What About Phosphorus!

Phosphorus tends to move downhill across the field to rivers and is less likely to leach vertically into the ground water. AgriPower’s Phosphorus is in a totally soluble form that can be readily taken in by the plants as opposed to most  fertilizers with Phosphorus are in insoluble compounds that are unavailable to plants so most of it is washed into rivers when it rains. This creates Phosphorus contamination.

With the exponential growth of the global population, the agricultural sector is bound to use ever larger quantities of fertilizers to augment the food supply, which consequently increases food production costs. Phosphates, when applied to crops is vulnerable to losses from volatilization and leaching thus leading to serious environmental pollution.

AgriPower’s compounds are non-reactive towards each other as they are made inert by the use of cutting edge plasticizers and state of the art coating technology. The physical intromission of phosphate granules in an appropriate coating material is one such technique used in the manufacture of AgriPower which essentially is a green technology that not only reduces phosphorus loss caused by volatilization and leaching, but also alters the kinetics of phosphorus release, which, in turn, provides nutrients to plants at a pace that is more compatible with their metabolic needs. 

How to Build a Simple Compost Pile With Local Materials

Unlike many of my composting experiments, this is a traditional compost pile of alternating layers of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials. The boundary is made from cut limbs hammered into the ground and woven about with palm fronds.

The C/N ratio in this pile should be about perfect with the greens and browns but if it doesn’t get hot enough I can always pour on some diluted urine to raise the nitrogen levels.

This simple compost pile can be set up anywhere in about an hour using local materials. I’ve done this in a cornfield before, cutting and chopping old stalks for the base, then adding on layers of greens and browns. Come back a few months later and harvest your compost!

Here’s a breakdown on the whole process.

Step 1: Cut stakes

I used sticks cut from some unidentified roadside nitrogen-fixing tree locals use as a windbreak.

It’s a softwood and easy to chop, but you can use anything you like from bamboo to oak to PVC. 4-5′ lengths are good, as you want the pile to reach at least 3′ tall and you need some stake depth to drive into the ground.

Step 2: Install stakes and put down rough material

I had already cut up some rough material and thrown it down before putting in the stakes, but it’s better to put in the stakes first.

Cornstalks, hedge trimmings and other rough materials filled with air pockets make a good compost pile foundation. In the case of this pile, I used chopped twigs and leaves from the nitrogen-fixing trees used for the stakes, some jasmine and hibiscus trimmings and a papaya tree.

Step 3: Weave the sides

I can’t make a good basket, but I’m not bad at simple compost pile weaving.

The idea is to hold in the compost while still allowing some air through into the pile. This also supports the stakes. In a temperate climate you could replace the palm fronds with grape vines, tall grasses, cattails or other plant material.

Step 4: Add some browns

Gotta get that carbon!

As I state in the video, these leaves have a lot of dirt in them. That soil contains microbes which will help break everything down, so I didn’t bother adding a few shovelfuls of soil as I normally would when making a compost pile.

Step 5: Add some greens (and keep layering!)

Get that nitrogen in there!

Grass clippings are a really good compost pile starter – if you have them, use them.

Just keep laying greens and browns until you’ve made the pile nice and tall. You can also throw in biochar if you have it.

It won’t really help the composting process, but my hope is that it will be charged up with nutrients, bacteria and fungi as the pile rots.

Step 6: Water well

This is important: composting uses a lot of water, so get some on at the beginning. If most of your materials are dry, you might want to water each layer as you build the pile. I was too lazy to do that so I soaked it from the top before finishing the final covering layer.

Step 7: Cover the pile

Covering the pile holds in heat and moisture. Sticking with my locally available materials, I used banana leaves.

You can also use a tarp or just another layer of brown leaves. Compost really isn’t a finicky thing to make – it’s will work, even if you don’t do anything “right.”

It’s going to decay and become humus over time, hot or not, perfect ratios or not.

In a few months you can turn this pile over and sift out the good stuff – or just push it around over the garden bed beneath and get planting.

Get out there and get composting – a simple compost pile is all you need.

Honeybees’ Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) Hypothesis

It is hypothesized that the herbicide glyphosate is a contributing factor for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) of honeybee. This hypothesis is based on the following:

  • CCD greatly accelerated in the late 1990s coincident with the widespread cultivation of genetically modified soybeans, corn, cotton and canola in commercial agriculture permitting a 3-5 times increase in glyphosate usage and subsequent high exposure of honeybees since
  • The systemic glyphosate is applied directly to the plant foraged by the honeybee at all times of foraging (before, during, after).
  • Glyphosate is applied indiscriminately to the plants and, often, to adjacent areas (since GM crop is tolerant) later in the spring for greater exposure of bees. Often before, during, and after crop growth,
  • Glyphosate accumulates in the meristematic areas of the plant, i.e. flowers, nectar foraged and harvested by bees
  • Glyphosate resistant weeds encouraged much higher rates of glyphosate
  • Loss of direction in adult honeybees (disorientation) is consistent with the endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity caused by glyphosate
  • Glyphosate is a very potent antibiotic to honeybee microbiota (honey crop, honey, pollen, bee-bread) – especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium spp.
  • These two genera primarily are critical for nutrition and survival of honeybees and
  • Protect honeybees from pathogens and parasites (Nosema, EFB, etc.). Fungal pathogens are stimulated by glyphosate.
  • Glyphosate and genetically modified crops have lower nutrient density (especially for micronutrients) essential for proper nutrition of honey bees as well as disease resistance.
  • Glyphosate concentrations in air, water, and plant tissues are highest during, or just prior to, colony collapse.
  • Glyphosate predisposes to malnutrition, pathogenesis, and other stresses.

Protecting Honeybees and Native Pollinators

Honeybees and native pollinators visit vegetable crops during flowering and pollen shed. In crops such as cucurbits, their activity is crucial to the success of the crop. In other crops such as sweet corn or potato, bees are among many beneficial insects that seek out pollen or nectar resources as a food source, but crop yield does not depend upon their activity.  Populations of honeybees and native pollinators have declined worldwide in recent years. Many factors have contributed to their decline. Pesticides applied to crops is one of these factors.

Pesticides applied to protect vegetable crops can affect pollinators through multiple routes of exposure: direct contact with sprays, contact with treated surfaces, pesticide-contaminated dust or pollen particles that are collected or adhere to the body of the insect (and may be taken back to hive), and ingestion of pesticide-contaminated nectar. Decisions made by the farmer make a difference in the exposure of bees and other beneficials to toxic levels of pesticides. While pesticides applied to crops are only one among many factors that threaten pollinators, this is one factor that growers can do something about. Taking precautions to minimize pesticide poisoning of pollinators in all crops is an important responsibility of all pesticide applicators.

Steps that can reduce pesticide exposure of pollinators:

Timing: Avoid applications when crop or weeds are bloom. In crops that bloom over long periods, make applications late in the day or at night when pollinators are not foraging, and so that there is sufficient drying time before foraging begins. Control weeds.

Formulation: Wettable powders, dusts and microencapsulated products have a greater toxic hazard than emulsifiable concentrates (or other liquid formulation with active ingredient in solution). Products that do not have acute toxicity but could cause injury to immature bees if carried back to the hive should not be applied in particulate form; this includes insect growth regulators.

Drying time before exposure: Some products are highly toxic when wet, but much less so after the pesticide is dried. Spinosyns have this characteristic. Apply when there will be adequate drying time (usually 2 to 3 hours, depending on weather conditions and crop canopy) before pollinator activity.

Drift: Avoid drift on non-target areas near the field where blooming plants may be located. Windspeed and application equipment both influence drift.

Mode of application: Soil and seed applications reduce exposure compared to foliar applications, unless plant uptake of the active ingredient produces residues in pollen or nectar. In the case of neonicotinoids, there is evidence that foraging bees may receive sublethal doses in pollen and nectar when cucurbit crops were treated with a systemic at early growth stages. This effect appears to be reduced by using lower rates and applying as early as possible, but may not be entirely eliminated by these methods. A sublethal dose may make bees more vulnerable to other stressors, or may combine with doses from contact with other treated plant material.

Acute toxicity: Avoid applying insecticides rated as High or Medium directly to bees that are actively foraging on blooming crop or weeds. EPA registration includes an acute, single-dose laboratory study designed to determine the quantity of pesticide that will cause 50% mortality (LD50) in a test population of bees.

Read the label for bee hazard rating: If a pesticide is used outdoors as a foliar application, and is toxic to pollinating insects, a “Bee Hazard” warning has generally been required to be included in the Environmental Hazards section of the label. The EPA bee toxicity groupings and label statements are as follows:

  • High (H) Bee acute toxicity rating: LD50 = 2 micrograms/bee or less. The label has the following statement: “This product is highly toxic to bees and other pollinating insects exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees or other pollinating insects are visiting the treatment area.”  If the residues phrase is not present, this indicates that the pesticide does not show extended residual toxicity.
  • Moderate (M) Product contains any active ingredient(s) with acute LD50 of greater than 2 micrograms/bee but less than 11 micrograms/bee. Statement: “This product is moderately toxic to bees and other pollinating insects exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product if bees or other pollinating insects are visiting the treatment area.”
  • Low (L) All others. No bee or pollinating insect caution required.

In this guide, Table 28 (Information about Insecticides and Miticides) gives the bee toxicity rating (H, M or L) for each active ingredient. In the Insect Management section for each crop, the bee toxicity rating is given for each insecticide listed.