Biocontrol Agents for Organic Farming… the terminologyWritten by A.O. Kime
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Biocontrol Agents for Organic Farming… terminology: by A.O. Kime
If you haven’t been keeping up on latest developments in biocontrols… wait a minute, what are biocontrols? Oh, shoot, you know, ‘environmental friendly’ products which aren’t agricultural chemicals that are used for controlling crop pests. If you haven’t, then this article may surprise you. During past 15 years, latest in biotechnology, along with ancient pest-control methods, now provide a respectable arsenal of weapons in, well, you know, ‘biocontrols’.
What are biocontrols exactly? Is it stuff you use for organic farming, like ladybugs, sulfur and maybe soap-spray? Right on folks, but much-much more. Things change fast nowadays, ya know. The biotechnology which produces many of relatively new and growing list of biocontrols for American farmer (and gardener) has ushered in next era of pest-controls… at least as a viable alternative anyway. It’s growing so fast however, it’s new terminology, not technology, which you have to contend with first. I think we need a quick review.
To begin with, term ‘biocontrols’ is slang for ‘biocontrol agents' and defined as “biological derived or identical to a biological derived agent”. That means term covers all types of environmentally safe products. Watch out though, some of terminology might get confusing. ‘Biological control agents’ is a more specific term… meaning only beneficial insects, nothing else, although these bugs are often just referred to as ‘beneficial insects' or 'beneficial organisms’, somewhat slangy terms. Within that, there are sub-categories, insects which might be classified as ‘predators’, ‘parasites’ or ‘weed-eating invertebrates’ which are “living organisms used for controlling population or biological activities of another life-form considered to be a pest”. If you noticed, industry prefers to say ‘control’ instead of ‘kill’… a hedge maybe?
Today, there are about 30 commercially available predators, like spiders, mites and beetles, which seek out and kill other bugs. They are hatched, raised and sold by companies called ‘insectaries’. The number of parasites put to work has grown also, about 60 of them critters, likes of tiny wasps, flies and a myriad of other parasites, parasitoids (host-killer parasites) and also a few protozoan. Parasites live on (or in) various ‘hosts’ (their victims) which impede host’s development or generally causes them injury. A protozoan, however, is a ‘microbial control agent’, a different kind of agent, which are not to be confused with biological control agents.
There are about 25 biological control agents (good bugs) which control weeds although they’re often just called 'beneficial insects', most common slang term which farmers use. By whichever term, even though they don’t eat or live off other bugs, they go around doing good deeds by controlling weeds. Anyway, these weed-destructive bugs consist of moths, weevils, beetles and flies. A fungus or two are also available for control of weeds and fungus, like a protozoan, is also a ‘microbial control agent’. As you might suspect, honeybee is also considered a beneficial insect but since Africanized bee began infecting some of their ranks, they can also cause problems. I remember once when all bees led a dignified life within their beehives but today many are terrorists and live in weeds.
In addition, industry has identified about a dozen different beneficial nematodes, which, if you didn’t know already, are tiny little wormlike-looking creatures that live underground. Nematodes usually just eat roots and are normally considered destructive but these little guys like to eat other bugs. The industry has no interest in employing any vegetarian nematodes that are non-selective, they just want bug eaters. From here on, it starts to get more complicated and scientific sounding. Microbial control agents, like fungi and protozoan, also mean other teeny-tiny microscopic things like bacteria and viruses. Farmers use about 25 different kinds to control undesirable bugs and fungi.
Poison Oak PleasuresWritten by Ed Williams
Sometimes I have to wonder why certain things were invented or created – stuff like mosquitoes, dandruff, athlete’s foot, or ticks. If you want to take it one step further you can add in things like gout, Mathew Lesko, constipation, or hiccups. All of these things are totally worthless, and I’ve wondered more than once why they’ve been inflicted upon human race.
That’s a pretty somber beginning for a column, huh? I think so, too, if truth be known. I might as well go ahead and come clean here, because writing column this week is very difficult for me, and reason it’s difficult is due to one of “top of list things” there’d be on a list of worthless items – I’m suffering from a bad case of poison oak, and it’s about to drive me nuts.
Don’t ask me how I got it, because I haven’t a clue. I haven’t walked around barefoot any recently, and only yesterday did I cut my grass, and I was already wrapped up with poison oak by that point. Any place that itches I can’t scratch – not top of my head, not little black ant who happens to be crawling up my left forearm, and I have to scrub down like a surgeon before I can even think about touching any of my private areas. My ankles have so many red blotches on them that they look like a series of angry islands, and I’ve just recently detected a couple of small ones on my neck, armpits, and stomach. I’m starting to look like someone at a performance art exhibition who begs passers-by to toss Campbell’s Tomato Soup on them, and that‘s nothing to brag about.
My personal appearance, therefore, is grotesque. The itching is even worse. Besides unbearable tingling that‘s a constant, worst thing is that places you need to scratch most are very places you shouldn’t - I wish I could scratch my crotch for about ten minutes, which is not nice to say, but it’s truth. Ditto for my armpits and back of my knees. If someone put a washtub full of ice before me, I swear that I’d get naked and jump in it without thinking twice. Heck, without thinking once.
Y’all think that I’m getting lots of family support during this personal time of crisis? HA! If I had a good case of leprosy I wouldn’t be avoided any more than I am now. Forget hugs or smooches or any other types of physical affection from anyone, heck, forget even a handshake. Will just turned one down that I offered him a little while ago because, in his words, “Dad, I’m afraid your crud will run down my arm and start doing weird things to me.” Nothing greater than love between a father and son, I suppose. That was such a downer that I decided to go over to The Wellness Center, work out, and get a sympathetic pat or two on back from my friends there. I threw on my gym shorts, drove over, and had just gotten up on Stairmaster when one of my good buddies, Will Zachary, walked up. He asked,