies)
Wood Ashes (sprinkle small amounts)
Gray Water without detergent or
Use water from washing veggies
Catch water running to heat up shower
Carbon : Nitrogen
Nitrogen Volumes Control Compost Temperature
LOW Nitrogen = pile will NOt HEAT up.
HIGH Nitrogen = the compost may become
TOO HOT, killing the compost microorganisms,
or it may go anaerobic, resulting in a foul-smelling mess.
Goal should be
Too Much Carbon:
When C:N > than 30
•Decomposition is Slow
•Nitrogen is used up
•To complete decomposition process - MO’s will
draw from stored N and soil N to make use of
•This is “robbing” the soil of N and delays
availability of N as a fertilizer for plants
Too Much Nitrogen:
When C:N < than 30
•MO’s make full use of available C
•Get rid of excess N as ammonia gas
•Unhealthy release of ammonia into atmosphere –
creates a terrible smell
•Produces a loss of N from the compost pile
•Keep to a minimum if at all
1920s – over plowed, over planted, and over grazed
1930s – drought, heat, and wind and low agricultural prices
Cause – drought and unwise farming practices!
By 1934 – 100 million acres of farmland lost all or most of
top soil to winds and drought
Soil conservation legislation – gov’t paid farmer to let land
POLICY POLICE - Encouraged farmers to plant certain
crops, rotate, renew soil nutrients, prevent erosion…
Hard times in the Great Plains – drought and depression
Same time – better technology forced farmers to buy:
New hybrid seeds
Chemicals – synthetic pesticides
Farms got bigger = fewer farmers
on the same amount of land
Trend has continue until today!
War ended the Great Depression – Federal spending grew
Greater demand for farm products
Farmers went off to war – who’s going to grow our food?
Brought an end to the horse-drawn era of farming
End of 1930’s drought –
boom of irrigation systems
New technology –
more work in fewer hours
Government rationed sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs,
coffee, meat and canned goods
Labor and transportation shortages –
difficult to move fruits and vegetables
to local markets
Government encouraged citizens to
plant “Victory Gardens”
Also known as “war gardens,” “food
gardens for defense”
Formation of first neighborhood
20 million Americans built home gardens in backyards,
empty lots and city rooftops
Similar to movement today – new hip trend!
“Can for the Troops!” in 1943 – 315,000 pressure cookers
USDA estimates the result of this movement =
20 million gardens
9-10 million tons of vegetables and fruit
Equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables
WWII ended, so did gov’t promotion of victory gardens!
Many people did not plant a garden in 1946
End of war in 1945 – War
industries needed to find
civilian use for war technologies
Postwar known as the “dawning
of the chemical age in pesticides”
DDT – from grasshoppers to
DDT allowed chemists to create
over 10,000 new chemicals
Lead to organochloride and
organophosphates of today
Today, US farmer spends over
$11 billion on all pesticides –
58% herbicides, 28%
insecticides, and 8%
Herbicide 2,4-D known as
“wonder drug” for eradicating
Surplus of pilots from the war
joined aerial spraying co.
What is generally
UNSEEN PATTERNS & TRENDS
What’s been happening?
What are the trends?
What changes have occurred?
What influences the above patterns?
What assumptions do people have about the above?
Great Book! – Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook
No Seasonality – tomatoes anytime you want em’
Wrong Climate – Grown in Florida!
Disease, nematodes, weeds...
Excess Synthetic Fertilizers
Sterilized with Chlorine
Picked from the vine GREEN
Gassed with ethylene to ripen
Low Wages, Slavery, & Poison
1). PROBLEM = Wrong Climate – Grown in Florida!
Never Winter – organisms and insects do not die from
frosts, blizzards, or cold snaps like rest of US
Humidity feeds blights, wilts, spots, and molds
Tomato already sensitive to these issues
Sandy soil means no water retention and no nutrients
Pests, fungi, nematodes, weeds... THRIVE!
2). SOLUTION = Fumigation with methyl bromide, 31!
Want to kill EVERYTHING in the soil
Methyl Bromide – one of the most toxic chemicals
PAN’s “Bad Actor”
Can kill humans after brief exposure in small
Sub lethal doses – disruptions in estrogen production,
sterility, birth defects…
Banned from most crops – still used on strawberries,
eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes
Injected into newly formed beds and sealed with
“Soil chemotherapy” – makes soil lifeless
SOLUTION = Now the Herbicides
More than 100 chemicals at Florida farmer’s hands
Chemical Names – Arrow, Aim, Touchdown, Cobra,
Firestorm, GoalTender, and Prowl
Six are PAN’s “Bad Actors”
SOLUTION = Finally the Fungicides
Tomatoes notoriously vulnerable to fungal attack in FL
Keep leaves green and spotless with 31 fungicides
Eleven are PAN’s “Bad Actors”
An acre of FL tomatoes gets hit 5X as much as an acre of
EWG found 54% of samples contained detectable levels
3). CONSEQUENCE = Excess Synthetic Fertilizers!
Now that you’ve killed all the BAD and GOOD
microorganisms in the soil, must add nutrients
Creates excess SALTS!
TEMPORARY boost to soil productivity!
Inability of soil to retain all the fertilizer applied!
Estimated that ½ of every metric ton of fertilizer applied
to fields never makes it into plant tissue – evaporates or
washes into local waterways
Early crop nutrition - fallowing, manures, cover crops…
1840s –guano (dried sea bird manure) & rock phosphate
Early 1900s – dependence on Nitrogen (=N) from legumes
Synthetic Fertilizers - concentrated and convenient to use
Scientific calculations to meet
individual crop req. instead of
unbalanced ratio of nutrients
from animal manures
Got the P & K from NPK
(not just nitrogen)
USDA recommended mix of
fertilizers at home –
more control for farmer
WWI - N was a prime component of TNT
Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch – synthesis of ammonia
1921 – first NH3-based fertilizers in US (inorganic/
By 1920s – inorganic N was half the price of organic N
Natural gas – key component of NH3
Petroleum and gas producers – major fertilizer producers
WWII - US Gov’t built 10 new plants to produce ammonia
for munitions and N for bombs (730,000 tons NH3 /yr.)
After the war, the surplus was used for fertilizing crops
Production of nitric acid, the primary feedstock for
synthetic commercial fertilizer, is also a source of
Nitrous Oxide - a greenhouse gas 310 times more
potent than carbon dioxide
Accounted for 15.9
Tg CO2E in 2005
of 2.9 million vehicles.
“Better Safe than Sorry” Attitude
Surplus nutrients stimulate plant growth
Algae blooms – consumes all O2 available in the water
and cause other plants and animals to suffocate
Fertilizer runoff created “dead zone” 7,000 square
miles in Gulf of Mexico
UN reported 150 dead zones in world’s oceans in 2007
Bayer – world’s largest agrochemical co. / 7th largest
Syngenta – 2nd largest agrochemical / 3rd largest seed
Monsanto – world’s largest seed co. / 5th largest
DuPont – 2nd largest seed / 6th largest agrochemical