Cooler weather bringing the "luck of the Irish" to the USA

While we don’t have to worry about starvation like the Irish due to lack of crop diversity, it is interesting that we are seeing the same mold that caused the Irish Potato Famine widespread in the USA now. – Anthony

Potato famine disease striking home gardens in U.S.

Reuters

These dark brown lesions on stems

Reuters – Dark brown lesions on stems, with white fungal growth developing under moist conditions, are characteristic …

By Julie Steenhuysen Julie Steenhuysen Fri Jul 10, 5:22 pm ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Late blight, which caused the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s, is killing potato and tomato plants in home gardens from Maine to Ohio and threatening commercial and organic farms, U.S. plant scientists said on Friday.

“Late blight has never occurred this early and this widespread in the United States,” said Meg McGrath, a plant pathologist at Cornell University’s extension center in Riverhead, New York.

She said the fungal disease, spread by spores carried in the air, has made its way into the garden centers of large retail chains in the Northeastern United States.

“Wal-mart, Home Depot, Sears, Kmart and Lowe’s are some of the stores the plants have been seen in,” McGrath said in a telephone interview.

The disease, known officially as Phytophthora infestans, causes large mold-ringed olive-green or brown spots on plant leaves, blackened stems, and can quickly wipe out weeks of tender care in a home garden.

McGrath said in her 21 years of research, she has only seen five outbreaks in the United States. The destructive disease can spread rapidly in cooler, moist weather, infecting an entire field within days.

“What’s unique about it this year is we have never seen plants affected in garden centers being sold to home gardeners,” she said.

This year’s cool, wet weather created perfect conditions for the disease. “Hopefully, it will turn sunny,” McGrath said. “If we get into our real summer hot dry weather, this disease is going to slow way down.”

FUNGICIDES WILL CONTROL BLIGHT

According to its website, the University Maryland’s Plant Diagnostic Lab got a suspect tomato sample as early as June 12, very early in the tomato growing season, which runs from April-September.

McGrath said the risk is that many gardeners will not recognize it, putting commercial farms and especially organic growers at risk.

“My concern is for growers. They are going to have to put a lot more time and effort in trying to control the disease. It’s going to be a very tough year,” she said.

“This pathogen can move great distances in the air. It often does little jumps, but it can make some big leaps.”

McGrath said the impact on the farmer will depend on how much the pathogen is spread. “Eastern New York is seeing a lot of disease,” she said.

She said commercial farmers will be able to use fungicides containing chlorothalonil to control the blight.

And while some sprays have also been approved for organic use, many organic farmers do not use them, making it much harder to control.

“If they are not on top of this right from the very beginning, it can go very fast,” she said.

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126 thoughts on “Cooler weather bringing the "luck of the Irish" to the USA

  1. We had (garden crop, not commercial) devastating potato blight last year in July, it’s been absent so far this year. This summer is a lot dryer and a bit warmer than last so far.
    Blight needs a particular spell of (to us, fairly warm and persistently humid – nights above 10C I think) weather for blight spores to germinate successfully – presumably such a spell has happened in parts of the US this year.
    My understanding is once inside the planet blight is very difficult to stop – though dry weather must stop continued re infection I suppose.

  2. I’m out here on the west coast, but buy store-bought tomato plants. I got a batch from K-mart in the spring, and I’m noticing some of them are turning black and wilted. I’m cutting down the irrigation, hopefully that will help along with some more sun and hot weather.
    The last time I had trouble with fungus on the tomatoes was about 4-5 years ago. That year, a lot of people on the central coast CA were complaining about the same thing.

  3. An old fashioned but effective method of dealing with this for gardeners is Bordeaux Mixture, basically copper sulphate and slaked lime. I imagine it can still be bought in the US.
    Kindest Regards

  4. Fortunately, an entire economy is not dependant on the spud, unlike Eire/Ireland in the 19thC. However, not sure if this “is a sky is falling” or these things come round in cycles!
    Is this the opening post? Getting harder to do now the site is so popular!

  5. >The destructive disease can spread rapidly in cooler, moist weather, infecting an entire field within days.<
    It's that darn AGW again!

  6. Cool, moist weather — sounds familiar — like our summer to date in the northeast [cocking head] yep – that’s thunder I hear. More rain. More mold & fungus – where’s that global warming they keep promising us. To hear the little prince tell it, we’ve got eight years till doom hits. I feel a venting episode coming on, so I’ll stop while I’m still ahead.

  7. Not that anyone is responsible for the blight, or that the US is in any way comparable to Ireland of the 1840’s and it’s struggle with the British empire and Thomas Malthus.
    As if the US is in a struggle with the forces of globalism, that’s just conspiracy rubbish. 😉
    There is a quote though.
    Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
    Machiavelli

  8. “The destructive disease can spread rapidly in cooler, moist weather…”
    Not a problem in South Central Texas.
    7/11/2009 Drought on way to being costliest ever
    Area farmers and ranchers don’t need a color-coded map or a gloomy weather report to know they’re at ground zero of what is becoming one of Texas’ worst droughts ever.
    They see it daily in parched fields too dry for seeds to sprout; in stock tanks [ponds] that carried water during the legendary drought of the 1950s but now are cracked and dry; in prickly pear cactus so thin that they don’t provide much moisture when their needles are burned off for skinny cows to enjoy.
    Even some of the hardy live oak, hackberry and mesquite trees that have defied Texas’ harsh environment are beginning to show stress, one agricultural expert said.
    “This is about as bad as it gets.” Joe Taylor, an extension service agent in Atascosa County south of San Antonio, said he’s beginning to question claims that the current dry spell simply matches the severity of the historic drought from the 1950s. “In fact, this drought may be the drought of record before long,” said Taylor.
    San Antonio residents don’t have much reason to argue.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture said San Antonio experienced its driest 22-month period on record through June, with less than 24 inches of rain since September 2007.
    That’s 39 percent of normal and beat the prior record — set from December 1908 to September 1910 — by more than 2 inches, a department bulletin said. Now experts from Texas A&M University and its extension arms suspect the drought, which has choked wide swaths of Texas for almost two years, could become the state’s costliest in modern times.
    In March, agricultural economists said losses associated with the drought were approaching $1 billion, and the situation has worsened considerably since then, particularly in South Texas.
    Carl Anderson, a professor emeritus and extension economist, said that without strong rainfall in the next few months, losses for cattle and crops could climb past the $4.1 billion mark set in the 2006 drought — Texas’ modern record.
    “It’s very severe and it’s broad based,” Anderson said. “It’s not leaving any aspect of agriculture without a loss.”
    ________________________________________________________
    The above just reports the lack of rainfall, and doesn’t even mention the endless days of triple digit temperatures. Only 1 year (’07) in the last 4 had any significant rainfall and my St. Augustine lawn is now brown hay.
    The “year without a summer” in the north, will be remembered as a “year with an endless summer” in this section of Texas.

  9. No doubt, this too will be blamed on (manmade) climate change, or “climate chaos”, or whatever new phrase they can come up with.

  10. This is the luck of the Irish?
    The last Irishman I met who was convinced he had it wouldn’t dare even think of taking a chance on anything.
    While the agenda has it’s blinders on, those model-generated flame-colored sunglasses, the blights have found us. Add that to the late frosts, pandemic flu and whatever else is lying in wait.
    Too much Gore effect.
    Needs some Anthony effect.
    Anthony good, Gore bad. (to the tune of Beer good, fire bad).

  11. Fascinating. 45 minutes ago I was up my neighbors house and she said she was wanted to put in a few more tomato plants but was warned yesterday about the blight that is going around and told not to mix any new plants with her healthy plants. Tony you are on top of this!

  12. Tom in Texas (09:49:08) :” Not a problem in South Central Texas.”
    Tom, a quick lookup shows that your part of the state is classified as Subtropical Subhumid which is explained as:
    ” a Subtropical Subhumid climate is characterized by hot summers and dry winters. ”
    So it looks like you are right on the money climate wise, although I can sympathize with your discomfort. At least from my house it’s just a minute or two to the Gulf where I can relieve any heat with a dip in the 89 degree clear, teal water.

  13. No blight yet. Now slugs are a different matter. For the last three weeks I’ve picked dozens off a few bean plants morning and evening. On a wet day they’re out in force. Soon as the sun comes out they disappear.

  14. Please bring this to the attention of G8. In addition to limiting the changes to the earth’s temperature, perhaps they can also dispatch of the fungus with a decree.

  15. Haven’t had any garden issues here in NE Mississippi this year. Good season so far, getting a lot of very nice veggies out of the garden. Squash, peas, beans, tomato, cukes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, okra, onions, etc. is just dandy.

  16. Cold PDO leads to drought in Southern states like Texas and New Mexico. That’s because the Jet Stream is over the Northern part of the US, not the Southern part. The Dust Bowl era was a part of a cold PDO. However, that dust is vitally important to the Pacific Ocean, bringing mineral nutrients necessary for the fish cycle.

  17. The effects of a cooling planet on many things, things such as food supplies, is far more detrimental than warming.
    We’d better hope for warming over cooling. Only problem is, if it warms, we can be sure of draconian measures of governments to “tax us back to cooling” and take more control wherever they can in our daily lives.

  18. If we don’t get the cold, dry spell, we won’t have a fishfood re-supply with a cold PDO cycle. Without the fishfood chain, we will disrupt the fish cycle. The PDO was discovered accidentally when performing analysis on ship logs related to fish tonnage. Texans need to understand that dust storms and crop failures are necessary in order to expose the nutrient rich top soil to the wind.
    http://www.washington.edu/newsroom/news/k101397.html

  19. Wet and *warm* weather, not cool weather is causing explosive spread of blight. Thunderstorm weather, actually. That moist warm weather. Don’t these people check their facts?
    Anyway… For those interested: Remove weeds as much as you can, so the wind can dry the undergrowth fast enough. Once the blight strikes remove the greens and dispose of it. Don’t compost it, best burn it. Wait another week before harvest. The spuds are actually mostly far more resistant than the foliage so you might save the tubers.
    Furthermore, kill all potato plants that grow out of left over tubers from last year: they may carry early infections. And don’t ever grow tomatoes and potatoes in one garden, unless the tomatoes are in a hothouse.

  20. Here in the uk we are preparing for events like this by banning the most effective fungicides such as Procymidone because we will no longer need them in our warming climate.
    oh dear.

  21. Someone said that weather is not climate. That’s a bit of misdirection, imo. Weather happens in a climate. If the climate is cool, weather will have various effects in that overall cycle, at least locally. Saying that weather is not climate doesn’t actually prove anything nor does it prove AGW.

  22. I friend of mine is so proud of her tom plant. It is luscious green with lots and lots of leaves. Not a single blossom has opened yet. What she doesn’t know is that she won’t even have green tomatoes at this rate.

  23. I’m in East Texas, which isn’t *quite* as dry as South Texas but still, there are burn bans in place in most of the counties around me.
    I *think* what’s driving both the cool, wet weather in the north and the dry weather here in Texas is the shift in the jet stream, which has changed or at least greatly exaggerated the weather tendencies in the various regions. Humid, storm producing air masses which would have come across Texas in the summer in other years are headed farther north, and we’re getting hot, dry, air from the arid chihuahuan and sonoran highlands instead.
    At least that’s my hypothesis. I wonder if someone with more expertise could tell me whether it has any merit.

  24. Potato blight is still taken very very seriously in Ireland and Met Eireann ( The Irish weather service) regulary post “blight conditions” warnings on their website. There is one in force this weekend!

  25. Oh my, look at this
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/
    Seems like the SOI index has just spat at the ENSO models, they expected SOI to drop again as El Nino continues to form, instead it did a sharp tick upwards.
    The TAO site shows the warm waters with an anomaly of 1 or above now rounded up in a ballooon shape with no hold at the right of the map, the depth comparison shows cooler water seemingly welling up at the far right, the 20C depth comparison shows a weaker warm pool also more towards the middle than last year.
    Seems more likely it’ll prove the dire warnings of El Nino wrong meaning not much of a winter warming effect globally as a result and thus could mean earlier freezes and colder weather. Unfortunately it could mean more potato blight like mentioned here for those whose livelyhoods are dependent on the tomato crop.
    Also Intellicast is showing the worst of the heatwave here in Kansas is over and it will end within 5 days with temperatures more seasonable (which still means low to mid 90’s), apparently though Texas may or may not join in on that kind of relief.

  26. @ Tom in Texas (09:49:08) :


    The above just reports the lack of rainfall, and doesn’t even mention the endless days of triple digit temperatures.

    Tom, that’s probably because the weather in Texas (at least in Dallas) is nothing unprecedented at all. Just normal weather.
    http://www.weather.com/weather/monthly/USTX0327?from=36hr_topnav_undeclared
    Now, that is not to say they aren’t have a drought problem. That may be true, however, I am doubting that it is from abnormally high temperatures pursue. For the month of July, there have only been 5 days in triple digits, highest being 103, the rest being 101, 101, 102, 103, 102. Forecast for a two more days next week at 102. Doesn’t look too unusual to me!

  27. Please check the facts:
    From wiki:
    [edit] Environmental conditions
    There are several environmental conditions that are conducive to P. infestans. By using weather forecasting systems, such as BLITECAST, if the following conditions occur as the canopy of the crop closes, then the use of fungicides is recommended to prevent an epidemic.[5]
    A Beaumont Period is a period of 48 consecutive hours, in at least 46 of which the hourly readings of temperature and relative humidity at a given place have not been less than 20 °C (68 °F) and 75%, respectively.[6]
    A Smith Period is at least two consecutive days where min temperature is 10 °C (50 °F) or above and on each day at least 11 hours when the relative humidity is greater than 90%.[7]
    The temperature has to be ABOVE 10C/20C and humid.
    It is not cold damp conditions!
    It originated in mexico and was transported to belgium from US in seed potatos. The us and others have used it as a biological weapon.
    http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=HP0134_1156_FRP.doc
    seems to suggest no growth at 25C and reduced growth at 12C. 17C seems good.

  28. Blight and diseases are the problem with most of the monoculture plants we create in the United States. Diversity has been lost and we are set up for a grape vine style die off for wheat, corn, soy, tomatoes and potatoes. Since GMO (gene modified organisms) plants carry a dominant gene, even if you plant diversity too near a gmo field, you end up with gmo plants.
    Oh and did you know that the definition of organic has been changed to include GMOs? Control the food, control the world.
    http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~agroeco3/index.html

  29. Most of the U.S. has had a cooler than normal summer so far. Especially the Northeast, Midwest, and Intermountain West.
    Since June 1, Denver (where I live) has seen just three 90+ days, with a max temp of 92. The only summer since 1950 with a greater lack of heat was 1967, which didn’t record it’s first 90 degree day until July 21.

  30. ron from Texas (11:25:25) :
    Someone said that weather is not climate. That’s a bit of misdirection, imo. Weather happens in a climate. If the climate is cool, weather will have various effects in that overall cycle, at least locally. Saying that weather is not climate doesn’t actually prove anything nor does it prove AGW.
    Compare climate and weather with a metazoan. Each cell is weather and the whole organism is climate. There are many metazoan individuals; each individual is a particular climate. All the individuals conform a population, which in our comparison would be one of the climate spheres (climatic systems), i.e. cryosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere. All the populations shape the world; the four climatic systems outline the Earth’s climate or global climate.
    The current “climate change” is not global and impinges exclusively on some biomes of the Northern Hemisphere. Go see the Anahuac Plateau, for example. Its climate has not changed by a dust grain in the last 70 years. 🙂

  31. “Doesn’t look too unusual to me!”
    I’ve lived in San Antonio for 30 years and will disagree with you about triple digit days. Usually you can count them on one hand. This summer they started in mid June (Aug is usually our hottest month) and continue every day.
    Not to mention that the humidity raises the “heat index” by an additional 4-5°F.
    I remember one year (1980?) we had 40 days of triple digits, so this year is not unpresedented, but it is unusual.
    I will add that the San Antonio temperature sensor is surrounded by runways,
    freeways and cloverleafs, but on the other hand I happen to live nearby that sensor.

  32. “Ireland of the 1840’s and it’s struggle with the British empire and Thomas Malthus.”
    Poor Malthus was fourteen years dead in 1848.
    1848 was a year of crop failures throughout Europe, and also a year of bloody revolutionary ferment. The two stories are obviously related.

  33. Tom in Texas (13:13:48) :
    I’ve lived in San Antonio for 30 years and will disagree with you about triple digit days. Usually you can count them on one hand. This summer they started in mid June (Aug is usually our hottest month) and continue every day.
    Not to mention that the humidity raises the “heat index” by an additional 4-5°F.
    I remember one year (1980?) we had 40 days of triple digits, so this year is not unpresedented, but it is unusual.
    I will add that the San Antonio temperature sensor is surrounded by runways,
    freeways and cloverleafs, but on the other hand I happen to live nearby that sensor.

    Agree… However, from my earliest recalls, San Antonio has been the waiting-room of hell; Laredo is the hell. The difference is more asphalt and concrete and less forested areas. The city has grown hastily in the last 20 years.

  34. The source for the following comments is this book:
    Paddy’s Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred
    http://www.amazon.com/Paddys-Lament-Ireland-1846-1847-Prelude/dp/0156707004
    The Irish potato famine was not an isolated Irish problem but a failure of the potato croup throughout Europe, including England. Every country in Europe, including England, imposed restrictions on food exports, except for Ireland, which was governed by England. At the height of the famine Ireland was the major food exporting country in Europe the food being sent to feed the British armies around the world.
    At a minimum one million Irish died of the famine and the actual numbers are most likely much higher as many of the dead were not counted. Ireland went from a population of over eight million to just over four million with over half of the loss being attributed to emigration. As the Irish Census records were destroyed in the Irish Revolution of June 1922, by IRA military action, the full extent of the carnage will never been know accurately.
    In studying the impact of climate on the Irish Potato Famine, remember that this was a European wide problem and not just endemic to the Ireland. The story that the Irish were too stupid to grow anything but potatoes is part of the genocide cover-up.
    Mike

  35. Couldn’t plants be genetically engineered to be more blight- and drought- resistant? I would suspect that is well within the abilities of current bio-engineering.
    I am a disinterested commentator here, by the way; my preference in tubers is for yams and sweet potatoes.
    On the heels of the salmonella-spinach scare of last year, Isn’t this another black eye at least for large-scale ‘organic’ farming? The prudent use of chemical pesticides is surely one of the major guarantors of the food supply in a market of 300 million people.
    You think I should cc this to Greenpeace?

  36. “On the heels …, Isn’t this another black eye.
    Badly mixed metaphor there. What would George Orwell say (v. ‘Politics and the English Language’)?

  37. ‘The temperature has to be ABOVE 10C/20C and humid.’
    Where is it that 10 C in July is not cold? Certainly not in the I-95 Corridor from DC to Boston. Yesterday’s morning low of 58F (14.5 C) at Newark Airport set the record for the date. Normal low temp. now, just about at the peak of average temps., is 70F (21C).
    The first ten days of July have all been below normal, for an average anomaly of -4.4.
    Y’all down in San Antonio can just keep your mother-luvin’ heatwave. I haven’t felt this good in July since 2004!

  38. FWIW, we got zapped with ‘early blight’ here in Louisiana. It’s a different fungus, but sucks just about as much, attacking tomatoes and potatoes with wild abandon. Daconil slows both blights dramatically, in case you’ve got one of them.
    But let’s not confuse the issue here. These fungi have no concern for global warming. They grow when it’s humid. That’s pretty much their only concern. My guess is that I bought potato seed (which are really just plain old potatoes) that was inoculated with the crap already. I suspect it is the same for everyone else suffering from the fungus.
    The bad news is, the fungus can go dormant for three frickin’ years, so if you want to kill it off, you’ve got to not plant tomatoes or potatoes for at least 4 years!
    &^%#$$*%$!

  39. I put my Yukon Gold potatoes in early this year (April 25th) and they’re ready to dig already. Curiously, they never bloomed this year.

  40. “‘Wet and *warm* weather, not cool weather is causing explosive spread of blight. Thunderstorm weather, actually.’ ”
    Thunderstorms, at least in the Northeast, are usually caused by pressing cold fronts. Despite this extraordinarily cool early summer, there have been episodes of dramatic, electrifying weather hereabouts as wave after wave of cooler, low-dewpoint air masses (one morning early this week, the dewpoint at EWR was 47F–in July!) have moved into masses less cool and with much-higher dewpoints. On separate occasions, towns in northern NJ and more recently in southern Westchester County, NY (maybe ten miles from the George Washington Bridge) have seen hail-producing t-storms so heavy that plows had to be deployed.

  41. ” Oh and did you know that the definition of organic has been changed to include GMOs? Control the food, control the world. ”
    “More like ‘control the language, control the world”.
    Anyway, the word ‘organic’ has a wide field of reference.

  42. Weather in North America over the past year or so has been classic La Nina.
    Cool in western Canada and upper mid-west – cool and wet in the north-east – dry and warm in the south – dry in California – wet along the north-west coast.
    [Remember there is a lag of 2 to 3 months for the impact to be felt so we are still feeling the La Nina versus the El Nino which has just developed].
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/La_Nina_regional_impacts.gif

  43. Liberals wackos and word games.
    Has any one eaten Inorganic veges? Last time I checked, they are all organic.
    Global warming is climate chance. We have climate change more often than changes in seasons.

  44. Cooling is much more dangerous to us than warming. Unfortunately there is nothing the politicians can “control” to reduce global cooling.

  45. To Texas boys
    I lived in Laredo from 64-69 .The day I arrived it was 102 degrees. The day I left it had been over 100 most every day in July and August.It was a great sight seeing Laredo disappear in my rear view mirror.

  46. From what little understanding I’ve gleaned from the BBC, I’d taken it, as axiomatic, that both flora and fauna respond more to the climate projections of the 2050’s than the weather as at present.
    I find it depressing that certain flora are displaying denialist sympathies by ignoring the ‘heat in the pipeline’. Clearly, they are no longer disciples of Big Al and have been bought by Big Oil. Next they’ll be shrilling that carbon dioxide is good. They are so unscientific that they even scoff at Gender Studies and Global Warming as being disconnected. In my sandals- eat my beard!
    Everyone must know thanks to that excellent scientific treatise- An inconvenient truth- that cause is ALWAYS after the effect. Those excellent Vostok ice-core studies clearly demonstrated that. The Irish potato Famine of the 1840’s was undoubtedly a product of the ensuing Western Fossilificationings.
    The question is folks. How do we stop this irreverance spreading to other lifeforms- Frogs, butterflies, the senate, weasels and so on?
    Gavin-My PC is a wee bit off-colour at the moment so if it doesn’t appear on RuleClimate – forgive me if I have to repost!

  47. Arthur Glass (13:21:56) :
    Poor Malthus was fourteen years dead in 1848.
    1848 was a year of crop failures throughout Europe, and also a year of bloody revolutionary ferment. The two stories are obviously related.

    1848 crop failures were due to religious reasons more than to potatoes plagues. Many believers of the second advent of Jesus abandoned their fields in1833 and again in 1844 and 1845 because they thought that cultivating the land would be no longer necessary with the arrival of the new world. They sold their properties and did not cultivate the land for some years until Miller’s death in 1849. William Miller, Charles Fitch, Charles Finney and Josiah Litch had much to see with this idea.

  48. Wha …. no more ‘Transcendent Rant’ blog category?
    How am I going to get the opinion from ‘the other side of the tracks’ (as one of my Mom’s Aunts who lived next to a set of train tracks used to put it) …
    .
    .

  49. Q: What happens when an organic farmer loses his entire crop to a treatable disease or infestation?
    A: He goes bust.
    So its not a stretch to say that the organic food fad has put the stability of basic foodstuffs at risk and that prices will rise.

  50. Pamela Gray (11:13:59) :
    “Texans need to understand that dust storms and crop failures are necessary in order to expose the nutrient rich top soil to the wind.”
    That’s called soil erosion. It is not beneficial.

  51. ohioholic (09:09:44) :
    Weather is not climate.

    When it cools in the face of predicted catastrophic warming, it’s not climate, it’s just weather..
    But when a heat wave hits somewhere or an iceberg calves into the sea, it’s OMG Global Warming (aka new paint job=Climate Change).
    Weather IS an integral part of climate, because without it, Climate is dead. Turn off the Satellites, Meteorlogical instruments, shut down the computers, quit watching the nightly weather report, and go to bed.

  52. Most of Texas is not too bad off for rainfall–there are areas that are somewhat drier than average, and areas that are running average or even above for rainfall.
    However, South Texas is the only part of the US that’s in Exceptional drought.

  53. Somehow, the Northwest has enjoyed a warm spell the last month….after 2 years below normal (in my estimate) But this spring was the first I saw a fungus such as this on my hedge. The nursery said some fungi can rob the roots of water. I cleared away any mulch around the stalks and watered heavily. The water, and the sudden warmth seems to have saved them this year. But this area is already cool and moldy most of the year. We need every bit of the little warmth we get…

  54. a jones (08:49:21) :
    An old fashioned but effective method of dealing with this for gardeners is Bordeaux Mixture, basically copper sulphate and slaked lime. I imagine it can still be bought in the US.
    I’d keep quiet about this – especially if it works. It sounds like something the eco-police would ban.

  55. Arthur Glass (13:21:56) :
    “Ireland of the 1840’s and it’s struggle with the British empire and Thomas Malthus.”
    Poor Malthus was fourteen years dead in 1848.
    1848 was a year of crop failures throughout Europe, and also a year of bloody revolutionary ferment. The two stories are obviously related.
    It should read Thomas Malthus theories, It does make more sense then. English is only my first language.
    The theory as I understand it goes, the poor are the cause of poverty because there are too many useless, unemployed eaters. This was the how the Irish were seen and completely ignores the actual cause of poverty. In the Irish case the poverty and social conditions which contributed to the famine had everything to do with living next door to a sea going superpower which had a thing for trade monopoly’s, not very much to do with how many Irish there were.

  56. henrychance (15:29:34) : I know someone who is a decent person in almost every way. But not long ago asked where “organic dirt” could be obtained. For me, that was the ultimate in goofy environmentalism.

  57. I had to read it twice, before realizing that the “Irish Potato Famine” was dramatic license. This blight has been occurring in the (warmer) post 1975 Global Warming era.
    (I say CO2, you say cosmic rays; or ‘Its a Mystery’, or…whatever the cause. Temperatures have been rising.)
    “McGrath said in her 21 years of research, she has only seen five outbreaks in the United States.” So, this is the 5th outbreak since 1988.
    So, we are not dealing with the cooler temperatures in Europe, back in 1850. Which suggests that we are dealing with increased rainfalls that produce increased humidity. And maybe its just the relatively cooler temperatures of a La Nina event…
    And, for this regional situation: “from Maine to Ohio”…
    Since regional computer forecasts suggest increased rainfall in the northeast U.S….
    Maybe increased blight is to be expected if GW increases!!!
    “Late blight has nevcer occurred this early and this widespread in the United States.”
    So…what else is new…besides the higher temperatures?

  58. Michael Ronayne
    The Irish potato famine was not an isolated Irish problem but a failure of the potato croup throughout Europe
    As the Irish Census records were destroyed in the Irish Revolution of June 1922, by IRA military action
    The story that the Irish were too stupid to grow anything but potatoes is part of the genocide cover-up.
    I have to agree with you, but it must be recognised that this was only a relatively minor success on the part of British Intelligence, in its effort io control the climate for millitary and social engineering purposes. Many people consider, despite the fact that it was a rather early and primitive climatic intervention, that the severe winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge was in fact their finest hour from the early pre-20th century period.
    These days of course the Hadley Centre brooks few rivals in its influrnce on the climate 🙂

  59. I go ballistic when I read of the oh-so-trendy “organic farming” gurus spreading pest and disease through pig ignorance. This is what I mean. Here’s an organic farming trendy piece, though with teeth gritted because of the mention of (cut to scary music) “fungicides” –
    Without these fungicides or effective alternative control methods, this income (of 15 to 35 million Euros) would be lost and threaten the
    economic viability of organic potato production and/or whole organic farming businesses (especially those which rely heavily on the income from potato crops) in many areas of the EU. Since EU policies are aimed at supporting an expansion of organic production, a replacement for copper containing and other chemical fungicides is urgently required to avoid
    such consequences. In addition, any increase in late blight incidence on organic farms resulting from poorer control could also influence blight epidemics in neighbouring conventional farms and threaten conventional production systems.
    (Now we come to the type of belief “science” that riddles climate studies):
    “An integrated systems approach to late blight management in organic systems that eliminates or reduces the need for copper-based fungicides could solve these problems. Such an approach should integrate use of (i) resistant varieties, (ii) agronomic strategies (iii) alternative treatments and (iv) optimise their effectiveness by utilising existing blight forecasting systems and aim to maximise synergistic interactions between these components.”
    http://orgprints.org/10650/10/leifert-wilcockson-2005-blight_mop-report-chapter9.pdf
    wtf does that mean?
    For the sake of sanity, why not use the professonal resources of educated chemists who have devised effective, mostly organic chemicals to reduce the harm of this oomycete? Why not note the warnings such as –
    “If spread of late blight during the seed handling operation increases the risk for seed transmission, then application of a seed dressing is an obvious preventive approach to managing this phase of the disease. Our research has shown that a seed piece treatment is effective only when one or more of the components of the fungicide product has efficacy against P. infestans (6,13). At least four products containing one or two fungicides (maneb, mancozeb or cymoxanil plus mancozeb) with activity against P. infestans are registered.”
    http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/pub/php/management/potatolate/
    What makes me ropable is that the simple minds of the organic farmers (who want to ban even the limited success of copper teatment, while being a bit vacant about treatment regimes) have already caused the banning, the deregistration, of several potentially useful chemicals.
    This is wrong. This is akin to taking chlorination from domestic water supplies and claiming that the resulting large increase in human deaths at least benefited from purer deaths, not chemically-contaminated ones.

  60. For hobbiest hop farmers around here (northern Indiana), not only is the cool, cloudy and moist weather killing yields, but downey mildew is also a big problem. The early harvest for Cascades is hot, and the late harvest Goldings are not ripening at all like they should.
    Hop prices worldwide are still at record levels. Let’s hope the weather is better in Yakima Washington, East Anglia England, and Moravia. Last year whole hop prices were at $30 a pound (in 2000 they were about $2 bucks a pound).
    Now I know why hop farming died out so quickly in Wisconsin and New York in the 1890s.

  61. As I write this it is 67 degrees and cloudy … in San Jose, California in the middle of July. It is raining in Hayward and San Francisco. Oakland is 62 degrees and is having a thunderstorm. The middle of July is generally pretty hot here.

  62. Arthur Glass (13:35:04) :
    Oh, we have bioengineered much. Trouble is, nature will do an end run on the monoculture.
    It’s too late when the crops fail.

  63. crosspatch (20:15:28) :
    Yep, it’s moved south.
    This keeps up, it will be moving south even more.
    The Yukon and parts of Alaska will be uninhabitable.

  64. Tonite in La Grande, Oregon-we are USDA Zone 5a/b here- about 1000ft. less altitude than Pamela Gray- we finally are having a warmish night, I too have green
    blossomless tomatoes-these are “Early Girl” and “Ace ” I still hold out hope that I may have steak and tomatoes-by August-if it doesn’t frost…

  65. If the Irish had in the 1845s the fungicide Captan for combating the blight, there wouldn’t be now so many Irish cops in New York.
    But famines have been a constant during the entire history of our cruel planet. This is a summary with original photos (quite interesting) from a National Geographic magazine issue of July 1917 about “Fearful Famines of the Past”. There are statistics about the death toll in Ireland, before the archives were burned in 1922.
    And let the organic farmers go the way of the Dodo. Bring some good, honest, juicy and savory legumes and frutis grown with good GM tech.

  66. Pamela Gray (11:07:50) “. . . link for a short course on trade winds and oceanic oscillations. . .”
    The text in this link is confused. Names and locations are not right. Trade winds do not come from the Gulf of Mexico to the western US and “The same trade winds usually sweep westwards over the continent and the Pacific, picking up moisture from that ocean as they go, before doubling back and carrying their watery cargo back towards the United States in the upper atmosphere.”
    There are such things as Sub-tropical high pressure cells and Westerlies in the areas attributed to the trade winds in this link. Maybe the model has these things, I don’t know.

  67. Gentian Blue, or Gentian Violet is a powerful natural dye and effective anti-fungal which is also seemingly safe in its usual application topically intraorally for thrush, which is monilial, a fungal infection. Its stain is tough, but not permanent on living epithelium.

  68. Andrew Zalotocky (17:09:19) :
    Thanks for the pointing out the Spectator article. My favourite quote from it has to be
    “…I’m so sceptical of these models, which have nothing to do with science or empiricism but are about torturing the data till it finally confesses.”

  69. ohioholic (09:09:44) : Weather is not climate.
    Unfortunately, the official definition of “climate” as a 30 year interval is weather, IMHO. If you live in a high Mountain Alpine climate, you do not suddenly end up in a Cool Desert climate without some serious change of geography. This, however, does not show up in the “30 year average weather” that is use used to define “climate” for “climate researchers”.
    When I look at the individual definition of climate zones and types, I see nothing that says “weather averaged over 30 years gives a mediterranean climate” but rather see things that talk about altitude, distance from the ocean, wetness levels, vegetation (forest / desert ), snow persistence, etc.
    It is irksome that the “30 years average weather” is equated to climate, since unless you move the continents around a fair amount, Italy has had a Mediterranean Climate type despite the Iron Age Cold Period, the Roman Optimum, the Little Ice Age, etc.
    So I’m left to conclude that, as used in the AGW debate, Climate is, in fact, weather. Just a 30 year average of weather and unrelated to climate zones and other uses of the word climate as traditionally defined.

  70. bill (12:41:56) :
    Please check the facts:
    From wiki:

    Sorry, bill, but you make your first error right there.
    Wiki is not a source of facts, it is only a source of opinion. “Consensus” if you will.
    From what I’ve seen, it is a reflection of whatever pressure group has the most motivated advocates for their propaganda.
    Now, sometimes, it seems to have the facts straight, but then in a week or so it can be re-written by some pressure group or emotional advocate, so even then you can’t trust a reference link to stay unpolluted. Sorry.
    I was an early advocate for Wiki, but got to watch the communal barn raising turn into a ritual barn burning one time too many … like what was done to the Jevons Paradox page.
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/12/jevons-paradox-coal-oil-conservation/
    There are several environmental conditions that are conducive to P. infestans. […]
    20 °C (68 °F) and 75% […]
    10 °C (50 °F) or above and on each day at least 11 hours when the relative humidity is greater than 90%.

    The temperature has to be ABOVE 10C/20C and humid.
    It is not cold damp conditions!
    Don’t know where you are from, but 50 to 68 F with 75% or more RH is cold and damp! at least by the standards of folks from California through central Texas… I can’t personally attest to what a New Englander calls cold / damp. I can say that my Florida friends seem to think anything less than a thunderstorm is “low humidity” 😉 but they also think anything less than 80F is “cool” … then again, I met a guy from Alaska once who thought that anything over 50F was “warm”, so maybe you’re from Alaska?
    At any rate, much of the west, central and south USA can easily have 90 F to 100 F plus temperatures in the middle of summer. Frankly, I don’t feel like summer has really gotten going unless it’s well into the 90s and preferably 100F+ for a good stretch of time. So from that perspective, it is “cold and damp” right now in the areas in question, when compared to what it usually is expected to be.

  71. I will look more closely at tomato and potato plants sold in stores. Thanks for the post.

  72. pkatt (12:46:38) :
    Blight and diseases are the problem with most of the monoculture plants we create in the United States. Diversity has been lost and we are set up for a grape vine style die off for wheat, corn, soy, tomatoes and potatoes. Since GMO (gene modified organisms) plants carry a dominant gene, even if you plant diversity too near a gmo field, you end up with gmo plants.
    Oh and did you know that the definition of organic has been changed to include GMOs? Control the food, control the world.
    http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~agroeco3/index.html
    pkatt,
    I remember a documentary a few months ago about a foundation in Belgium or the Netherlands that specialized in “forgotten vegetables and crops”.
    They study the vegetables and crop grown during the little ice age up to the fifties and sell seeds for those interested planters and hobby gardners to plant them.
    I will try to find the contact information of the foundation if anyone is interested.
    P.s I did a quick search:
    http://dutchfood.about.com/od/aboutdutchcooking/a/ForgottenVeg.htm
    http://www.vergetengroenten.be/
    For more information, google “forgotten food crops”

  73. Arthur Glass (13:35:04) : Couldn’t plants be genetically engineered to be more blight- and drought- resistant? I would suspect that is well within the abilities of current bio-engineering.
    It doesn’t require bio-engineering, just plain old plant breeding. But remember that Darwin is at work here too, and the “bug” keeps finding new ways past the defenses if at all possible… Part of the cause of the potato famine was a dependence on the Lumper, a potato that was particularly prone to turning to mush when infected. There are other potato types that do not do that. In the native environment, the potato is highly variable and this helps it withstand such attacks and helps it change as the bugs change.
    FWIW, I’ve grown a few potatoes from potato SEEDS (NOT seed potatoes – the actual seeds from the FRUIT of the potato plant. They do flower, just rarely) specifically to make my mix of potatoes more genetically diverse. Potatoes are a bit like apples in that what you get from the seeds can be very different from the parent tuber… You don’t preserve a variety this way, you make a mix of new types.
    Then again, I run a tough garden. I’ve got one square where the potatoes have to grow up through Bermuda Grass (!). The Bermuda overran it, and I decided to abandon it and not bother weeding it out (was too busy with some family issues). The end result was the survivors are one sturdy type of potato. Naturalized about 4 years now under bermuda… I’m going to “reward” them with a new square some time this year after the tops die back. Oh, and one of them made flowers and fruit this year, so I’m saving those seeds too. It is this kind of thing that can give you a potato that does not need a lot of tending and stands up to blight, or weeds, or bugs…
    BTW, to the person who said to never grow potatoes and tomatoes in the same garden (and folks who also say to never grow tobacco and tomatoes):
    I regularly grow all three together. Not in the same square, but within 10 feet of each other. No problems. Maybe it’s a California thing… then again, Dad was from Iowa and his dad was from Pennsylvania and they grew tomatoes and potatoes together. On a traditional family farm like they had, if you would eat tomatoes and potatoes you had to grow them both. And they did. My tobacco was started from seeds and has no tobacco mosaic virus in it, so it is not a threat to the tomatoes.
    On the heels of the salmonella-spinach scare of last year, Isn’t this another black eye at least for large-scale ‘organic’ farming? The prudent use of chemical pesticides is surely one of the major guarantors of the food supply in a market of 300 million people.
    I’m more or less neutral on the issue of “organic”. I buy what looks good, organic or not, as the mood takes me. Pesticides can work wonders. Yet it is quite possible to grow abundant crops without them, it just takes more work. More crop rotations, weed kill with flame throwers rather than chemicals, hand weeding once the crop is up, companion planting and more.
    For example, I’ve discovered that a tobacco plant near my garden has seriously reduced the leaf miners that in the past had hit my leafy greens this time of year. Inspection of the underside of the leaves shows a lot of little bug eggs. All dead from the nicotine …
    I don’t know what the “organic” approach is to blight or fungus issues, but I would guess that with the larger labor pool and close attention to the crops, the first sight of it would result in the infected plant being rapidly removed and burned, reducing the spread. I could also imagine more active pruning to keep the humidity down and open the plants up to sun and wind more. While I don’t know all the “magic” that the pros use, these folks list a variety of “organic fungicides”:
    http://www.planetnatural.com/site/xdpy/kb/organic-fungicides.html
    I use nothing (other than an occasional bit of fertilizer) in my garden. Not because I’m hung up on it, but because I accidentally stumbled into it. One year I got fed up with fighting the insects and just stopped spraying. Next year the bugs got a lot of the garden. 2 years later I had a crop of wasps and spiders keeping the place “cleaned up”. Haven’t needed to change that relationship since… Now I have essentially no pest problem (other than some sporadic aphids for a brief time).
    Oh, and a ‘Possum moved in under the shed and cleaned out the snails too. I’d done snail bait for 10 years+ with little to show for it, after 2 years without it, Ms. ‘Possum moved in. End of problem. And each year we get to watch the baby ‘possums grow up and move out. They are darned cute when they are little. The ‘possum cleans up the cat food that the cats think is too old to eat. We just rotate the dish out to near the shed when the cat turns it’s nose up. Cat is happy with fresh food. ‘Possum is happy. I’m happy because I’m not “wasting cat food” tossing it out for a picky cat…
    So I run a more or less organic garden, but simply because it is LESS work and I’m getting MORE produce this way. I’ve also “let go” of some plants that I can’t get to work without sprays (my apples get worms if not sprayed). Again, not from some zeal, but mostly just lazyness. So I grow citrus that needs no spray here. There is probably some organic process I could learn to do the apples, but I haven’t had the time. So the rabbits and ‘possums get the apples.
    Now I’ve been in East Texas in summer when the bugs were so thick you needed machete to cut your way from the car to the gas pump (only a slight bit of hyperbole – it was evening at the gas station and it looked like a downpour of rain, except it was bugs and they were flying in circles, not falling…) and I can’t imagine how one would do gardening there without bug spray. But I figure the folks there do know. My wife was horrified and would not get out of the car, but I had to… we needed gas. It was an “interesting experience”… there were at least 5 kinds of bug in the fog of them. Probably a lot more, but I was busy keeping them off my face and out of my collar while I pumped the gas and not doing a population count. If I farmed there I would probably own Dow Chemical stock 😉
    BTW, my Amish ancestors and relatives did, and do, just fine without modern chemical farming. Again, it just takes more work sometimes and a more finely tuned sense of what is going on at other times. One example? My dad trained an English Retriever to pick tomato horn worms off the vines. He would just send her out with the command “Get the Worms! Get ’em!” (she was white with tan patches) and she would pick them off and bite them in half… then come back when she was done, all light green with tan patches and smelling of tomatoes! She loved doing it too.
    Since I’ve had the wasps working over the garden, I’ve not had any tomato worms to deal with. So I leave the wasp nests under the eaves of the house and everybody is happy. I’ve learned that if a wasp is looking me over, they are just checking me out for aphids, worms and beetles, and will soon wander off. No worries.
    My neighbors are ‘hard core’ organic. Have a “farm share”. I went to the annual party at “their farm” with about 100 other farm share members and got a tour of the place. Highly productive farm with a variety of mixed crops. The biggest difference? They have a staff of workers year round. If they find an infestation of anything starting, they deal with it very fast. More labor, less chemicals.
    BTW, Salmonella is orthogonal to the organic question. You will find salmonella just about anywhere. If you have surface water, you will likely find salmonella in it. What causes some bit of it to cause illness for some folks is unclear, but the source is often traced back to the “wash water” rather than to the field. IIRC, the recent issue with salmonella here in California was not one of organic spinach, it was ordinary spinach.
    There was one batch of problems traced to a facility in Mexico where they refilled the wash water from a non-treated well source (rather than the approved treated water) and got an outbreak. The offending faucet was removed in some way. ANY vegetables run through that packing facility would have been contaminated (and were, which was part of how they figured it out… the diversity of foods causing illness all had one common transit point.)
    A final note: Organic does not mean “no pesticides”, it means “natural pesticides”. So a “tea” made from a plant with a natural insecticide can be used. “Tobacco tea” works in this way (the nicotine is a natural insecticide). Similarly, you can use simple soapy water to kill aphids (and some other soft bodied bugs). There are others, too, but I don’t know them all.
    There are also strategies where you plant a ring of one crop around another (either to drive the pests off or to attract them to the outside ring that is not harvested or is burned off / ploughed under). IIRC, Chrysanthemums can be used as an insecticide in this way and onions? repel some pests.
    Basically, being an organic farmer is not about lower yields, it is about more complex farming practices. Often you get more yield or you get more yield per dollar spent. It’s just one heck of a lot more complicated to do it “old school” than it is to pay Sam’s Sprayers to dump a load of chemicals on the field and go watch the game on TV…

  74. Francis (18:47:13) :
    “McGrath said in her 21 years of research, she has only seen five outbreaks in the United States.”
    So, this is the 5th outbreak since 1988.

    You conveniently left off what she said after that:
    “What’s unique about it this year is we have never seen plants affected in garden centers being sold to home gardeners,” she said.
    This year’s cool, wet weather created perfect conditions for the disease.

    But, what does she know, being just a plant pathologist.
    So, we are not dealing with the cooler temperatures in Europe, back in 1850.
    Nice straw man. No one said we were back to 1850 temperature-wise. Not yet, anyway.
    And maybe its just the relatively cooler temperatures of a La Nina event…
    Ah, so it is cooling, but it’s just because of a La Nina. Got it.
    Maybe increased blight is to be expected if GW increases!!!
    So, as GW increases, you get cool, wet weather, which then causes the blight. Fascinating.
    So…what else is new…besides the higher temperatures?
    And there you have it folks. Cooling is warming. You can all just throw your thermometers away.

  75. John A (16:36:07) : So its not a stretch to say that the organic food fad has put the stability of basic foodstuffs at risk and that prices will rise.
    John A, I don’t know where you are coming from with this, but it’s just wrong.
    First off, even conventional farmers can lose a whole crop. When it rains up near Chico at the wrong time in August, you can hear the crop dusters working overtime to put down sulphur dust on the peaches. Doesn’t always work, and some times some farmers lose their whole crop. That’s just part of being a farmer. Hail. Wind. Rain. Lack of rain.
    Chose the wrong crop, or the wrong techniques, or just have an unlucky season and you are in a word of hurt. Bugs are only one of a long list of risks.
    Further, any organic farmer is very unlikely to have a single crop going. By the nature of the process it works better with a farm of many mixed crops. The guy at greatest risk of “going under” is the “conventional” farmer with a monoculture dependent on specific chemicals to keep it alive. See the history of the corn rust outbreak of the ’70s (IIRC… but it might have been the early ’80s) where we were on the edge of losing the entire US corn crop because it was all the same cultivar and a fungus figured out how to eat it… State after state had total failures. We were lucky enough that a different resistant cultivar could be planted the next year (after some work), but the risks of monoculture are gigantic. Not so organic farming where diversity of varieties is a hallmark.
    Oh, and there is nothing about GM crops that prevents failure either:
    https://www.kitcomm.com/archive/index.php?t-39445.html
    talks about a massive crop failure in South Africa because, per Monsanto, they had a little problem in the lab when they were cooking up the seeds…
    Finally, the organic component of our farm produce is so small a part, and so specialized a market, that it has effectively no impact on prices, and certainly none on “basic foodstuffs” or bulk products like wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. Those prices are based off the conventional suppliers, not the organic stuff that costs more already. Organic farming is a specialized and SEPARATE market from conventional. At most, a widespread failure of an organic product could only raise the price of the organic alternatives.
    Clearly you have some kind of hang up about organic farming. Fine, don’t eat it. But there is no reason to disparage those folks who do want to eat foods produced with the minimum of chemicals and genetic mischief.
    If the only way I can get foods is to have them soaked in malathion, well, I’m OK with that, I grew up in farm country eating things with lots of sprays on them (and mixing tanks of the stuff and slopping it all over me and playing in the “fog” behind the mosquito trucks and… lets just say I’m not real worried about it.) At the same time if someone is worried for some reason, and wants to pay an extra nickel to get a tomato with no spray on it, I’m fine with that too.
    There is a particular joy to sitting up to your eyeballs in a tomato patch with salt shaker in one hand and jello soft ripe tomato in the other with no worries about washing it or “what’s on it”… If someone wants to try and capture a bit of that experience at home without a garden, well, good on ’em!

  76. Jim (18:01:39) :
    henrychance (15:29:34) : I know someone who is a decent person in almost every way. But not long ago asked where “organic dirt” could be obtained. For me, that was the ultimate in goofy environmentalism.

    Goofy yes, but no more goofy than the “organic” word itself. I still cringe at it. My sense of “organic” is firmly rooted in my “organic chemistry” class… I have trouble talking about “non-organic” food, since it all has carbon in it; so I typically say “conventional” instead.
    At any rate, just as “organic” has a legal definition for farming and foods that is not the same as the common meaning, so would “organic dirt”. It is dirt that has not had pesticides and some other list of things done for some number of years. For a farm to put “organic” on it’s products, it must farm with “organic” methods for some number of years until the legal presumption that the “icky stuff” has washed away is met, then the dirt is “organic” and the farm call call the produce “organic”. I think it was about 3 years?
    So you friend was just using a term of art in a correct way, but it’s a goofy term of art…

  77. Just to add to Michael Ronayne: the idea that the Irish were too stupid to grow anything else was a bit of propaganda as it was clearly not so. They grew wheat. In large quantites. But couldn’t eat it as this was how they paid tax. So when the blight came and destroyed the potatoes, they starved to death as the landlords (or most of them) wouldn’t reduce the tax and let them use the wheat to live. A very fine hour for the British Crown. if any of you get a chance you should got to Achill Island in the west and see the graves and the Deserted Village.
    How do I know this? Well I was taught it in school in Belfast and I’ve been diving in Achill.
    Also the ‘luck of the Irish’ means a lot of things. It is commonly a misconception to being stupid and just lucky where as a lot of the time it means we just play stupid and lucky when we are actually very good at what we do. So really there’s no luck there at all. Its all skill. You may have heard the saying: If it wasn’t for drink, the Irish would have conquered the world, or come to think of it seen the Family Guy sketch about it. Life is too short to not have any craic.

  78. Geoff Sherrington (19:11:31) : I go ballistic when I read of the oh-so-trendy “organic farming” gurus spreading pest and disease through pig ignorance.
    Geoff, I think you are mixing two different things here. One is your obvious upset at rules that mandate an “organic” approach. The other is your assertion that the organic methods are less workable or somehow bad.
    Please try to divorce those two from each other.
    Clearly the EU Thought Police are trying to cram “organic” methods down folks throats and that is wrong. It is a consequence of taking the decision making out of the hands of the individuals and putting it in the hand of petty commissioners. Banning the use of proven working products is generally a bad idea, IMHO.
    But at the same time, there is no need for every single farmer to soak ever bit of spud in fungicides! I’ve grown potatoes for years with no problems and with no sprays or fungicides at all. Now partly that’s because I have a small isolated plot and only use my own (clean) seed stocks and partly it’s probably because California is a climate that does not lend itself to molds and fungi (a bit on the dry side). But other “organic farmers” do well too, given the bags of their produce I see in Whole Foods stores. Please see the link in my earlier posting that points to a list of “organic fungicides”…
    “Since EU policies are aimed at supporting an expansion of organic production, a replacement for copper containing and other chemical fungicides is urgently required”
    There is your basic, and real, problem. “EU Policies”. Not some isolated organic farmer. It’s the “one size fits all, even if it has holes in it” EU method that is wrong, not the guy with a patch of spray free food.
    “resulting from poorer control could also influence blight epidemics in neighbouring conventional farms and threaten conventional production systems.”
    This is an assumption on your part. From what I’ve seen, the organic guys (at least the ones that stay in business!) are pretty darned good about controlling “epidemics”. They are in their fields much more often and much more diligently remove diseased plants. That is one of their major methods of controlling problems without sprays. They must do that to succeed.
    “An integrated systems approach to late blight management in organic systems that eliminates or reduces the need for copper-based fungicides could solve these problems. Such an approach should integrate use of (i) resistant varieties, (ii) agronomic strategies (iii) alternative treatments and (iv) optimise their effectiveness by utilising existing blight forecasting systems and aim to maximise synergistic interactions between these components.”
    wtf does that mean?

    OK, I’ll translate it:
    Instead of using a chemical spray with a complex organic molecules of unknown impact on people, or containing lots of copper than can kill some kinds of aquatic life, we can use other means. The other means have to be used in a set or “suite” of complimentary things, since one alone is not enough. One of those things is to start with varieties that are already genetically resistant. Then we use some “agronomic strategies” that can include things like what is planted nearby, how the plants are pruned, what crop rotations happen, how seed is saved, and any other aspect of the agronomy system that helps control the pests (such as mandatory uprooting, immediate poly bagging, and burning of any infected plant daily). There are alternative effective treatments to copper, and those can be used. Finally, knowing when blight is more likely lets you know when to step up the pace of these actions for best results.
    All very reasonable, IMHO. The only unreasonable part I see is an EU wide mandate that you must do things this way. Then again, I don’t know what copper runoff might be doing to aquatic life there.
    Would you be as strongly emotive about it all if those were voluntary or were guidelines for Organic but not conventional farmers?
    For the sake of sanity, why not use the professonal resources of educated chemists who have devised effective, mostly organic chemicals to reduce the harm of this oomycete?
    And you don’t think that the organic techniques are produced using “the professional resources of educated” folks? This isn’t just a bunch of hippies trying their hand at farming in a back to the land movement… There are plenty of experienced farmers, some with multiple generations of experience, along with lot of folks with Masters and PhD degrees in the pertinent fields.
    What makes me ropable is that the simple minds of the organic farmers (who want to ban even the limited success of copper teatment, while being a bit vacant about treatment regimes) have already caused the banning, the deregistration, of several potentially useful chemicals.
    Again, I see this as an issue only IFF you are required to farm that way. It is not a problem for the Organic guys to define they way THEY want to farm. It does become a problem when the EU rules force the conventional guys to take that road too.
    So you have a problem because the EU wants to over regulate, not because the organic potato farmer is willing to do a heck of a lot more work to avoid using chemicals while still getting a healthy crop. Notice that the organic guy does not survive if his crop fails too often… so he is not interested in techniques that don’t work. He’s just interested in non-chemical techniques that work. The conflict comes from forcing everyone down that single path.
    This is why markets work better than central planning and regulatory agencies. One size does NOT fill all. Never has. Never will.

  79. E.M.Smith (07:07:06) :
    1. I believe the point of defining 30 years as “climate” is because that is long enough to detect a trend.
    2. If organic farming is so hot, how did we increase the yield per acre by four times since 1866. It is easy for you to say organic farming can out-produce technology assisted farming, but show me proof. Where’s the study that confirms that. We are and have been a well-fed nation. Our life expectancy had gone way up, and not all of that is medicine – after all, all the liberal know the US lags in medical care. Frankly, I’ll have the cheap veggies thank you.

  80. I hesitate to be a conspiracy theorist, but I read so many stories about food famines and diseases that I do wonder sometimes if malignant agencies will be doing this, be that releasing Swine Flu in Mexico or Phytophtera in the USA.
    Not saying they are, it’s just that the way the media is nowadays, you might occasionally think so………

  81. E.M.Smith (07:07:06) :
    Goofy yes, but no more goofy than the “organic” word itself. I still cringe at it. My sense of “organic” is firmly rooted in my “organic chemistry” class… I have trouble talking about “non-organic” food, since it all has carbon in it; so I typically say “conventional” instead.
    I agree with this. When some clients ask me about what organic food is, I have no other explanation except that perhaps “organic” is referring to food which has been produced by old-fashioned technology, specifying that it is produced without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, hormones, etc. I could not enlarge more confusion to the issue, so I tell them what a real organic compound is, that is, any molecule which contains an atom of carbon in its structure.
    The same problem was set off on traditional medicine, i.e. herbal medicine. People working in phytochemistry call it “natural” medicine; however, all medicines are natural, so the label “natural” is baffling. That is not the language of science.
    Regarding the treatment of potatoes crops with biocides, I think is a major mistake. When using Amphotericine B or other fungicidal products on crops, farmers are also affecting mycorrhiza, which is a symbiotic organism essential for the development of many valuable plants, especially, leguminous plants. The best methodologies for avoiding plagues are mixed crops and rotative crops.

  82. Rhys Jaggar (08:36:06):
    You forgot to mention deliberate non controlled forest fires. AGW prophecies must be fulfilled, aha?
    No, no conspiracy, but idiotic radical environmentalists, whose projects of life are based on what it is into your wallet through scaring you.

  83. Jim (08:10:28) :
    2. If organic farming is so hot, how did we increase the yield per acre by four times since 1866. It is easy for you to say organic farming can out-produce technology assisted farming, but show me proof.

    Jim we buy an organic “veggie box” every week. It costs perhaps 0% to 10% more than supermarket standard non-organic. If non-organic was 4 times cheaper to produce but costs similar for the end user then there is something seriously wrong with the distribution of profits.
    With the box you do get more size variabi;ity, the odd strange shaped carrot but does this matter?
    Your 4 times increase is of course partialy due to better crop varieties, but these are available to organic producers too.

  84. What Gore et al. might say about blight infection… “It is well known that Global Warming produces crop failure and blight during the hot summer months… OUR models have shown it clearly.”

  85. bill (11:49:07) : You may have highlighted a situation where “organically grown” produce is competitive, but by and large it is not competitive with traditionally raised produce. Even 10% more is too much. This “organic” thing is similar to the “global warming” thing in that there is no empirical evidence for either of them. Global warming is predicted by models and shown by corrupted data sets, there is no reliable empirical data showing that the warming we see from time to time is caused by CO2, much less that it will cause any kind of problem. There is no empirical data that shows our traditionally grown crops are bad or that the “organic” ones are better. Both cases are driven largely by hysteria on the part of the “common people.” Other motivations are there for politicians and overzealous environmentalists.

  86. Indeed that is how Bordeaux Mixture got its name but its discovery and/or invention is obscure exept that it seems to have been developed in the 1850’s to deal with potato blight: whereas it’s relative Burgundy Mixture, which uses sodium carbonate instead of slaked lime, did not appear until the 1870s.
    And I would point out in the UK at least all the various organic certification organisations do permit the use of copper but NOT modern chemical agents.
    Ever so natural that.
    But if people want to spend their money buying inferior products because they believe it gets them closer to nature or whatever I have no objection.
    Me I prefer to buy the cheaper, better and safer product of modern technology.
    But then I like steam engines but do not suggest they are some kind of answer to making modern automobiles, as was suggested in the 1970s, just as electric cars were both then and now. And don’t work very well either: then or now.
    No the appeal of this kind of steam technology is that it is a curiosity of a bygone age.
    And by the way nicotine is a very useful pesticide, cheap, effective and of course biodegradable. In the UK it is still available commercially in various forms but the retail sale of tincture of nicotine, essentially nicotine dissolved in alcohol, was banned years ago not least because it is extremely toxic.
    In the cigarette smoking age of fifty years ago this was not a problem, the gardener simply collected the butts and boiled them up, strained the liquor and added a few soap flakes: and did the pests to death by spraying it regularly.
    In these modern times when tobacco is expensive and butts scarce you can extract the nicotine from rolling or pipe tobacco by steeping it in warm water with a little ethyl alcohol, cheap vodka is best, BUT be careful the concentrated liquor is quite poisonous: but a little added to water with a trace of washing up liquid makes a very good pesticide for spraying on your roses and such like.
    Kindest Regards

  87. E.M.Smith (04:26:42)12th
    Regarding bill (12:41:56)11th; Francis(18:47:13)11th; bruce cobb (06:37:39)12th
    Here are non-Wikipedia statements of the same meteorological formulas:
    Beaumont Period
    “Period of 48 consecutive hours, in at least 46 of which the hourly readings of temperature and relative humidity at a given place have not been less than 20_C and 75%, respectively, the occurrence of this period has been widely used as a criterion for issuing warnings of the onset of potato blight.”
    Smith Period
    “A full Smith Period has occurred when: At least two consecutive days where min temperature is 10C or above and on each day at least 11 hours when the relative humidity is greater than 90%.”
    LP Smith worked in agricultural meteorology for the British Met Office. He reworked the existing Beaumont periods for shorter periods of greater humidity.
    Quote: “The first duty of a scientist is not to worship knowledge, but to question it.”
    bill (12:41:56)llth was right:
    “The temperature has to be ABOVE 10C/20C and humid
    It is not cold damp conditions.”
    You misstate the situation. These parallel formulas both use minimum temperatures. You introduce the interval between them, as if it had some significance, or meaning.
    “…but 50(10C) to 68F(20C) with 75% or more RH…” Say no more…
    bill(12:41:56)11th also said it better than Francis(18:47:13)11th.
    I plead the Phoenix heat: 106F inside my apartment. Thankfully, the repairman has finally arrived.

  88. Can anyone give me info re how this damp and cool weather effects the various fungi and bacteria that attack the grapevine ? tonight, in SE Mich, the low will be 50degrees F.

  89. Jim (12:28:21) :
    You may have highlighted a situation where “organically grown” produce is competitive, but by and large it is not competitive with traditionally raised produce. Even 10% more is too much

    My mistake Tesco is 5% more expensive!!!
    Riverford organics £16.45 per box
    Tesco standard product £17.24 (itemised below)
    http://www.riverford.co.uk/produce/thisweeksbox/
    http://www.tesco.com/superstore/frames/default.asp?buttons=&url=/superstore/frames/main.asp
    new potatoes UK 2.00
    bunched carrots UK 1.50
    bunched onions UK 1.00
    broad beans UK 2.00
    salad pack UK 1.40
    cucumber UK 0.70
    basil UK* 0.79
    portobello mushrooms UK 2.00
    tomatoes UK 1.00
    radishes UK 0.67
    sugarsnap peas UK 2.00
    aubergine NL 1.18
    rhubarb UK 1.50

  90. bill (14:56:26) :

    Riverford organics £16.45 per box
    Tesco standard product £17.24 (itemised below)

    Are you sure you’re comparing organics to “standard”?
    The Tesco site you linked requires registration, but here’s a comment someone made a while back.

    It turns out that whilst my large organic box cost me 13.50, the same items from Tesco organic range would cost me 17.00 and that non-organic range would cost me 11.50.

    http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/online-shops/riverford-co-uk/1027227/
    If the “standard” product is now 17.24, that would be quite a price increase.

  91. John M (16:03:46) :
    Yes it was standard product – not organic and not their special products. Riverford delivery is also included “free”. I would suggest that the prices are suficciently close to be the same (accurate comparison is difficult).

  92. @Chilly Bean
    “Here in the uk we are preparing for events like this by banning the most effective fungicides such as Procymidone because we will no longer need them in our warming climate.”
    Please produce a veritable link for that.

  93. What upsets me most about “organic farming” is the rejection of clever chemistry – in the way that old remedies like lemon juice, vinegar and honey used to be used for many illnesses. It was because there was nothing better known in those days. Organic farming is a philosophy that does not fit in the Top Science Blog. It is the antithesis.
    When you do the science rather than the gut feeling approach, you find statements like these:
    Is Organic Farming Sustainable?
    http://www.sustainablefarming.info
    Consumers pay premium prices for organic produce in the belief that organic farming is more environmentally sensitive than conventional agriculture. However, the scientific literature shows that organic farming can have serious environmental implications along with reduced productivity and economic returns. The booklet by Samuel P. Stacey, which can be downloaded in PDF format (817 KB), reviews the published literature on organic farming, with particular reference to broadacre farming, and questions whether organic farming really is sustainable in the medium to long-term. Certainly, the existing literature shows up widespread serious deficiencies in nutrient management, underscoring the need for improved knowledge and further research on organic systems.
    http://www.bml.csiro.au/susnetnl/netwl45E.pdf
    Within these references are scientific statements like “Losses in New Zealand have been reported at 42% for organic barley and 32% for organic wheat”. (2 references).
    There are also non-science statements like “Biodynamic preparations are made by burying cow horns over winter, that have been packed with manure, herbs and animal organs … the microbial and chemical analyses of biodynamic preparations are secondary to the concentrating effect of the growth of life forces present in the earth during winter”. (2 refs)
    I was not having a go at the EU. I was specifically ridiculing those misguided people who believe in organic farming. What quackery!
    I rest my case.

  94. Rust , blight, details details…
    OK, so I said rust when I ought to have said blight. And the year was 1970.
    E.M.Smith (06:58:03) :
    John A (16:36:07) : So its not a stretch to say that the organic food fad has put the stability of basic foodstuffs at risk and that prices will rise.

    As a great example of why this statement is very wrong, see the link below about the Southern Leaf Blight of 1970 and how we “only” lost 15% of the nations corn crop (with up to 80% at risk due to being of the same genetic type). It’s not the organic folks who are putting the whole food supply at risk, it’s the monoculture hybrid seed folks… AND we have an existence proof in the 1970 blight.
    It, too, had a weather component, and as the story points out, but for a change of weather we could have lost a much larger part of the corn crop… In the aftermath, what resistant seeds were available were distributed based on where they were least likely to have blight, based, yes, on the expected weather. You get a real feeling for just how much agriculture is in tune with, and dependent on, moment by moment weather predictions.
    The guy at greatest risk of “going under” is the “conventional” farmer with a monoculture dependent on specific chemicals to keep it alive. See the history of the corn rust outbreak of the ’70s (IIRC… but it might have been the early ’80s) where we were on the edge of losing the entire US corn crop because it was all the same cultivar and a fungus figured out how to eat it…
    Well, I called it rust and it was blight. The year was 1970. But it wasn’t one cultivar, it was more subtile. The 80% of the cultivars all shared the “T-cytoplasm” type, a male-sterile type used in breeding hybrids of many types, and the blight took advantage of that particular gene.
    See:
    http://www.victoryseeds.com/information/corn_panic.html
    for a decent, if a bit biased, write up of the story. I vaguely remember that there was quite a bit of panic at the peak of the event (at least in farm country…).
    THIS is the kind of thing we need to avoid. Wide spread monoculture with narrow gene variation. Unfortunately, it is exactly what we are NOT avoiding. This is why I have a half dozen open pollinated heirloom corn types in my seed freezer. (I can’t have corn, but my family and the rabbits can… so I’m ready to grow “the old types” if I need to.)
    A single pint jar of seed packets can hold a couple of dozen types in a freezer. It’s not hard at all to make your own “seed ark”… Put seed packages in the jar, put the lid on, put the jar in the freezer. You now have seeds that will germinate just fine in a decade, or even two (depending on how good and cold your freezer is…)
    A couple of gallons of seed packets would plant a small plantation… and can store more varieties than are available at your local seed stores.

  95. Jim (08:10:28) :
    E.M.Smith (07:07:06) :
    1. I believe the point of defining 30 years as “climate” is because that is long enough to detect a trend.

    Unfortunately, it detects “trends” that are only partial phases of repeating cyclical events. This leads to the false belief that we are trending when we are only cycling. It is a fundamental error, but one we all agree to use…
    2. If organic farming is so hot, how did we increase the yield per acre by four times since 1866.
    Yields per acre have gone up for many reasons. Plant breeding is a large part of it. Look, I’m not a “gung ho pro organic” guy. I’m FINE with dumping all the synthetic fertilizers and spraying all the sprays ANY farmer choses to use. I’m just also FINE with the guy who wants to work his butt off doing it “organic”. BOTH work. BOTH are FINE.
    BOTH organic and conventional benefit from things like soil pH and trace nutrient measurement. BOTH benefit from improved plant varieties (though with some differences in which types of breeding programs they use. BOTH benefit from all the mechanization of the modern farm. BOTH have had large increases in productivity since 1866. As I’ve said before, “organic” is more of a pain in the posterior to do since it is more complicated (more manipulation of whole ecosystems) and it is much more labor intensive. But the productivity per acre is not lower, and in many cases it is higher (largely due to that increased labor cost).
    It is easy for you to say organic farming can out-produce technology assisted farming, but show me proof. Where’s the study that confirms that.
    Google “French intensive system” and you will be up to your eyeballs in reports of the high efficiencies you can achieve. I’m sure you can find a “study” in there somewhere.
    For an example of one of the more interesting current “rages”, see the System or Rice Intensification:
    http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/
    That gets big gains in production. It is interesting in that you can use chemicals, or not, and still get large gains. But it is particularly interesting since it shows HOW to get more production in a way that does not depend on chemicals. An organic farmer using SRI will beat the pants off a conventional rice farmer (but only break even against a conventional farmer using SRI too…) and that makes this example particularly useful. Most organic farmers do this kind of “intensification” in their farming, and that’s why they get high yields.
    Basically, the question of yields is orthogonal to the question of organic vs conventional. Yields are tied to labor and intensity of effort. Low costs and simpler management are tied to the question of organic vs conventional.
    Conventional let a whole lot of folks leave the farm and move to the city, with hand weeding replaced by sprays. In both cases the weeds are gone. The benefit to yield from weed removal is the same in both cases. But one of them takes a whole lot more labor and the other takes more chemical costs.
    There is a common belief that farmers are out to produce the absolute maximum yield per acre they can. That is simply not true. They are out to produce the maximum PROFIT per acre. Often, that is achieved with lower outputs than the theoretical maximum. There is an optimum ECONOMIC level of fertilizer, seed, water, and most importantly labor; and those levels are different from the optimum PRODUCTION levels. You are optimizing for a different variable in your production function linear programming model.
    Now, many farmers will tell you they want the max production they can get; but they don’t go hiring big crews to hand weed all their fields, and they don’t do soil assays on a per acre basis, and they don’t plant at the closest possible spacing. They know those things will cost more than they will return in profit, even though they would increase yield. What those farmers actually do is to get the most production they can within their standard way of doing business with low costs. They are optimizing locally, not globally. (And that’s OK.)
    We are and have been a well-fed nation. Our life expectancy had gone way up, and not all of that is medicine – after all, all the liberal know the US lags in medical care.
    While those things are true and good, they are not the issue in organic vs conventional.
    Frankly, I’ll have the cheap veggies thank you.
    As will I. But often (not always, but often) my local grocer has nearly identical produce at the same price. One marked “organic” the other not. The price differences have come down a lot on many products. And if my neighbor wants to pick out the “organic” one (be it cheaper or not) I think that is FINE. (I often take the organic one if it’s the same price or cheaper, which it sometimes is! Occasionally I’ll pay a bit more if it looks better. Most of the time I grab the one that’s closest to me 😉
    A couple of helpful links:
    http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html
    “Results from the first 8 years of the project show that the organic and low-input systems had yields comparable to the conventional systems in all crops which were tested – tomato, safflower, corn and bean, and in some instances yielding higher than conventional systems (Clark, 1999a). Tomato yields in the organic system were lower in the first three years, but reached the levels of the conventional tomatoes in the subsequent years and had a higher yield during the last year of the experiment (80 t/ha in the organic compared to 68 t/ha in the conventional in 1996). Corn production in the organic system had a higher variability than conventional systems, with lower yields in some years and higher in others.”
    http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/cs_1
    “Conventional corn yield was superior in our early tests, during the years when the soils being farmed organically were going through the transition process and building up their biological activity. Soon, the organic plots entered a long phase (1985 until 1993) when yield was statistically the same as the side-by-side plots of conventionally farmed soil.
    Continuous soil improvements after two decades have resulted in dramatic environmental improvements, production resiliency during weather extremes, and—averaged over the past 12 seasons—slightly higher corn yields in the organic system. From 1995 to 2006 organic corn yields (119 bushels per acre) have out-yielded conventional corn yield (110 bu/A). This period included both severe drought years and a record wet summer. (The yield difference between organic and conventional is statistically significant at P=0.03.) ”
    And there are others. Google “organic farm yield increase conventional” and wander through it all…

  96. Francis (13:12:24) :
    You misstate the situation. These parallel formulas both use minimum temperatures. You introduce the interval between them, as if it had some significance, or meaning.
    “…but 50(10C) to 68F(20C) with 75% or more RH…”

    You misstate my statement. Sorry if you took the “to” to mean “ranging from low to high as bounds”, my intent was only to site them as a set of lower bounds “cold in the range of 50F lower bound in once case to 68 F lower bound in another”, not as a range with an upper bound. So I have not introduced any interval between them and have not misstated the situation.
    My only real point was that 50F is cold, as is 68F cold to cool, especially to folks in the USA in the south and west, doubly so in context of summer gardening temperatures, so the original posting calling those cool is, to my ears, quite accurate. Those temps and dank are more prone to mold growth than 100F, bright sun, and the lower relative humidity that comes with it. (Which is what the original article was saying, IIRC).
    BTW, it’s presently 2:30 AM and it’s 50F on my patio… Another cold night in California. Good thing I got tomatoes to set while it was warm, I’ll not be getting new ones set with temps at 50F and below at night. Typically this time of year I’d have the windows wide open and a fan exhausting hot air trying to get the place cooled off to livable. As it is, I just “buttoned up” and I’m contemplating the heater…

  97. John M (12:24:44) : Well, it seems you must be getting one heck of a bargain. Either that or you “conventional” grocery is a 7/11.
    Nope. My local retail food chains have organic and non-organic side by side often for about the same price. Mostly what changes is that the organic stuff has more seasonal variation to it (since there are fewer sources and things sometimes must be shipped quite a ways off season).
    Now I’m in Silicon Valley / Trendy Town / California, so maybe the increased supply here drives prices down more than in Chicago or on the banks of the Big Muddy; but I don’t think so…

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Consumers+willing+to+pay+a+premium+for+organic+produce.-a0200409391

    That is a marketing study of what folks are “willing to pay” and not a production study of “cost to make” or a competitive market study of “price to competition”. Folks will pay more for a lot of things that have no cost increase. ( I know of a welding gas regulator company that makes a chrome oxygen valve for “medical” use and charges WAY more for it, despite the cost to manufacture being roughly equal to the welding regulator… the only difference being the chrome plate. It’s just that medical markets are willing to pay more…)
    It is a common belief, but wrong, that cost determines price, especially for specialty items. “Cost plus markup” is the most primitive of pricing strategies you can use. More common today is the market survey that finds what the market will bear, then prices are set with no relationship to costs (other than hopefully being above costs 😉
    So here on the loony left coast, organic is not much different in cost from conventional. We have a large supply and a market demand size for organic that is large enough for competition to drive prices toward parity. Someone in a small town in the midwest might well find “organic” to cost 2 or 3 times conventional, but not because it costs more to make, just because the only grocer in town to have it knows they can jack the price up.
    For example, I regularly price celery. The store I go to has 3 kinds. Large and small conventional and “organic”. The “organic” typically is priced at identical to the same sized conventional. (Frankly, I suspect they just buy all organic celery and don’t bother to label some of it as “organic”, but their marketing plan has the organic stuff in one section together so they need celery to be in 2 places. That is speculation on my part, though.) Bulk celery at Walmart or Costco is typically about 2/3 the price at this store, though, so comparison across all sellers would find “organic” priced at a premium, when the reality is more that it isn’t sold at the bulk heavy discounters near here at all. (Though the WalMart Superstore did have “organic” IIRC… and it was near, but not at, the conventional price.)
    Basically, price tells you next to nothing about cost or efficiency to produce. It tells you much more about the state of seller competition and volume of buyers.

  98. Geoff Sherrington (01:19:06) : What upsets me most about “organic farming” is the rejection of clever chemistry – in the way that old remedies like lemon juice, vinegar and honey used to be used for many illnesses. It was because there was nothing better known in those days. Organic farming is a philosophy that does not fit in the Top Science Blog. It is the antithesis.
    You are astoundingly wrong here. Clearly your have strong biases that are preventing you from seeing the science in farming without chemicals.
    (Technically, it’s not ‘without chemicals’ so much as it is ‘with a reduced list of chemicals’ since things like nicotine and copper are approved, and you get ammonia from pee and poo rather than from DOW, but it’s still a chemical, but I digress… The bottom line is that it takes more understanding, not less, to work with a smaller pallet of chemicals and a broader pallet of biological properties and interactions.)
    An “organic” farmer must know a great deal more about botany of all the different crops and weeds. They must know a great deal more about the life cycle and preferences of insect pests. They must know a great deal more about the life cycle and weaknesses of infections and a broad pallet of ways to treat them. They must know a great deal more about the interactions of different plants (what can be planted together and what can not, and how this impacts pests). The science involved is much more complicated than the conventional approach. That is why most farmers don’t do it, it’s just a pain in the arse to learn all the methods.
    In conventional farming I can just dump on “the usual” amount of fertilizers and “the usual” amount of pesticide on “the usual” schedule. Heck, I remember when “integrated pest management” first came out and folks just ignored it. It was easier to just spray on “spray day” and not bother to even look and see if you had pests to spray. (Yes, folks did that, and some still do it.) It is much more a “by rote” business where “organic” is much more adaptive and with a much more subtile understanding of the science of how all these things interact. Just focused a lot more on biology and a little less on chemistry.
    Is Organic Farming Sustainable?
    The question is silly. My Amish relatives have been running traditional farming for hundreds of years. ALL farming was “organic” for several thousand years and only recently did we start using synthetic chemicals. We have a several thousand year long global existence proof that “organic” farming is sustainable.
    Then you cite some folks who do a poor job of it and call that science?
    Sheesh. See the links up thread for folks doing it right and out producing conventional (that really ought to be called “chemical tech”, since for most of history the “convention” was “organic” in every way but a certification) with steady increases in yields over time.
    Within these references are scientific statements like “Losses in New Zealand have been reported at 42% for organic barley and 32% for organic wheat”. (2 references).
    And they just had a near 60% loss in South Africa with Monsanto GM seeds that were bogus. A “lab problem” in fertility. ANY farming method will have times and places that have losses. That isn’t science, that’s just tabloid “my number is bigger than your number”.
    There are also non-science statements like “Biodynamic preparations
    Please don’t try to confound “organic” with the biodynamic mumbo jumbo. Makes about as much sense as confounding conventional production with the rate of cancer from under power lines crossing a farm. Yes, there are some dope smoking hippies who believe in biodynamics and want to grown an organic product. That does not say a thing about the bulk of the organic farming done in the world. Nor does the racist redneck who owned a farm in my home town say anything about other conventional farmers.
    I was not having a go at the EU. I was specifically ridiculing
    Yes, you certainly were ridiculing… I was asking you to consider that ridicule says a great deal about you and not so much about organic farming methods and I was suggesting that you might find it more productive to aim at the thing that is really causing grief, that the EU has a one size fits all policy that is broken. You seem to wish to wallow in ridicule. OK, but I won’t join you there.
    those misguided people who believe in organic farming. What quackery!
    Clearly you have a closed mind filled with errors of understanding and little desire to change. “Non-organic” farming has existed for about 100 years maximum (roughly the era of synthetic chemicals in agriculture, as a guess based on when the Haber process first started) and only really got going about 60 years ago with widespread use of synthetic pesticides. So your statement is a statement that for all of history farming was ‘quackery’ and there were no effective nor efficient farms, until just now, and only done one way. Riiiight…
    June 21st I was on an organic farm. Toured the whole place (spread over a few hundred acres near Monterey) and it was a marvel. The farmer who ran it knew more about his crops and processes and ran a more involved operation than any I’ve ever seen in the ‘conventional’ world. He runs a mixed truck vegetable and fruit operation. Most farmers work hard to master one crop. This guy had a couple of dozen going. His wheat field was ready to harvest and looked spectacular. I’ve got a tub of great garlic we hand braided in the field. The strawberry patch was in mid-production and was identical to the ‘conventional’ fields in layout (with black plastic mulch on ridges so the berries never touch dirt) with good yield and great quality. We got to eat them strait from the plant. He was able to identify a particular weed that I’ve been trying to get identified and even told me how to get rid of it without herbicides. Frankly, his operation put to shame the folks in my home town who would farm one of rice, or peaches, or cattle, but that was all the complexity they could, or would handle. If I had to pick a “master farmer” it would be the organic guy.
    I rest my case.
    I’m sure you do… but perhaps you could stop resting just long enough to go visit a farm and see what actually happens on one. I grew up in farm country raising rabbits, cows, the odd chicken, and some field crops along with a garden. I have a family tradition of farmers for as far back as we have history. I went to an “Ag School” for my college education. I love plants and growing them (and have bacteriology and upper division genetics classes under my belt too) and I’ve developed a few of my own varieties of various garden vegetables. (a large robust cocozelle squash, a sturdy potato, and an oversized purple pod green bean).
    You have an opinion…
    Dinner tonight was ‘from the garden’: yellow & green squash, sauteed with onions and shallots and a bit of tomato in olive oil & garlic. All the vegetables grown without synthetic chemicals. Just bunny poo. And a lasagna made with commercial organic noodles. But you claim that can’t work. I say existence proof.
    Might I suggest that an informed opinion based on practical experience would be more useful.
    BTW, I still use “lemon juice and honey” as a “cure”. The acidity with the osmotic pressure from the honey pretty much busts up a wide range of bacteria. The vitamin C helps nuke some viruses too. That is why sugar and acid, like vinegar, are used as food preservatives. So it’s my first step when the throat gets scratchy. (I pick the citrus from the tree by my front door, so total time it takes is about 2 minutes). Works very well and for well understood scientific reasons. In the one case in 10 or more when it’s not enough, well, I’m happy to then waste a day at the doctors getting antibiotics. They also work, but they tend to screw up my gut bacteria, so when I’m done with the course of antibiotics, I need to eat some yogurt to get the plumbing back in order (and less gassy / irritated). FWIW, rabbits have the same problem, only more so. You can kill a rabbit with antibiotics by killing off their gut bacteria that are essential to their lives. Any rabbit farmer needs to know that… so having both antibiotic based “cures” and non-antibiotic based cures is of great benefit.
    Why you want to limit yourself to a single small straight jacket is, well, a mystery… but one no longer worth pursuing…

  99. E.M.Smith (02:21:53) : My attitude towards organically grown veggies is similar to my attitude towards solar and wind energy. If it can compete in price and quality without government or other subsidies, then I am fine with it and will even buy it and eat it. Until that happens, I’ll stick to conventionally grown ones.

  100. E.M.Smith (06:18:24) : said “…So I grow citrus that needs no spray here. There is probably some organic process I could learn to do the apples, but I haven’t had the time. So the rabbits and ‘possums get the apples….”
    Yes “organic apples” are the pits to grow. Thats why fruit was eaten with a knife. For apples the Plum Cucurio is the big problem, takes 98% of our crop. A sray with mineral oil while the trees are dorment and chickens to pick off the bugs and pigs to eat the drops would be a real help, but that was illegal in our town. “Composing” the drops (a super bug incubator) was practiced by our neighbor so we gave up.
    I am now sitting on 100Ac of old tobacco farm in NC. The Soil survey book shows over 2 feet of the best topsoil in NC. In actual fact the soil is now pure clay (98% inorganic) thanks to “modern farming practices” As a chemist I am not against the intelligent use of petro-chemicals but “organic Farming methods” with recourse to petro-chemicals as a last resort makes more sense if you want to keep the land productive. Unfortunately Obama, the USDA and the FDA will be outlawing the use of manure etc. US citizens cause such an uproar about the food (un)safety bills, Obama decided to side step the issue according to American Vegetable Growers http://www.growingproduce.com/news/avg/?storyid=2146
    History of the corporate food monopoly strategy http://yupfarming.blogspot.com/2009/05/food-safety-bills-more-dangerous-than_08.html
    Meanwhile here in NC it is 68F and we have yet to hit 100F this year. I have noticed the “reported” highs and lows for my area are ALWAYS 2 to 5F higher than the actual real time temps!

  101. E.M.Smith (05:01:34) : Good Grief, you almost convinced me to shun my warmist-ish ways with that!
    One other point about the “veggie box” system is packaging.
    The box is reused (52 times over a year and havent seen an unusable one yet)
    Packaging is just about non existent
    paper bags,
    compressed compostable mulch for small boxes (tomatoes, mushrooms),
    Any plastic bag is collected with the return box at the time of delivery of the new box.
    A recipie leaflet is usually included for oddities (what do you do with chicory?)
    The real downside is turnips and swede in winter!
    If you check out packaging on supermarket organic produce you will most often find plastic is compostable and trays are compressed paper. The extra cost is included in the higher price you pay for the organics.

  102. Another leading indicator of hard times ahead. Think it’s difficult now? Ain’t seen nothing yet.

  103. E.M.Smith (05:01:34) :
    So where is your contribution to science on this science blog?
    A series of rambling anecdotes, some debatable, is a PROBLEM for scientists, not a help. That’s the type of ignorance that we are trying to fight. Ignorance is why so many innocents are being led like lambs to the slaughter by the warmist zealots.
    Show me a valid reference that “An ‘organic’ farmer must know a great deal more about botany of all the different crops and weeds.” (In an odd way you are right, because weed abundance on organic farms is a problem for clean neighbours and you will need an armoury of pseudo-scientific excuses to plead your innocence.)
    Show me an estimate of how the present world population could be sustanied with “organic farming” and I’ll show you how belief in “alternative” science can kill millions of people. In part of my professional career I studied problems just like this, so I’m talking from personal experience from a number of countries, China in particular. I’m not playing some silly little propaganda exercise and I’m not in the pay of Big anything.

  104. Many comments here along the lines of “Texas is hot and dry.”
    Your “monsoon” (e.g. sea breeze fronts and tropical moisture incited convection) has failed. Why has it failed? Lack of warmth to your north, combined with the fact that the ITCZ has failed to move poleward. These are consequences of global cooling.
    BTW – this is not limited to Texas. A number of northern hemisphere places in similar settings are afflicted.

  105. @Gail Combs (09:09:21) :
    Thanks for the apple guidance! I only have 2 very small trees, so it’s not a big deal to me (and the bunnies are happy, so it’s not a waste.)
    The Soil survey book shows over 2 feet of the best topsoil in NC. In actual fact the soil is now pure clay (98% inorganic) thanks to “modern farming practices”
    That is the often ignored downside to chemical farming. You basically end up running a once through hydroponic system with a poor root media. Over time, the biological component is lost (plant matter oxidizes and rots, worms die, bacteria die) and you end up with a mineral soil (sand, clay, whatever was in the original soil). The “tilth” is gone.
    I’m all in favor of hydroponic gardening (even bought a small table top kit once to play with it). It can give great yields, and hydroponic greenhouse production of salad greens gives the best product and the highest production you can get. I’m just not so much in favor of backing into it in a less thought out way by destruction of soil tilth…
    As a chemist I am not against the intelligent use of petro-chemicals but “organic Farming methods” with recourse to petro-chemicals as a last resort makes more sense if you want to keep the land productive.
    And that is exactly the way I garden. One of my major complaints about the “organic certification” plans is that they prohibit that “last resort” to chemicals. If you get an uncontrolled pest on a crop, you can’t just go nuke that corner and then sell that produce as “conventional”, you lose the organic certification for some number of years for the whole place… Way over the top, IMHO.
    Unfortunately Obama, the USDA and the FDA will be outlawing the use of manure etc.
    What?! If manuring is outlawed, I’m joining the “Freedom of Religion” lawsuit that will follow. Amish tradition depends on manuring the land and forbids the use of technologies not found in the Bible. If they “go there” the majority of America that does believe in religion will be lined up against them. Religious persecution of a quaint minority does not sit well with the public…
    While my line of the family moved to the city and embraced technology, some stayed behind. They have every right to live as their religion tells them.
    BTW, the Cow Poo E.Coli “problem” could be easily solved by taking a butt wipe of the nations cows and culling those with the particular mutant that causes illness. That everyone is all ‘panties in a bunch’ about the risk of E. Coli, but only AFTER the cows are turned into bulk ground beef, says a great deal about where focus is in the process. Why do a “one shot” simple and permanent ‘cure’ when you can let all the cows be sold to the meat processor first then let it be his problem… It is MUCH easier to find the E. Coli O157:H7 when it is concentrated in one single colon than it is after it has been mixed into a few thousand cows worth of ground beef…
    But somehow the understanding that this is one rare odd mutant of E. Coli and it is not just “all E. Coli” that are the problem, gets lost. And with it, the most effective solution: Wipe out the mutants at their source (Shades of X Men!)

  106. Re: SteveSadlov (18:11:16)
    “Your “monsoon” (e.g. sea breeze fronts and tropical moisture incited convection) has failed. Why has it failed? Lack of warmth to your north, combined with the fact that the ITCZ has failed to move poleward….”
    Exactly. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s always pretty hot here this time of year. The problem this year is we’re not getting the heavy afternoon rains which tend to moderate things for us here. Pretty unusual, although not unprecedented.

  107. Geoff Sherrington (17:32:20) :
    E.M.Smith (05:01:34) :
    So where is your contribution to science on this science blog?

    Well, short of a replay of the last year or two worth of postings, it would be a bit hard to list it all. Please see the archives. A nice example to start with, that started as a posting here, would be:
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-trouble-with-c12-c13-ratios/
    A series of rambling anecdotes, some debatable, is a PROBLEM for scientists, not a help. That’s the type of ignorance that we are trying to fight.
    Oh, I get it. Personal experience and field observations are Not Allowed. How convenient. And personal expertise is now “ignorance”. OK… And I guess you missed this link in the earlier post:
    http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html
    Let me help you with it. The “berkeley.edu” means it is from a University. In fact, a Big Name University. University of California at Berkeley. I graduated from the U.C. Berkeley Agricultural Extension (after it got renamed and expanded into more than just being an Ag School). They do Science at University…
    If you had followed the link, you would have found it opens with the heading:

    Can Organic Farming “Feed the World”?
    Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D.
    University of California, Berkeley
    ESPM-Division of Insect Biology
    201 Wellman-3112
    Berkeley, CA 94720-3112

    Notice that it is written by a Ph.D. That’s a doctorate. Notice that his field is the “ESPM-Division of Insect Biology”. That is, the “Environmental Science and Policy Management – Division of Insect Biology”. Notice the title: Can Organic Farming “Feed the World”?
    So we have an article, written by a Ph.D. specifically aimed at the question you raised, from a Very Name University, in the college directed at specifically those issues, with a specialty in insect biology.
    Somehow I think this qualifies as a “contribution to science on this blog”. But I guess it was too much effort for you to read the link yourself.
    Show me a valid reference that “An ‘organic’ farmer must know a great deal more about botany of all the different crops and weeds.”
    It isn’t patently obvious? That it’s easier to just dump a load of roundup on a weed than it is to find a crop that out competes it or a strategy for controlling the persistent roots of dock or dandelion that are not destroyed by cultivation or burning the tops off? I have to explain that? Ok …
    From the article:
    Counter to the widely held belief that industrial agriculture is more efficient and productive, small farms produce far more per acre than large farms. Industrial agriculture relies heavily on monocultures, the planting of a single crop throughout the farm, because they simplify management and allow the use of heavy machinery. Larger farms in the third world also tend to grow export luxury crops instead of providing staple foods to their growing population. Small farmers, especially in the Third World have integrated farming systems where they plant a variety of crops maximizing the use of their land.
    While it doesn’t specifically use the word “botany” I would hope you can make the “leap” from “simplify management” and “variety of crops” to see that it’s more complex and you must cover more intellectual turf when you have a large number of plants instead of just one.. If you can’t, I can’t help you. And if it isn’t patently obvious that adding animals to a farm increases the complexity geometrically, I suggest trying to raise a dozen animals and see what happens. Oh, also notice the “maximizing the use of their land”. The small guy optimizes for yield per acre, the large guy for dollars per year.
    Show me an estimate of how the present world population could be sustanied with “organic farming” and I’ll show you how belief in “alternative” science can kill millions of people.
    I have no idea what “alternative science” is. I do know that folks at Ag Colleges with degrees in the subject have published plenty on how to get the same or larger yields from organic farms as from conventional. All based on “normal” science. Another quote from the same article (there are plenty of other articles available, and the existence proof of organic farms, if you care to look…):
    They are also more likely to have livestock on their farm, which provides a variety of animal products to the local economy and manure for improving soil fertility. In such farms, though the yield per acre of a single crop might be lower than a large farm, total production per acre of all the crops and various animal products is much higher than large conventional farms (Rosset, 1999). Figure 1 shows the relationship between total production per unit area to farm size in 15 countries. In all cases, the smaller farms are much more productive per unit area— 200 to 1000 percent higher — than larger ones (Rosset, 1999).
    Even in the United States, the smallest farms, those 27 acres or less, have more than ten times greater dollar output per acre than larger farms (US Agricultural Census, 1992). Conversion to small organic farms therefore, would lead to sizeable increases of food production worldwide. Only organic methods can help small family farms survive, increase farm productivity, repair decades of environmental damage and knit communities into smaller, more sustainable distribution networks — all leading to improved food security around the world.

    I added the bold so you could find the relevant parts. The bottom line is that there is no shortage of food, and we have an agricultural system aimed at making the most money, not the most food. Land is in surplus, so we don’t optimize for it, we optimize for simpler management and lower labor.
    From:
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/
    (which is my article) we have:

    From: The C.I.A. Factbook, We have for “world”
    arable land: 10.57%
    permanent crops: 1.04%
    other: 88.38% (2005)
    Arable land is the present use, not a limit on what can be used. So we have roughly 11.61% of the land used for crops. There is a lot still available… There are several agronomy systems for upgrading marginal land into productive arable land.

    I would add here that the “organic” compost and manure method is one of the best ways to turn bare sand into soil in a hurry. I have a bit of “hard pan clay” I’ve turned into a very nice square foot garden that way. It’s all about the tilth…
    The “problem” is not a shortage of farm land, it’s a shortage of labor and money. We have hit the point where, in a competitive economy, you “waste” some land on lower production to get lower costs. Folks starving has a whole lot more to do with stupid political decisions, wars, and religion than any limit on productivity (but that’s a topic for another thread).
    I also gave you a link to the SRI page:
    http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/
    I’ll help you with that one too. Notice the “cornell.edu”. That’s a big name college. Cornell. Here is the link to the articles supporting it (that you could get from the top page by clicking on “articles”…):
    http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/sripapers.html
    In it, you will find things like:
    http://ciifad.cornell.edu/sri/countries/nepal/nepalrptuprety04.pdf

    System of Rice Intensification in the context of Nepalese rice production
    Mr. Rajendra Uprety, Agriculture Extension Officer
    District Agriculture Development Office, Biratnagar, Morang, Nepal.

    One would hope that an “Agricultural Extension Officer” can make personal observations that you will consider “valid”, even if not Ph.D. peer reviewed… his style is a bit “rambling” though, so maybe not…
    In the lead in, you will note that he disparages the traditional methods still in use in Nepal with low application of chemicals. The guy is not an “organic shill”… I’ve added bold to some bits.

    Nepal is an agricultural country. Still more than 65% of its population is engaged in agriculture for their livelihood. Agriculture contributes 39% of GDP. Among agricultural crops, rice is main crop, cultivated on nearly 1.54 Million hectares of land. Total production of rice in 2002/2003 was 4.13 million tons, with average productivity of 2675 kg/ha. These data show that
    the productivity of rice in Nepal is not high (the world average is about 4000 kg/ha), and there is lot of possibility for making increments in productivity and total production.

    OK, that’s a local production of 2.6 tons / ha and a global rate of 4 tons / ha as our benchmark. We need to beat that with a more intensive approach but without added chemicals (since they don’t have the money to buy them; a common problem with 3rd world agriculture…) So something like a 3 ton / ha rate for Nepal or (dream of dreams) a 4.5 ton / ha rate would be a stunning increase.

    Behind the low production of rice there are various factors such as older-generation seeds (most farmers have used their own seed for decades), low doses of chemical fertilizer, little use of improved cultivation practices, less care for plant protection, etc. Still, most rice growers are depending on compost and FYM as fertilizer use is still very low.
    [NTU: but this may not be all bad; SRI experience indicates that compost and FYM are better sources of nutrients than is chemical fertilizer — why reinforce the stereotype that using compost and FYM is ‘backward’ while ‘fertilizer use’ is progressive? I think this is a wrong perception] Generally farmers use more then 60 kg of seeds/ha, transplant very old seedlings (30-45 days old), and plant many seedlings, 8-10/hill. These all factors are responsible for low productivity of rice in Nepal.
    I read an article of Dr. Norman Uphoff on SRI published by LEISA, a Dutch NGO. In this I found many things which might be useful in Nepalese context. So I contacted Norman for more information about SRI.

    Notice that is Dr. Norman Uphoff. I’m sure you can find a bio on him. This is not some anti-science hippy thing. It is hard core crop science.

    After collecting some good information, last year I started SRI in Morang district of Eastern Nepal. Last year there were two small plots less then 100 square meters with some practice of SRI (young seedlings, spaced planting, less water, and some weeding but no compost). We got more then 7 metric tons/ha yield with healthy plants (less diseases and pests).

    Can you way “WOW!”… I knew you could… So these folks more than doubled their productivity and got a 50% increase over global averages. Without added chemicals. And with less diseases and pests.
    Are you starting to see how this works now? Better understanding of the botany and needs of the rice plant, leading to changed and more active management of the crop, leading to higher crop yields.

    That result encouraged us and we disseminated knowledge to farmers about SRI through training, a monthly newsletter, and personal and group contact.
    This information created a sensation among the farmers, and we found many farmers wanted to try this technology. But still farmers didn’t fully believe in this technology. Most farmers wanted to visualize these results on another’s field to gain confidence. But some innovative farmers tried the methods on their early rice. Three farmers planted early rice using SRI methodology. Two among them got nearly 6 metric tons/ha productivity with some practice. One farmer, Mr. Udaya Narayan Nepal, planted 3 plots, with three different ages of seedling (8 days, 9 days, and 18 days). His land is upland with no irrigation facility, very low content of organic matter, and without compost. Despite these conditions, vegetative growth of his crop was very good. Tiller number reach up to 130/hill. All his neighbor who were teasing him initially become astonished to see his crop.

    I generally don’t like quoting this much stuff in an article. They end up painfully long. That is why I put the links in, and then only add my personal views. That does not mean my posting lacks any science, it means it is in the links. I’d wager few comments here would qualify as peer reviewed science… it’s all about the links.
    I think it is a complete waste of time to copy it all here so that folks who are too lazy to follow links burden everyone else, including the moderators, with the added volume. So please, lose the invective and read the links. Then if you still think “organic” is “ignorance” that you need to fight, take it up with Cornell, U.C. Berkeley, and the Agricultural Extension Officers of the world…
    There are literally thousands of articles like the ones I’ve excerpted here, written by professionals in agriculture and agronomy, that all have the same message. Organic works. If you chose to ignore that, is is bigotry, nothing more. Chemical based agriculture also works ( I have nothing against it, in fact, I love hydroponics, the ultimate in chemical farming 😉 but they are different.
    And the difference is that chemical based farming is simpler and uses less labor but at the cost of lower yields than can be had with “intensification”. Organic produces more production per unit of land, but at the cost of a lot more complexity and a lot more labor. Done at large scale, organic ends up costing about the same as chemical, but most is done at small scale and sold in niche markets so the costs and prices are higher.
    Better? Neither one is “better” IMHO. If you have excess land and a labor shortage, go for the chemicals. If you have limited land and lots of labor, go for the organic with intensification. My personal preference is to aim at organic / intensification and be ready to add some chemical fertilizer or spray some pesticides if you gain by it. Unfortunately, BOTH political sides throw rocks at me for doing that … 8-}

  108. bill (10:32:03) :
    E.M.Smith (05:01:34) : Good Grief, you almost convinced me to shun my warmist-ish ways with that!

    Thanks!
    One other point about the “veggie box” system is packaging.
    Good point. I hate waste, of any kind, and when I get a 4 ounce peach in a plastic bag, in a paper bag, in a bigger bag… GAK. Or when they want to put my milk jug in a plastic bag to be put in my grocery sack. Sheesh, it has a handle on it fer crying out loud!
    A recipie leaflet is usually included for oddities (what do you do with chicory?)
    My neighbors frequently give me some odd vegetable from their box with a comment that they don’t know what to do with it. One of my favorites was “We don’t know what to do with celery root” while being handed a bag of fennel stems… Nice folks, but not a lot of time in farm country…
    The real downside is turnips and swede in winter!
    Oh Man: Lamb Stew! Lamb cubes, potato, carrot, celery, TURNIP all cut in slices or cubes, maybe a few whole pea pods. Salt Pepper and let it braise at 350 F for about 3 hours. To die for!
    And oven roasted swede with butter all over it! Yum!
    And “mixed mashed roots” is one of my favorites from the old tradition. You take whatever roots you have (typically about 1/2 of carrot, potato, or turnip) boil and mash together like mashed potatoes! (The carrot / turnip is one of my favorites, though carrot / potato is darned good too. Haven’t tried potato turnip, but had potato / turnip / carrot once and loved it – with too much butter 😉

  109. E.M.Smith (13:08:32) :
    Oh Man: Lamb Stew! Lamb cubes, potato, carrot, celery, TURNIP all cut in slices or cubes, maybe a few whole pea pods. Salt Pepper and let it braise at 350 F for about 3 hours. To die for!

    Dang it! Left out the onions and garlic. how could I … A couple of caramelized onions and as much garlic as you like get added too…
    “Without onions, there would be cooking but no cuisine.”

  110. E.M.Smith (13:08:32) :
    Thanks!!!
    Have mashed swede and turnips but not with others. Stews are OK (but no meat in our families case!).
    The box people have problems with early spring as most of the veg are getting tired and there is no new stuff available from the fields. But as you can see for the link I gave for riverford most is locally sourced.
    Supermarkets here are cathing on to the waste problem. Plastic carrier bags either cost or you get “points” for reuse. Some products are being supplied in compostable plastic, Some trays are again made of card. But what I cannot understand is why it is cheaper to buy 6 carton of orange juice stuck togeter in a plasic wrapper than 6 singles. Slowly the uk is changing but, although you may disagree, has changed most since people became aware of GW!

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