Saturday, 26 December 2020

Not Fighting Nature, Working with Nature...Loving Weeds

I would like to share with you part of an article that sums up succinctly how we in our arrogance  have sought to conquer nature, resulting in a deterioration of our ecosystem and which invariably affects our health. Steve Kenyon is a well known cattle farmer who works with nature achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. His recent article "Building Biology" in Canadian Cattleman magazine was particularly to the point, I have extracted his points on weed management as it encompasses most of what we need to know about the soil ecosystem.

Spraying weeds kills weeds....what else does it do?

It also kills legumes, so we do not get free nitrogen from the bacteria associated with the legume.

Without the legume the bacteria associated with the legume die.

Now we have nitrogen-deficient plants and production drops.

Nitrogen fertiliser is therefore added to get more production.

Nitrogen fertilizer changes soil pH affecting more soil organisms including mycorrhiza fungi which bring needed nutrients to the plant, so the plant has other nutritional deficiencies.

Plants will show drought stress sooner because the fungi transport water to the plants.

Without the necessary nutrients, plants become weak and are unable to fight pests and disease.

Now a pesticide may be needed to manage pests and disease.

While killing the pest there may also be devastation of beneficial insects such as bees, dung beetles, dragonflies and spiders.

Pastures like the fields my cattle graze are a polyculture containing many types of grasses, legumes, forbs and so called weeds as opposed to the monoculture of soy, corn and grain fields. We have all heard about the declining insect populations which are directly or indirectly killed by crop management techniques which in turn has decreased the number of birds today... a sick modern interpretation of the canary in a coalmine! Pasture lands maintained in a vegetative state by proper cattle management are islands of refuge compared to the surrounding cropland deserts.

The symbiotic relationship of cattle and grass needs to be maintained for preservation of beneficial ecosystems. The issue of methane, cattle and soil carbon sequestration is too big a topic for this blog article, I will write about this later.