my view of the natural world

Posts tagged “weeds

First of the season

This week I picked the first zucchini of the summer from my garden.  Always a very satisfying thing to do, harvesting one’s own food especially when it’s been grown without artificial fertilisers and other poisons.

While the area I live in hasn’t been subjected to the floods affecting a great deal of Australia, there has been more rain falling than is usual for summer.  This results in germination of weeds in paddocks and farm chemical supply places must be rubbing their hands together with glee, as farmers are out in force spraying very toxic chemicals on their paddocks.  Of course, the chemicals don’t all go just on the paddocks but drift with the wind.  The volatile chemicals saturate the air at times even when there’s no local paddocks being sprayed.  I’ve been told by one farmer that he’s not had a crop off his home grape vine in 3-4 years, because of the chemicals in the air affecting the growth.

It was a beautiful world.  Once upon a time.


GMO Crops

Recently the unelected potentates of the EU Commission in Brussels have sought to override what has repeatedly been shown to be the overwhelming opposition of the European Union population to the spread of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in EU agriculture. EU Commission President now has a Maltese accountant as health and enviromnent Commissioner to rubber stamp the adoption of GMO. The former EU Environment Commissioner from Greece was a ferocious GMO opponent. As well, the Chinese government has indicated it may approve a variety of GMO rice. Before things get too far along, they would do well to take a closer look at the world GMO test lab, the USA. There GMO crops are anything but beneficial. Just the opposite.

What is carefully kept out of the Monsanto and other agribusiness propaganda in promoting genetically manipulated crops as an alternative to conventional is the fact that in the entire world until the present, all GMO crops have been manipulated and patented for only two things—to be resistant or “tolerant” to the patented highly toxic herbicide glyphosate chemicals that Monsanto and the others force farmers to buy as condition for buying their patented GMO seeds. The second trait is GMO seeds that have been engineered genetically to resist specific insects. Contrary to public relations myths promoted by the agribusiness giants in their own self-interest, there exists not oné single GMO seed that provides a greater harvest yield than conventional, nor one that requires less toxic chemical herbicides. That is for the simple reason there is no profit to be made in such.

Giant super-weeds plague
As prominent GMO opponent and biologist, Dr Mae-Wan Ho of the  Institute of Science in  London has noted, companies such as Monsanto build into their seeds herbicide-tolerance (HT) due to glyphosate-insensitive form of the gene coding for the enzyme targeted by the herbicide. The enzyme is derived from soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Insect-resistance is due to one or more toxin genes derived from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). The United States began large scale commercial planting of GMO plants, mainly soybeans and corn and cotton around 1997. By now, GM crops have taken over between 85 percent to 91 percent of the areas planted with the three major crops, soybean, corn and cotton in the US, on nearly 171 million acres.
The ecological time-bomb that came with the GMO according to Ho, is about to explode. Over several years of constant application of patented glyphosate herbicides such as Monsanto’s famous and highly Roundup, new herbicide-resistant “super-weeds” have evolved, nature’s response to man-made attempts to violate it. The super-weeds require significantly more not less herbicide to control.

Please read the entire article on this situation, by F. William Engdahl

Australia is not doomed to follow this path, but sadly it is looking as if she will……many farmers in my area rely on advice from agricultural authorities and those people are most pushing the Monsanto wheelbarrow.

This image is not of a GMO crop -so take a good look at something that is becoming a relic of the good times…….


Beautiful imports

Yet another case of ‘visitors’ to this country who have mixed blessings.  Although I don’t know what benefit at all the white snail has – it’s of significance to crops in downgrading their quality.  In some areas they are almost as thick as snow on the ground, but thankfully not like that here yet.

The purple flower is an Echium species, variously called Patterson’s curse or Salvation Jane, depending on which state of Australia you’re in.  Efforts to control it have met with limited success and this plant causes death to horses if grazed in any quantity yet can be useful drought feed to sheep.  Beekeepers also find this plant useful, as it provides nectar in dry times when most other plants have given up.  Did I mention it also causes extreme hayfever in some humans?

Such a beautiful purple colour flower….. what a pity it has decided to become a weed….


Magic in the Mundane

There is a weed called Horehound that grows in wasteland.  The early settlers to this land brought it with them as a herb to treat coughs and bronchial problems.  But this ignored the wonderful curative properties of the indigenous flora and created another problem – a plant that became rampant and overcame local species.

This history doesn’t blind me however, to the beauty of the plant, especially when it is wet with morning dew.


It may be a weed but….

It’s winter, and not many blooms about.  So how could I remove the oxalis weed when it’s providing food to the bees?  Soursobs as they are known in Australia, are a weed introduced by homesick English settlers to this country and with the changed growing conditions here they took off.  Yet another case of an introduced species becoming a problem…this country has an unenviable history of doing such acts.

However, my garden is still young, and until I have more winter flowering plants I’ll leave a patch of these weeds for the benefit they provide to the insects – particularly the bees.  God knows they need as much help as they can in this troubled pesticide spray happy world.


Biosecurity

Further to my other posting on weeds, I just came across this article on biosecurity. For decades now, through various changes in governments, the funding for the Australian Quarantine Service has dried up to a dribble. Too few people are expected to do too much work, and despite previous calls to address this by the concerned staff the situation has continued. Not only that, but the emphasis has been placed in the wrong direction. Now, more than 200 submissions have been received from diverse groups by a federal government inquiry.

Let’s hope that this is not yet another inquiry that gets hidden in the archives.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2008/06/02/2262713.htm?site=science&topic=enviro


Weeds

There comes a time when a task can no longer be delayed. So it was for me, when last week I removed a vine from the front garden. As soon as I moved to this place, the vine was doomed, as I recognised its weed potential and knew it had to go. Throughout the long hot summer, against a hot tin fence and receiving no watering, it continued to grow. Tough all right. Probably why someone planted it. It may have been given to them by a “helpful” person, many plants are spread this way. But there is a dark side to this sharing of plants. They can become invasive.

http://www.weeds.org.au/ is a site with a great deal of information in an easy to follow format.

The World Wildlife Fund http://wwf.org.au/ourwork/invasives/ is also very concerned about weeds and their effect on Australian species :

“Weeds, Pests and Diseases

The threat posed to Australian native species by invasive weeds and pest animals is growing. It is now second only to land clearing as the biggest threat to Australia’s biodiversity.”

I am not a lone flag waver on this. There are many concerned people who are doing great work in undoing the damage. Regenerating the bush.

http://www.aabr.org.au/ is one such organisation. They have a REPORT: PAYING THE PRICE OF GARDEN ESCAPES. Click here to download the Report.

While not everyone can get out into the bush and remove the weeds, we can all behave in a responsible manner when it comes to putting plants in our gardens. No longer can we use the excuse “I didn’t know” – we must make it our business to know. The information is now readily available from many sources, and the nursery industry has come on board with a great range of information and alternatives.

Unfortunately, many of the exotic plants I have grown up with, and consider my friends, are on the invasive list. Others may not be on the list, but their potential still exists. And just because a plant is a “native” does not preclude it from problems. Many natives grown outside of their original habitat have become weeds.

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/

Their site states:

“What are invasive species?

An invasive species is a species occurring, as a result of human activities, beyond its accepted normal distribution and which threatens valued environmental, agricultural or other social resources by the damage it causes.”

  • CRC for Weed Management Systems is a Cooperative Research Centre.
  • Environmental Weeds in Australia lists environmental weeds in Australia and their impact. Some photos available.
  • Invasive Plant Species in Australia covers what work is being done at present and what needs to be done in the future.
  • Weed Science has information about weeds from the Western Australia Agriculture Department.
  • Weedbuster Week is a national awareness event that highlights the impact of weeds on primary industries, the environment and human and animal health, and encourages governments, industry, private and community organisations to work together.
  • Weeds Australia National Weeds Strategy – a strategic approach to weed problems of national significance.

Remember: a weed is a plant in the wrong place.

Please take care of the land, where-ever you live.