(One of a series of articles about growing fruit trees
in Samoa, written by Digby Gotts and published in the 'Samoa Observer'
between December 2000 and April 2001)
If you hadn’t noticed my bias in these articles already, I believe
that use of chemicals on farms is responsible for many of the agricultural
problems on earth today. Notice that I mean the use of all chemicals,
not just pesticides, but fertilizers also. Pesticides can cause the most
obvious damage by not only killing the pest insects but also wiping out
all the other insects including hunters, pollinators and parasites. All
beneficial insects, without which life on the farm becomes that much harder.
The most significant of these is the honey bee, responsible for pollination
of a wide range of fruit trees including mango. Without the bee to carry
the pollen, the following fruit would fall by at least 50%, possibly disappearing
from the market place: avocado, beans, citrus, coconuts, coffee, cucumber,
mango, passionfruit, and pumpkin and many of the exotic fruits. Although
the bee produces many other products of economic value including honey,
wax, propolis, bee venom, and royal jelly, these are far outweighed in
value by its role in pollination. It is criminal to me that many farmers
are allowed to spray insecticides knowing that bees are killed just as
easily as the pest at which the poison was aimed.
Mealy bugs are probably one of the major quarantine pests on Samoa, although
in themselves they do little harm to fruit. Insecticides can be freely
used to keep the fruit clean but in doing so their predator insects (ladybirds)
and parasites (small wasps) are also killed. Not all the mealy bugs are
hit by the spray and those that survive breed, and return quickly in numbers.
Predator insects were much fewer on the tree and are slower to breed back
as there is little food immediately available for the survivors. The spray
must be used again, not because the insect has become resistant, but because
its natural killer has been wiped out. The natural ecological balance
has been destroyed by the spray, and a more severe problem has been created.
The permanent use of an area of land for food production can- fit comfortably
into the local ecology, while still allowing most of that food to be left
for human use. My own farm in Australia produces fruit for sale and eating
by deliberately designing the farm as part of a balanced rainforest ecosystem.
The name given to this type of agriculture is “permaculture”.
More information and other links about permaculture can be found on my
website at www.capetrib.com.au