Morphine, acid, grass and vanilla bean lows

Poppy Culture Medical morphine production is “a much more reasonable and practicable alternative to the attempted destruction of the poppy fields – an effort that wouldn’t succeed for long, in…

March 21, 2009 | | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment | Spring 2009

Poppy Culture

Medical morphine production is “a much more reasonable and practicable alternative to the attempted destruction of the poppy fields – an effort that wouldn’t succeed for long, in any case. Using the poppies for the production of morphine would not only meet a worthy medical need, but would also continue to provide the Afghanistan poppy growers with the income they and their families depend on – and from a perfectly legitimate farming operation.” From CCPA Monitor, Dec/08-Jan/09.

Flower Power

“The international cut-flower market is expanding at 6-9 per cent a year, with the flowers being grown mostly in Third World countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe where fertile land is a scarce and precious asset and food security an ongoing problem. But investors in flower farms have no qualms about moving people off their land and converting its use from rice, grains and other needed foods to the cultivation of decorative roses, orchids, carnations and other flowers for customers residing mainly in North America and Western Europe.” From CCPA Monitor, Dec/08-Jan/09.

Land Abuse

“The general custom has been, first to raise a crop of Indian corn…which, according to the mode of cultivation, is a good preparation for wheat; then a crop of wheat; after which the land is respited…and so on, alternately, without any dressing, till the land is exhausted; when it is turned out, without being sown with grass seeds, or any other method taken to restore it; and another piece is ruined in the same manner… Our lands were originally very good; but use, and abuse, have made them quite otherwise.” George Washington in 1768, quoted in Malabar Farm, by Louis Bromfield (The Wooster Book Company, 1978).

Untill Now

“The most insane example of till farming as cultural habit occurred (and is still occurring) in our own great plains, where vast acreages of prairie grasses were plowed up and turned into a dust bowl. Even today the dry plains country remains profitable for annually cultivated crops only because of irrigation, using, in many cases, fossil supplies of water. Had that land been left in grass, and had forage crops been improved to carry more animals per acre, this whole area could be thriving today instead of surviving as a huge no-man’s-land of subsidized corn and soybeans dotted with decaying towns and farmsteads. Humans know that; they just can’t yet acquiesce to the truth of it. Northern China is making the mistake all over again, creating unimaginably vast areas of cultivated soil that turn into dust bowls when the wind blows. It will happen eventually in Brazil, now viewed by agribusiness as Tractor Heaven.” From All Flesh is Grass, by Gene Logsdon (Ohio University Press, 2004).

Bite News

“Once nearly eradicated, bedbugs are making a rapid comeback in cities in the United States and Europe. The nasty bloodsuckers have been kept in check for decades largely thanks to insecticides called pyrethroids. Now, they’re growing increasingly resistant to the compounds.” From Science, Jan 23/09.

Bee Warned

“New research in Current Biology concludes that shortages of honeybees and other pollinators worldwide are not affecting crop yields so far. The study predicts future declines, however, as the land area devoted to pollinator-dependent crops continues to increase.” From Worldwatch, Jan-Feb/09.

Vanilla Fudged

“Savour the eggnog while you can – a lethal disease is wiping out vanilla plantations in Madagascar, the world’s major producer of the spice.” From New Scientist, Dec 27/08.

Cutting Your Teeth

“The first recorded suggestion is from fourth-century Egypt, when a scribe wrote that a mixture of rock salt, mint, dried iris flower, and pepper formed a ‘powder for white and perfect teeth.’ Concoctions in the centuries since often included crushed coral or volcanic rock. These powders removed stains and tooth enamel equally well. Soap-based pastes replaced powders in the late nineteenth century, though with little improvement. Columbia University chemist William Giles, an early-twentieth-century researcher described the pastes as ‘hard and sharp enough to cut glass.’ One 1930s product, Tartaroff, contained 1.2 per cent hydrochloric acid; a single application could destroy 3 per cent of a tooth’s enamel, according to James Wynbrandt’s Excruciating History of Dentistry.” From Worldwatch, Jan-Feb/09.

Working Off Fat

“On the theory that every little bit helps in trying to close the US oil-for-fuel gap, I suggest that we collect the fat obtained from obesity-reducing lipectomies and convert it into biofuel. The idea is a bit icky and weird, I know, but I find the subject does make for some fascinating conversations.” From Barry Osborne’s letter to the editor, From New Scientist, Dec 27/08.

Quackgrass Forever!

“Quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) is another grass that you will almost always have in your pasture. In temperate areas throughout the world, this sod-forming grass probably holds more soil in place than any other plant! Although it can be a serious weed in tilled crops and gardens, it is a valuable grass to have in a pasture. Immature quackgrass forage quality equals that of timothy and smooth bromegrass, and it can yield more forage than orchardgrass.” From Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence, by Bill Murphy, Arriba Publishing, 2002.

Pasture Lost

“I think grazing lost out for psychological reasons. The new cultivating gadgets got all the attention because they were something that could be manufactured and sold. Money moves mankind. Shifting animals from pasture to pasture didn’t stand a chance of being championed in commerce because there was little manufacturing wealth to be derived from it. Besides, very soon farmers could ride on their cultivators and till to their heart’s content. And so they did, unto this very day, because humans love to move around while remaining motionless on their butts.” From All Flesh is Grass, by Gene Logsdon, Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2004.

In Sight

“You can observe an awful lot just by watching.”

Yogi Berra.

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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