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The Dirt

Promising News From Iowa

Farmers needn’t rely on chemical products to secure profitable harvests, suggests a study by Iowa State University.
Photo/Illustration: Kerry Moore
Farmers needn’t rely on chemical products to secure profitable harvests, suggests a study by Iowa State University.
Photo/Illustration: Kerry Moore

Today’s seasoned gardener doesn’t need a copy of Silent Spring or the Prince of Wales (as much as I appreciate the Crown’s campaign to right the wrongs of mass agriculture) to realize that something is amiss with farming. Commercial and residential gardeners have incorporated chemical herbicides and pesticides into their growing regimens to the point where the products are basically a crutch. The organic movement seems like a rosy alternative, but what happens to the system if we swipe that stabilizing crutch from under it?

Well, a study conducted by Iowa State University at Marsden Farm in Iowa suggests that such a change would be a boon. The study found that in this particular situation, crop rotation, close surveilance by knowledgable growers, and spot treatment with herbidices and pesticides yielded harvests as bountiful as those grown with polluting chemicals, but without any of the destructive effects that we’ve seen wreak havoc on nature. Crop rotation,  smart mulching, and healthy doses of cow manure were all part of a hollistic growing process aimed to “…develop weed management strategies that are less reliant on herbicides and that subject weeds to a wide range of stress and mortality factors.”

And it worked. You can look through the full report here, and pass it along to anyone interested in healthier and friendlier growing practices.

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