Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:
I am doing a symposium presentation on land pollution and was wondering whether or not some of the solutions that you have for farming and avoiding pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers could also apply to landscaping in residential and community spaces. Are there any mandatory restrictions for using chemicals in these areas?

Thanks,
Courtney

 

DEAR COURTNEY:
Problems associated with the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers in industrial agriculture and across urban landscapes indeed run parallel. If fact, many of the most commonly used chemicals are one and the same; for instance, the common agricultural and residential herbicides glyphosate (RoundUp) and atrazine. (The latter has recently been linked to hermaphroditism in frogs, a key indicator species that acts as a biological early warning system against contaminates that might soon become a problem for humans; learn more from the Physicians for Social Responsibility at www.psr.org/documents/psr_doc_0/program_3/feb_march_update.pdf)

The good news is that the solutions run parallel, too. A quarter-inch layer of compost spread across your lawn in the spring and early fall offers most of the nitrogen it needs; letting grass clippings lay where they fall provides the rest. (Setting your lawnmower on its highest setting and never cutting more than one-third off the height of your grass in one cutting also encourages root development, which makes your grass more drought tolerant.) Compost also improves the soil structure so that nutrients and water are used more efficiently, meaning more vigorous plants that hold up better to pest and disease pressure. Biological controls such as BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) bacteria are also employed by both the organic farmer and residential gardeners/landscapers, as are last-resort defense tools such as soap sprays and barrier oils.

As far as restrictions on use of toxic pesticides and herbicides in residential and public places, some Canadian municipalities, and one province, have actually moved to ban so-called “cosmetic” pesticides. As far as we know, no U.S. cities or states have followed suit.

NF

 

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