Sunday, February 20, 2011


Found myself reading the Southeast Farm Press this week.  The article below about a weed that is resistant to pesticides helped me understand the nasty world of chemical dependency that modern farmers fall victim to.  Imagine going out and spraying acres of clear soil with poison.  The idea really creeps me out.

Growers share resistant pigweed control strategies  Paul Hollis

The first step is acceptance, and no, we’re not talking about a 12-step program. The name of this game is glyphosate-resistant (glyphosate is Round-up) Palmer amaranth pigweed, and the first step in preventing or battling it is admitting you have a problem.
“Don’t deny it, and don’t say that you’ve got only three or four on your farm, and you’re not going to do anything about it. It’s here and it’s real,” says Patrick Turnhage, a west Tennessee farmer. Turnhage was on a panel of consultants and growers telling of their experiences with resistant Palmer pigweed during a recent meeting in Decatur in north Alabama
Turnhage said it was great to see such a large turnout at the meeting focusing on resistant pigweed. “Five years ago, you couldn’t get two or three people together long enough to talk about it. If someone said resistant pigweed, they’d bust up like a covey of quail. You should treat a farm as if you cannot kill a pigweed. If it gets its head above ground and you treat it, but treat it as if you cannot kill it with anything, you’ll be successful,” he says.
It’s important, he says, to overlap pre-emergence treatments and chemistries by following a calendar rather than by driving out into the field to see if pigweeds are emerging.
“If that pre-emergence has a two-week residual, you need to get out in 10 days and spray. You’ve got to learn how to spray clean ground. It’s hard to do — it’s hard to spray something that is as clean as a concrete parking lot, but you’ve got to try and do it if you want to stay in business,” says Turnhage.
Resistant pigweed is putting farmers out of business, he adds. “We’re talking about bush hogging 80-acre cotton fields and disking up 1,000 acres at a time because they’d be alright,” he says.
Next July, says Turnhage, you can go to the foothills of Missouri, in west Tennessee, and tell exactly to the row where people have applied their pre-emergence, and where people are digging and trying to rescue their crop. “They’re spending more money trying to rescue it than they would have putting out the pre-emergence in a timely manner. My grandfather always said that you should spend money only on the things that make you money, and these pre-emergence treatments will make you money and keep you in business,” he says.
“We’ll actually put out herbicide before we do any tillage, because you can’t rely on tillage alone to eliminate that problem. Disking, bedding or chiseling alone won’t do the job. You have to kill pigweed before it gets above the ground.” 
Bill Webster, a consultant in Alabama and Tennessee, says it was about four years ago when he decided he probably had a problem with resistant pigweed. “We had escapes that first year. Then, the next year — about three years ago —  we planted cotton, put down Prowl, let it get activated, came back twice with Roundup, and still had pigweed. We killed a few with Staple, but most of them survived and we ended up topping them out. The next year — two years ago — we planted in wheat and then came back with soybeans, double-cropped, and put out the pre-emergence,” he says.
When rain finally did arrive, says Webster, the pigweeds came up. “Once they get any size on them, you’re not going to get rid of them. This year, we noticed that the combines and other equipment spread them to more fields. You can tell where the equipment pulled into the field. There may be a streak of them or they may be scattered in the field,” he says.
Webster says he’ll be advising growers to do more incorporating of yellow herbicides. “We just need to stay on top of them. I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate them,” he says(read entire article)

Friday, February 18, 2011


Everybody needs at least one food guru these days, someone whose opinions/advice you trust or whose recipes are in synch with your diet aspirations.   My go-to team includes:  Dr. Weil,  Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman,  George Mateljan, Alice Waters, and Marion Nestle.  I often share their articles and recipes here and on Facebook.

When the new US Dietary Food Guidelines were published a few weeks ago, a lot of my favorite food writers were pretty snarky in their reviews and frankly I didn't find their comments helpful.  So I was particularly thrilled when my son, who has only recently taken up conscientious eating, sent me this article by Jane Brody that I'd totally missed, and suggested that I share it here.  Brody was one of my first food gurus back in the 80s and I could tell by Jack's comment that she's now one of his.  There's nothing snarky about Jane.

If you're not familiar with Jane Brody, click on her name to see a list of her recent articles.

Thanks, Jack!

February 14, 2011

A Simple Map to the Land of Wholesome

For the first time since it began issuing dietary guidelines, the government offered new recommendations last month that clearly favor the health and well-being of consumers over hard-lobbying farm interests.
The new science-based Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released Jan. 31 by the Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services, are comprehensive, sensible, attainable and, for most people, affordable. They offer a wide variety of dietary options to help you eat better for fewer calories without undue sacrifice of dining pleasure.
Now it’s up to consumers to act on this advice and put the brakes on runaway obesity and the chronic diseases that cost billions of dollars before they kill.
It’s a lot easier than you may think, especially if you make the adaptations gradually and avoid declaring war on every deviation from the straight and narrow. Moderation, rather than constant deprivation and denial, is the key to a wholesome diet that you can stick with and enjoy. I say this with confidence because I’ve lived this way for most of my adult life and I’ve watched my sons do the same for more than four decades.
Here is a summary of the guidelines, which combine the goals of fewer calories — and especially nutrient-poor calories from sugars, fats and refined grains — with more emphasis on nutrient-dense foods:
Eat lots more vegetables and fruits, filling half your plate with them.
Choose lean meats and poultry, and replace some of them with seafood.
Consume mainly nonfat or low-fat milk and other dairy products.
Choose low-sodium products and use less salt and salty ingredients in food preparation.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Where do you stand on Roundup?  It's the best selling weed killer in the world so perhaps you've used it.  Do you understand how it works?  You spray it on a plant and it is absorbed through the leaves and kills the plant.  Then poof the poison vanishes.  And that's why it's really safe, or so says the manufacturer.

SOME plants are not killed by Roundup.  They include genetically engineered corn and genetically engineered soy beans.   These can be sprayed with Roundup, not die, and be processed into various foods that you may or may not know you're eating (at least 70% of processed foods in the US contain Roundup resistant ingredients).

In Europe they don't allow the growing of crops that are sprayed routinely with Roundup (glyphosate).  But in the US we keep adding these crops.   Last week the government permitted the sale of alfalfa seed that can be sprayed with Roundup.  This alfalfa will be fed to the majority of the livestock in the US.  We'll eat the meat and drink the milk.  The government had stopped the use of Roundup ready sugar beets (about half our sugar is made from beets) but they've just lifted that ban.  How sweet is that?

One of the big questions:  Does the genetic manipulation that makes these crops immune to harm from glyphosate also change them in a way that makes them harmful to livestock and people?

Another big question:  Is it a good idea to be spraying so much of this Roundup?

A third big question:  What exactly are the chemicals that are mixed with the glyphosate in the various formulations of Roundup and is anyone studying them separately?

Resouces and interesting further reading:

NOTE:  In my recent post about Roundup ready alfalfa I repeated something I'd read -- that Whole Foods and Stoneyfield Yogurt endorsed the government's approval.  This has been vehemently denied by both companies and Stoneyfield's Gary Hirshberg had a great editorial about it in the Huffington Post.  Here's an excerpt:
Let me first state the obvious -- leaving aside the fact that USDA's own organic standards do not allow the use of genetically engineered crops, Stonyfield is absolutely and utterly opposed to the deregulation of GE crops. We believe that these crops are resulting in significantly higher uses of toxic herbicides and water, creating a new generation of costly "super" weeds, pose severe and irreversible threats to biodiversity and seed stocks, do not live up to the superior yield claims of their patent holders and are unaffordable for small family farmers in the US and around the world. We believe that organic farming methods are proving through objective, scientific validation to offer far better solutions. We also believe that unrestricted deregulation of GE crops unfairly limits farmer and consumer choice.  (Read the whole article.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I was told by a doctor that the secret to a long healthy life and to getting to a normal weight easily was dividing all my meals and snacks into the proportions shown in the picture.  That was last July and I started eating that way immediately.  The results have been great. We'll have to wait and see about the long life part, but my body has changed shape and I don't go around craving food all the time.   Plus I've never enjoyed cooking so much.

I was told these proportions would be the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines.  And they are, more or less.  The 1/2 plate of fruit and vegetables is mentioned over and over in the guidelines.  After that it gets more complicated.   Read Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.

To listen to an excellent interview by Diane Rehm with distinguished experts on the guidelines click here.