[permaculture] Advice for a corn farmer vexed by bugs nesting in clover?

trevor william johnson john2116 at msu.edu
Wed Aug 12 16:59:54 EDT 2009

I just got done reading the article and seems well grounded in the  
effects of moving from green revolution farming to natural  
techniques.  I dont have experience in growing acres of a single crop  
but i have a grounding in systems.

Farming is contextual.  To say the bugs are from the cover crop does  
not take the whole system into account.  He is going from a monocrop  
system where he "usually does not use pesticides" to a bi-crop  
system.  Adding an element to the system adds niches and this one  
opened up an opportunity to host a bug from the surrounding area.   
This points out a lack of knowledge of his area. I bet if he had not  
sprayed the system he would have observed a predator to that  
particular pest.  The system is growing in complexity and the first  
guest to the party happens to be a party pooper.  Problems are  

I think this article is great for those looking from the permaculture  
perspective.  This fella points out perfect systemic issues in  
growing food.  He needs nitrogen.  The suggestion in the article to  
mandate composting and delivering it to the farm is logistically  
insane as he points out.  However he does not continue to question  
and look from the angle of "how can we make this work". He simply  
acknowledges the criticism and points out that he has been farming  
the same land for 80 years.  How much top soil has he lost????!!!

His closing quote is perfect:
And everything I know and I have learned tells me this: we have to  
farm "industrially" to feed the world, and by using those  
"industrial" tools sensibly, we can accomplish that task and leave my  
grandchildren a prosperous and productive farm, while protecting the  
land, water, and air around us.

To transition from industrial agriculture to a local and regional  
movement will take deep systemic thought to deal with the issues that  
will present themselves to us.  This fella is on the cutting edge of  
that without the observation skills to make the difference to his  
system.  He is straddling the industrial mindset and dipping a toe  
into the regional mindset and experiencing a mental short  
circuit....as anyone would.

My advice: stop being so certain and be ok with questioning, doubt  
and bad results.  They are all opportunities.  We all want to make a  
living.  What we make ourselves dependent on will cause our success  
or failure.  If i was a betting man I would put my chips on green  
(natural systems) and not black (oil and other forms of ancient  

Ferndale, MI

On Aug 12, 2009, at 3:36 PM, sean forde wrote:

> In Blake Hurst's article, "The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the
> Agri-intellectuals" he complains that planting clover to produce  
> nitrogen
> had an unwanted side effect - bugs - and that forced him to use an
> insecticide. Does anyone have any real world experience to help him  
> out?
> Here is an excerpt from the article (
> http://www.american.com/archive/2009/july/the-omnivore2019s- 
> delusion-against-the-agri-intellectuals
> )
> "A few other problems come to mind. The last time I planted a cover  
> crop,
> the clover provided a perfect habitat in early spring for bugs,  
> bugs that I
> had to kill with an insecticide. We do not normally apply  
> insecticides, but
> we did that year. Of course, you can provide nitrogen with legumes  
> by using
> a longer crop rotation, growing clover one year and corn the next.  
> But that
> uses twice as much water to produce a corn crop, and takes twice as  
> much
> land to produce the same number of bushels. We are producing twice  
> the food
> we did in 1960 on less land, and commercial nitrogen is one of the  
> main
> reasons why. It may be that we decide we would rather spend land  
> and water
> than energy, but Pollan never mentions that we are faced with that  
> choice."
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