Displaying items by tag: soil

Monday, 09 September 2019 01:59

Fungicides: The Dark Side

You may be someone strongly opposed to using synthetic chemicals, an advocate for organic farming, or engrossed in natural growing methods. On the other hand, you might be a 3rd generation farmer that adopted many of the modern practices and technologies that were introduced within the last century (of about 10,000 years of agriculture), believing you cannot farm or grow food without your arsenal of synthetic chemicals, from fungicides to herbicides. Alternatively, you might just be new to it all and you find yourself faced with a BIG decision. Organic or Conventional, which path do I choose?


Well before you make your decision, let’s take a look at the things we know for a fact about fungicides and other synthetic chemicals after billions of pounds that have been used around the world. One study showed that since the 1940s, crop loss inflicted by insects pests have nearly doubled from 7% to 13% despite a clear ten-fold increase in insecticide use. Before synthetic insecticides were introduced, the crop loss from insect herbivory was 31%; it is now 37%, despite a thirty-three (33) fold increase in the volume of pesticides used and a ten-fold increase in their toxicity during the intervening half-century." [Noah's Garden, Sara Stein, p. 115]


Moreover, the US Environmental Protection Agency now says that about 70 pesticides now in use are "probable" or "possible" cancer causers. While the National Academy of Science has said, "exposures to pesticides early in life can lead to a greater risk of... cancer, neurodevelopmental impairment, and immune dysfunction". Meaning our children are in far greater danger. A recent research study suggests that children under 14 have 4 times the normal risk of contracting cancer, (soft tissue sarcoma) if their gardens have been treated with pesticides or herbicides. [North Carolina Center for Health and Environmental Statistics, New Scientist]


Further studies (4) have shown that many common pesticides used on food crops break down into estrogen as a byproduct and exposed women have at least a 4 times greater chance of getting breast cancer. Other studies have shown this same exposure will cause male sterility in animals. The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research group, has found peeled apples that contain 8 different pesticides. Whereas a dozen different peeled fruits and vegetables were found to contain 13 different carcinogenic pesticides, 17 different pesticides that damage the nervous system, and 11 hormone-disrupting pesticides. [Acres, U.S.A., October 1994]


Now let us look at one of, if not the most widely used chemicals around the world. Many herbicides are claimed as environmentally safe, even after coming under concerning review by the highest level of scientific experts and years of public outcry of the dangers. Assorted studies on


"Roundup", a popular weed and grass killer containing glyphosate, have found the following:


  1. It is toxic to earthworms, fish, and many species of beneficial insects. [Journal of Pesticide Reform]
  2. It has also been found toxic to birds and mammals and destroys the vegetation upon which they depend for food and shelter.
  3. Soybeans and clover planted in fields previously treated have reduced ability to fix Nitrogen (convert nitrogen in the air to plant-available nitrogen). [USDA Southern Weed Science Laboratory]
  4. Reduces the growth of beneficial soil-dwelling mycorrhizal fungi. [Dalhousie University. University of Halifax, N.S.]
  5. Glyphosate makes bean plants more susceptible to disease. [Center for Pest Management, Fraser University]
  6. Sperm production in rabbits was reduced by 50% after exposure. [University of Alexandria in Egypt and University of Tromso in Norway]
  7. Roundup's active ingredient is the 3rd most commonly reported cause of pesticide illness among agricultural workers.
  8. Roundup's active ingredient is the most commonly reported cause of pesticide illness in landscape workers.
  9. Found in lettuce, carrots, and barley, even though it was applied the previous year.
  10. Reduces the disease resistance of trees


In general, Roundup shows adverse effects in all standard categories of toxicological testing (medium and long-term toxicity, genetic damage, effects on reproduction, and carcinogenicity) - does not break down into harmless substances as advertised, residues have been absorbed by subsequent crops even a year after application! [Organic Gardening July/August 1999]

Most recently, if you have seen Roundup in the media, or do a simple google search, you will find a slew of lawsuits by persons claiming the weed and grass killer caused their cancer. Thus far over US$2.1 Billion ($2,135,000,000) has been awarded in the first couple court verdicts, with hundreds of more cases pending.

Health problems like cancer, fertility problems, mental retardation, and attention deficit disorder in children, brain disorders, chemical sensitivity, etc. continue to increase. Farmers, homeowners, government and industry continue to increase their use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemicals...Do many people now wonder how strong this parallel is, coincidence OR cause and effect? Why does the public not hear more about the dangers of synthetic chemicals? Ask your officials what they are doing to protect your health and safety when it comes down to how the food you eat every day is grown.


What can we summarize from all this? To put it plain and simple, Synthetic horticultural chemicals do not work. Their contribution to our health and quality of environment causes more damage than benefit by stark contrast. We know our industrialist make a call to keep these chemicals available to protect our food security, yet in reality, we see a decline in productivity and damaged ecological systems.

Thankfully, no hope is lost and across the globe, you can find many examples of growing bountiful harvest without the use of toxic synthetic chemicals. What is more, there are still many different options and styles to choose from, while maintaining the same fundamental principles. You can go completely natural, mimicking nature’s way or you can add some technologies to the mix. We ourselves continue to advocate regenerative organic agriculture with all its long-term benefits as a solution to food and nutrition security and climate change.


Remember, it is important that you stay informed and knowledgeable about what is ‘growing on’ in your yard and what you are consuming.


Published in Facts & Info
Saturday, 04 May 2019 22:35

Nature's Bioremediation

We are living in a world today that seems to be getting more and more polluted by the day. Our developed and industrialized societies have brought many advancements we benefit from, yet, along with it all, we became negligent of our relationship with this world in which we live. Now we face a dire situation as we tackle the challenges of global warming and the extreme disruptions it has brought to our once stable environment.

Fast action needs to be taken to reverse the negative impact we have made in such a short space of time. Part of this process involves the removal of pollutants from our soil, water, and air. Pollutants are harmful substances that may be introduced into the environment intentionally, such as traditional pesticides in agriculture sprayed on foods or chemicals used to protects building materials from fires and the elements. Other pollutants may enter the environment unintentionally as a result of another process or improper disposal of potentially toxic materials. Whatever the source there is a key step we can take to remedy the situation

Bio-remediation is the process whereby soil or water areas contaminated by pollutants are treated with biological solutions, in order to clean up the polluted areas. Essentially we are looking at detoxifying contaminated soils with the use of microorganisms, plants, and enzymes from either of the two. Understand that this process uses natures approach in a targeted process to break down these toxins in the environment. Let us explore a wide range of examples showing the impact the biology in high-quality organic soil amendments can have on environmental pollutants to remedy the situation in our soils. [1][2]

Compost, for example, encourages the growth of many types of bacteria that have the ability to help detoxify many types of pesticides, simply by using them as food. High humus level is the most important property facilitating pesticide degradation.[3] Statistical analysis showed that plants grown in soils amended with compost had fruits with higher concentrations of sodium (Na) and Potassium (P) and concentrations of beryllium (Be) and cadmium (Cd) decreased.  Another service of compost is in neutralizing toxins in the soil. The organic acids produced from compost have the ability to bind metals such as aluminum (highly toxic to plants and prevents the absorption of phosphorus) into stable compounds. Thus the aluminum is "locked up" in a stable complex, unable to harm plants.[4]

Furthermore, it was found that the toxicity of plant poisons (high salt concentrations, heavy metals, etc.) become less severe in a soil high in humus (compost).[5]  Hazardous chemicals such as carbofuran insecticide (carbamate family) and simazine herbicide (triazine family) were added to compost piles. Tests showed that 100% of the carbofuran was degraded and 98.6% of the simazine was degraded after only 50 days of composting.[6]

Compost has also been used to help clean up toxic wastes and chemical spills. Bioremediation of soil contaminated with diesel, JP-4, and motor gasoline at a site (Fairbanks, Alaska)

was treated with sewage sludge and composted. Within 70 days some toxins were below measurement limits and others significantly reduced.[7]

Numerous research has shown compost very effective at preventing erosion. This usually occurs at a lower cost and without the pollution of traditional or conventual approaches. The International Erosion Control Society at its 1994 conference in the USA had many papers on the use of compost for flood control, watershed management, sediment control, revegetation and xeriscape technology.

Further research has found, that biodegradation of PCB, TCB, and BaP (PAH) with compost is a function of time with a 40% reduction of these chemicals in 4 months.[8]  The White Rot Fungus that decomposes dead wood (into compost) also has the ability to clean up (digest) chemicals such as pentachlorophenol (a wood preservative more toxic than CCA), dioxins, cyanides, DDT, TNT (explosive), creosote, and coal tar. Other toxic chemicals being tested are Lindane and Toxaphene. After treatment, it was found that 90% of the toxin was destroyed within 60 days.

Honestly, we could spend all day citing the volume of research done over the years, proving the effectiveness of bioremediation, on some of the most persistent pollutants in our environment. More specifically the role of compost and the microorganisms within. We are at a point where we have access to more information than ever before. How we choose to use that information can define the quality of our tomorrow. How we respond to this situation can mean the continuation or end of the planet we once knew.






  1. Research by Carl Potter of the EPA has found that composting significantly reduces polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons found in creosote. BioCycle September 1995.
  2. Compost is valuable as a pollution prevention tool from stormwater treatment to global warming (methane contributes to global warming 400X more than CO2). BioCycle 1995 Washington D.C., Rosalie Green, Ph.D., EPA
  3. ”Evaluating the Suitability of MSW Compost as Soil Amendment in Field-Grown Tomatoes, Part B: Elemental Analysis", D.E. Stilwell, Compost Science & Utilization, 1(3):66-72 (1993)
  4. Composting, Rodale Press, 1992.
  5. Humus: Origin, Chemical Composition, and Importance in Nature, Dr. Selman A. Waksman.
  6. Department of Health Services, California, October 1988.
  7. Treatment of Fuel Product Contaminated Soil in a Cold Climate Using Composting Technology; T. J. Simpkin, D. Walter, J. Doesburg, June 1992.
  8. Compost Science & Utilization, Winter 1995
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