Friday, December 4, 2009

"Organic Pesticide" an Oxymoron is Not


James Brown II: Hey Man! What’s the matter?

M: I spent six weeks hoeing and irrigating and fertilizing this garden plot so I can till this hard, rocky soil into something useful. And I had my parents send me seeds all the way from America so that I could plant zucchini and butternut squash. And then I spent the past ten weeks weeding and irrigating and fertilizing even more so that I could get a solid yield. And I did – I had more than a dozen squashes growing just about ready to be harvested. And fucking bugs got into them and laid their larvae in my squash!!! And now they’re all wormy and all that work I did was just a big WASTE of my life!!!

JBII: So whatcha gonna do about it?

M: Well, for starters I’m going to say FUCK this ‘back to the land’ shit and I’m going to go to law school and get a real job ripping people off for some big multinational corporation and make a gazillion dollars so that I can buy a big mansion with a fully-stocked a wine cellar so I can souse myself into oblivion and forget about this Third World development nonsense.

JBII: Take that BACK!!! That’s the most profane thing I’ve ever heard come outta yo mouth!!!! Whatever happened to dreaming the impossible dream?!?! Whatever happened to “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”?!?! Whatever happened to yo soul and everything you believe in?!?!

M: I dunno, James. All those beliefs of mine have been taking a rather severe beating lately.

JBII: So bugs got in yo squash – big whup!!! When you look at all the other problems everyone in this village’s got, your gripe looks rather tame!!!

M: Yeah, well all those sick, poor, illiterate farmers in Sanadougou have better squash yields than I do because they spray commercial pesticides over their gardens. They even call it “poison”! There’s no way that I’m going to spray “poison” all over my food, so if it comes to a choice between eating vegetables laced with poison or just not farming vegetables altogether, I’m going to choose the latter!


Al: This choice which you pose between conducting sound practices of organic agriculture and maintaining the security of your vegetable crops is a false one, for there are indeed proven methods of reducing crop spoilage which eschew artificial chemicals harmful for human consumption.

M: Al, you are absolutely the last anthropomorphic household appliance that I feel like talking to right now. Seriously, just keep that Whole Foods shit for your Norwegian hippie friends and leave me alone!!!

Al: Zachary, your attitudes of obduracy and militant anti-intellectualism are striking in their resemblance to the GOP obstructionists in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with whom I cast blame for the apparent failure of the upcoming Copenhagen summit. There exist cost-effective means of restructuring your garden so as to protect your squash from harmful pests, means which require no sacrifice in agricultural output; in fact, though the entail new financial expenditures at the onset, in the end they will foster a more sustainable economy which creates more produce of better quality.

M: Like what? Paying someone else to do all my farming for me?

No, you can implement more secure agricultural methods yourself. Tell me Zachary, have you had any pest problems with your tree crops?

M: No, my oranges, lemons, papayas and bananas are just fine. Worms have only gotten to my zucchini and butternut squash.

Al: Well, the distinguishing variable between your tree fruits and your squash is clearly that whereas the former are raised more than a meter off the ground, the fruits of the latter are so heavy in proportion to their weak mother plant that they sit directly on the topsoil – which is inhabited by worms, ants, beetles and just about every herbivorous insect on the African continent. If you were to apply a heavy layer of mulch above the soil and particularly beneath the plants in question, it would have an appreciable deterrent effect on the majority of these undesired species and protect your squash for human consumption.

M: Where the fuck am I supposed to get mulch? The nearest Home Depot is 5,000 miles away.

James Brown II: Hey Madu!!! What about all of your corn-farming neighbors? This time a year the streets of this village are just full of cornhusks!!! They’re just gonna burn ‘em!!!

Though the application of all mulch impedes weed growth and moderates the soil’s temperature and humidity, organic mulch brings the additional benefit of directly improving soil quality¸ for when organic vegetable matters inevitably break down, their composite nutrients rejuvenate the soil and aid in the creation of fertile humus.

M: I think that can be very easily done…


M: Alright, I’m finished. Now I can sit on my ass and read about politics.

Al: Zachary, if you are indeed serious about protecting your garden crops from herbivorous insects and annelids, the mere application of organic mulching will not suffice. In addition, I would advise that you apply a batch of organic pesticides.

M: Organic pesticides? That’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one – almost as bad as “corporate culture” or “military justice”. I already told you, I’m not eating fucking poison!!!

Al: Your presumption of logical coherence in this instance is as unfounded as it is fallacious; there is a wide assortment of strong acids found in locally-grown foodstuffs which are so extremely unsavory to the pests in question that they will eschew any vegetable matter which they would otherwise find to be delectable. All you need to do is go to market and buy a large quantity of garlic, hot peppers and soap.

First, you take a bucket and fill it with approximately five liters of water.

Chop up three or four cloves of garlic. Do not worry about the skins, because this mixture is not intended for human consumption…

… then mash the garlic up with a mortar and pestle. Garlic cloves are composed of mesophyll cells which contain alliin – a cystein-base, sulfur-rich amino acid, and vascular bundle sheaths containing alliin’s counterpart alliinase. Alliin and alliinase react spontaneously, hence they must be separated by the garlic’s cellulose walls. Though upon slicing and mashing, alliin and alliinase mix to form a sulfenic acid which condenses to form thiosulphinates, particularly allicin – this is the compound which gives garlic its distinct flavor.

M: So I’m taking all of this delicious garlic and throwing it on the ground so no one can eat it? Though I haven’t chopped any onions, I’m starting to tear up…

Al: That is precisely the point – though the olfactory nerves of the species homo sapiens have gradually evolved to have a favorable reaction towards allicin, the sensory organs of insects and annelids have developed precisely the opposite response and thus this organisms are innately programmed to avoid this compound. However, we could make a dramatically more effective pesticide if it contained the acid capsaicin - the active ingredient in the species Capsicum frutescens.

M: What?

Al: In colloquial terms, organic pesticides would be most effective if they contained the acid of chili peppers.

M: NOOOOO!!!!!!!! Don’t tell me I have to throw away my delicious chili peppers too!!!!!

Al: If by “throw away” you mean “to waste”, you are categorically mistaken. This garlic and pepper acid could be more accurately described as being invested in your zucchini and butternut squash crops, for in the absence of allicin or capsaicin your crops would remain vulnerable to pests.

So take a handful of hot peppers, cut them into small pieces and mash them with the mortar and pestle like you did with the garlic.

Now take a ball of soap and shave about half of it into fine gratings. This must be added to the pesticides so that they will make a foamy lather which will adhere to the applied crops.

Add water and wait at least an hour for all of the acids and soap to disperse into a fairly homogenous mixture.

Now if you take a sponge and lay just a modest amount of pesticide to the garden crops in question – especially the flowers and fruits, then the vast majority of insect, annelid and even mammalian, reptilian and ornithological pests will be so thoroughly dissuaded by the acidic taste of your zucchini and butternut squash plants that they will not eat them. If you apply such pesticides consistently, the larger species might even learn to avoid any such crops planted in your garden in the future as an acquired behavior.

So basically organic pesticides work the same way as when I’m cooking and I feel really greedy and don’t want to share my food with anyone. I know that Malians hate vegetables, so when I’m feeling greedy in village I make myself big salads and eggplant with cumin and no one even asks me to share. And when I’m with other Americans I cook myself weird-ass foods like curry spaghetti which freak out all but the most intrepid eaters. Likewise, just as much as garlic, hot peppers and soap are amongst my most favorite of things, if I add them to my squash then I don’t have to share with bugs!

James Brown II: That’s why all your food is so spicy I can’t touch it?!?!?! Asshole…

M: Don’t give me that attitude – it’s not like you were going to eat my eggplant in the first place. Here, have some dried little bottom-feeder fish from the polluted Niger River…

1 comment:

Lili Snyder said...

great blog! the soap doesn't effect the plants? i would have thought that soap emulsifies the hydrophillic compounds of the plant. :)