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Permaculture Biological Warfare

Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 776
Location: Burlington, NC - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  24
Never thought of beneficial deseases until today.

Caterpillar lethal fungus
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110427-fungus-caterpillars-tibet-china-herders-science/

Caterpillar zombie virus
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/zombie-caterpillars-virus_n_962256.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false


Those who hammer their swords into plows will plow for those who don't!
Benjamin Burchall


Joined: Sep 11, 2011
Posts: 181
Location: Atlanta, GA
What are the conditions that created the infestation?
Jonathan Byron


Joined: Apr 16, 2011
Posts: 225
Some people see the application of B.t. or any other biological control as 'un-natural' and dangerous. My take is that planting an apple or orange tree (or any other plants we want) is un-natural to the exact same degree.  Introducing biological controls is merely 'seeding' another beneficial species, it is increasing the diversity of a food forest in a way that can add valuable ecosystem services.

The gypsy moth (subject of the linked story) is an introduced pest that finds little or no natural resistance even in large ecosystems that are relatively undisturbed and healthy ... and it can cause serious damage to a wide range of plants. Likewise, the Dutch Elm disease wiped out 99.999% of elm trees in North America.  Sure, unhealthy plants are generally more at risk of disease or predation - but some pests are more efficient, they can spike in numbers and cause considerable damage.  I have no problem with the idea that sometimes, gardeners will need or want to pull weeds or squash bugs.... good food ecosystem design can reduce that greatly, but saying they 'never' should ignores a certain reality. Permies have a saying that an excess of snails is actually a shortage of chickens; I suggest the same is often true with respect to a lack of our microbial allies.
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 776
Location: Burlington, NC - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  24
Very well said!  I hear often in these threads that diseased unhealthy plants are only attacked by insects.  To me, that is slightly naive similar to  saying the reason I ate my tomato is because it is diseased.  I have read quotes purportedly from Sepp that support this healthy plant theory but I am skeptical of those observations.  I think healthier plants bounce back better, but I do not see them as being immune to pests. 

Bugs eat healthy plants all the time, at least around here.  Diseases have a bad stigma and in many ways it is deserved, but they are natures mechanisms of control so as an aspiring permaculturalist I could envision myself learning the skilled dark arts  of natures silent killers.  Could develop into an art similar to how bakers use the microbial power of yeast.  I guess what is more of a concern (and legitimate) is the possibility of a disease to evolve and affect other species.
Saybian Morgan
volunteer

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 580
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
    
    8
I'd have to agree, predatory wasps and hornets are great, when they predate on me at my front door it's not so great.
A word on wasp I just learned yesterday.

Trashing a paper hive with a stick = they rebuild
WD40 all over the hive to dissolve their wings plus a hive thrashing = they rebuild
No threshing, no chems, and a hosedown with compost tea = They haven't rebuilt.

I can't stand going the WD40 route but it's the only one I've seen work that doesn't kill other bugs until the bald face hornet.

Sure the compost tea had, duck manure, rabbit manure, chives, horsetail, alfalfa, kelp, comfrey, humic acid, molasses, mychorizal fungae and fish hydrolosate. But other than some unknown factor or a combination of all those elements, they bit the dust and didn't go trying to razz me in the ear like all the other times.

I sure would like to work out more beneficial brews like that, I never had so many insects in the garden this year until I got bee's and locked down the ducks.  All I ever had was slug issues so I'm not use to having to fight anything when it comes to cultivation, and the ducks too care of the slugs as well as destroyed the garden.

So I do see where the word beneficial is really just a human bias towards favorable or unfavorable to our agenda for nature. Each cure brings on another generation of problems in a different dimension of the ecosystem.

Next year I may have a slug and caterpillar and wasp epidemic cuzz I planted to many whatever's or a virus that disappears my potatoes. The natural balance people bark about is ever changing over large expanses of time and it includes humans in nature despite our conviction of separation.

I think as soon as we exist where living with the consequences of doing or not doing, and it's even more exciting when we participate with nature. This week my powdery mildew cure has tripled the occurrence of mildew, that's exciting from the realm of the intellect, good or bad everything we do gives the mind something to chew on. Winning can only be viewed as a limited moment's in time from a certain level of perception, and engaging in Permie bio warfare is still warfare which will always have a duality of upside and downside.

From a permaculture perspective it's probably the most invigorating sort of warfare possible because to do it well is the art of scientific pursuit. If it's just to flex ones mind over nature, nature will be here to compost your body and your lifetimes effort's like it was just a blip in time.  

It's probably why I'm so attracted to plants that will rampage, just so I can stretch my effect on things a little bit longer.
I'm always surprised how every time i disturb soil a completely different set of plants germinate out of thin air.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I don't like the warfare metaphor much, but then I'm not a warrior, I'm gardener. 


Idle dreamer

Benjamin Burchall


Joined: Sep 11, 2011
Posts: 181
Location: Atlanta, GA
I'd rather just grow things that don't get infestations. If the slugs like a particular thing, I grow something. If the catepillars munch away at my favorite veggie, I plant something else. If a disease wipes out my entire crop of X, so what? There would be plenty of other things to harvest from the garden. I'm just too lazy to wage biological warfare. And I LIKE it that way. haha!

Seriously though, isn't waging warfare against nature the very thing that has gotten us into this agro-mess? It starts with good intentions and ends in...? At what point should the bio-warrior wave the white flag?
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 776
Location: Burlington, NC - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  24
I am not proposing waging war with nature, lol!  Nah, I am proposing to imitate the cruelness of nature and use her weapons against competing interests.
Saybian Morgan
volunteer

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 580
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
    
    8
I don't think any of us can commit to real warfare, you gotta have allot of hate to stay up late creating weapons.
But brewing up tea and the like to splash on things, is just as warfare as putting chives under fruit tree's.

I don't see any harm in playing with denotative words to defuse them.
I did slaughter hundreds of humble slugs down the throats of tyrannosaurus ducks, if you look at things from a slugs point of view. 

As for the metaphor of I'll just keep planting something else if my system hasn't achieved balance. There's only so many plant families to run to before your eating spirulina for dinner.  If you think insects eat allot of things try one loose goat.
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 776
Location: Burlington, NC - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  24
Back to permaculture - I think my profile picture may be throwing the subject off a bit.  Look, I am not claiming to be a master permaculturalist but I know that it is an applied science imitating nature.  Disease is a vital component in sustainable systems as it regulates population levels but it is also one of the least utilized.  Invasive species are a reality in this modern era of human globalization - there is not always a perfect solution to control these pests but when mother nature reveals to us how she suppresses pest outbreaks I would not mind sharing a coffee with her while she spills her dark details.
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 847
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  14
I remember a story... don't know where I heard it... that in Cuba during the collapse of oil-based agriculture, one trick for developing bio-controls was to collect a bunch of a pest beetle, and starve them together in a bottle, and by that means they cultivated the ubiquitous beetle diseases.  Then they'd put the sick and half dead beetles in the blender and use the filtered lechate as a spray.  Interesting idea - never been able to substantiate the rumor.


Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Jeff Mathias


Joined: Feb 19, 2009
Posts: 119
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
    
    1
I think this is just one more thing to distract us from the actual goals of permaculture. I suppose as a one time application much like tilling or opening the soil for better water penetration it might be useful however I would caution wanting or needing to rely on one more product.

In the case of the gypsy moth specifically Brenda Groth documents here on permies.com  her observations of nature successfully dealing with the problem without additional inputs. Further more it is well documented by Monsanto even that some bugs/worms are developing resistance to Bt.

Hi Amedean,
Amedean wrote:
Very well said!  I hear often in these threads that diseased unhealthy plants are only attacked by insects.  To me, that is slightly naive similar to  saying the reason I ate my tomato is because it is diseased. 
  Not at all, you have a conscious choice in the matter, so called pests are biologically tuned to do what they do and frankly we know very little about this process, since historically our goals have been eradication rather than learning.
I have read quotes purportedly from Sepp that support this healthy plant theory but I am skeptical of those observations.  I think healthier plants bounce back better, but I do not see them as being immune to pests. 
I personally would be careful being skeptical of Sepp for any reason, he has been doing this longer than just about everyone and has the benefit of being well documented by the skeptics.


Bugs eat healthy plants all the time, at least around here.  Diseases have a bad stigma and in many ways it is deserved, but they are natures mechanisms of control so as an aspiring permaculturalist I could envision myself learning the skilled dark arts  of natures silent killers.  Could develop into an art similar to how bakers use the microbial power of yeast.  I guess what is more of a concern (and legitimate) is the possibility of a disease to evolve and affect other species.
I think you might be misunderstanding some things here; truly healthy plants do not in general get attacked. If you thought a truly healthy plant was healthy and it got attacked it most likely was not truly healthy to begin with, now this does not automatically mean the plant was diseased, there a lot of shades between healthy and diseased; one being simply over fertilized(with or without any actual application of fertilizer organic or not); the plant looks great and grows well in our opinion,  however our perception of truly healthy plants has been skewed over the years so it is an easy mistake to make. In my opinion our time would be better used understanding the what and the why of what is going on rather than just trying to better eradicate. We humans have a pretty good track record of eradicating species before we even understand their role in nature.

Good Luck,

Jeff


"Study books and observe nature. When the two don't agree, throw out the books" -William A Albrecht
"You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." - Benjamin Franklin
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
My own personal experience is my healthy plants don't get eaten by insects and such.  Can't speak for anyone else's experience.  I have had "pest" problems in the past but they were because of unhealthy plants.  Years ago on the TV show "Gardening Naturally" host Eliot Coleman explained that stressed plants are palatable to insects whereas healthy plants are not (something about nitrogen or protein in the plant tissues or something, I can't remember the details).  That has been my personal experience.

Benjamin Burchall


Joined: Sep 11, 2011
Posts: 181
Location: Atlanta, GA
Another thing that gets overlooked is that we often try to grow things that aren't suited to the environment we are growing in. By doing so we create conditions ripe for problems. If we grow something that keeps getting attacked by bugs, maybe we should simply not grow that. A good example in my gardening experience is lettuce. I found growing lettuce extremely frustrating. It seemed the slugs and other critters just couldn't get enough of my tender goodies. Instead of trying to eliminate the "pests" or otherwise protect my lettuce like other gardeners were doing,  I stopped growing lettuce and started growing other salad greens. I did a little experimenting to figure out what the critters wouldn't munch on so much and ended up having an abundance of salad without the hassle of trying to fight nature.

If we approach permaculture with the same "make nature my bitch" frame (as Paul W. would say), we're not doing permaculture. So to me the question of biological controls comes down to how dedicated I am to the permaculture way of problem solving. While there is usually more than one way to do a thing, they should all be focused on cooperating with natural cycles and relationships rather than trying to control them.
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 776
Location: Burlington, NC - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  24
Jeff, now I don't mind being wrong but I have to respectfully disagree on a few things. 

I personally would be careful being skeptical of Sepp for any reason, he has been doing this longer than just about everyone and has the benefit of being well documented by the skeptics.


This was originally in defense of Sepp's among others that only healthy plants are immune to pests to include deseases, this statement further exemplifies a naive attitude towards many other peoples experiences like mine and in history.  It is not fair to say that they must be inexperienced or uneducated in determining plant health because their observations of disease and pests do not support what some want to believe.

Hypothetical Situation:
If I plant acres of monoculture zucchini in the most perfectly tuned soil making the plants incredibly healthy, does that mean the boring worm will not be found?

In History: 
The American chestnut has gone almost to extinction due to chestnut blight introduced from overseas.  Does that mean that all the forests in the United States during the early 1900's were unhealthy?

I believe this discussion deserves a thread to itself.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Amedean wrote:


In History: 
The American chestnut has gone almost to extinction due to chestnut blight introduced from overseas.  Does that mean that all the forests in the United States during the early 1900's were unhealthy?



Blight is a disease, not an insect.  Disease does strike healthy living things if they do not have immunity to the disease.

In History:
Most Native Americans being killed by Smallpox and other Old World diseases.  The Native Americans were in many cases healthier than the Europeans, but they did not have immunity to Old World diseases.  Just as the native American Chestnut did not have immunity to Old World Chestnut blight.
Amedean Messan
pollinator

Joined: Nov 11, 2010
Posts: 776
Location: Burlington, NC - Woodland, Clay - Zone 7
    
  24
I know that, but I included the history of the American chestnut because there is an extension to the healthy plant theory to deseases.  THis discussion is in progress in another thread. 

But also, do not fail to address my monoculture hypothetical if you want to be without bias.
Aaron Wallace


Joined: Apr 30, 2011
Posts: 16
Location: Wilmington, Delaware, Eastern Piedmont, USDA 7a
you always have to be careful when using biological agents like this, BTi contributes to the mortality of many waterborne larva, for example BTi would kill most or all of the mosquitos in the nursery mote video but it would also have the same mortality to dragonflies. That isn't to say insect predation isn't an effective means of pest control I have used Bti and various soil nematodes to combat fungus gnats. For example Univesity of Delaware has some species under review to combat stink bugs but is testing them exhaustively before introducing them to the continent the cure could be worse then the disease.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Amedean wrote:
if you want to be without bias.



I'm completely biased.   

Jeff Mathias


Joined: Feb 19, 2009
Posts: 119
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
    
    1
Hi Amedean,

Amedean wrote:
Jeff, now I don't mind being wrong but I have to respectfully disagree on a few things. 

This was originally in defense of Sepp's among others that only healthy plants are immune to pests to include deseases, this statement further exemplifies a naive attitude towards many other peoples experiences like mine and in history.  It is not fair to say that they must be inexperienced or uneducated in determining plant health because their observations of disease and pests do not support what some want to believe.
I think just the opposite; there is very little science let alone anything else that tells us what a healthy plant is. We simply do not know, there is no flow chart, no reference book for healthy. You and history only think the plants were healthy. Let me ask if the same two plants looks identical to you, your opinion of perfect health and then one gets attacked by something but not the other were they both healthy plants? Are they still both healthy plants?

Hypothetical Situation:
If I plant acres of monoculture zucchini in the most perfectly tuned soil making the plants incredibly healthy, does that mean the boring worm will not be found?
If you plant any monoculture you already started destroying the perfectly tuned soil, so you would not be dealing with healthy anymore anyway. Besides healthy does not equate to a lack of boring worm in this case either way.

In History: 
The American chestnut has gone almost to extinction due to chestnut blight introduced from overseas.  Does that mean that all the forests in the United States during the early 1900's were unhealthy?

Most likely they were unhealthy in a way we do not yet understand. Most Indians while being a great deal more conscious of the nature around them, still often created monocultures through their own selective processes.

Jeff
Jonathan Byron


Joined: Apr 16, 2011
Posts: 225
Jeff Mathias wrote:
Further more it is well documented by Monsanto even that some bugs/worms are developing resistance to Bt.


Yes, some insects have even developed resistance to ordinary B.t. when it is used continually like a silver bullet. It is a cat and mouse game, the pests evolve, but in nature, so do their predators. Bacteria evolve faster than insects, as their generation time is so much shorter.  But the genetically engineered form of Bt is essentially fixed, it does not evolve at all.  And the GMO form of the Bt toxin is produced in large amounts throughout the plant - even the part we eat - all the time ... not a good strategy. When using a little Bt in the field, it quickly fades to very low levels, it becomes a small player, but it is there evolving, it will re-emerge if the caterpillars become numerous. 
 
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