Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Trees - A Love Story

A heart-shaped silhouette in a tree at sunset.
We humans love our trees. Even those who would claim not to probably dreamed of a treehouse as a kid; or would enjoy swinging lazily in a hammock under a shade tree, or spending a cozy evening by the fire with the Christmas tree twinkling prettily in the corner. More than any other type of plant, trees are deeply intertwined with the human experience. Trees provide the air we breathe, of course, but they also provide goods, food, and shelter; they enable our dreams and creativity; they provide emotional and spiritual succor; they serve as entertainment and inspiration, and we arguably would not have thrived so spectacularly on this planet without them. Trees are really Man’s best friend (sorry dogs).

A magnificent Amur Cork tree next to a sidewalk with people on it.
The list of things that trees have done for humankind is probably endless (what we have done for them is decidedly shorter), but let’s just consider some products that we enjoy (aside from food; that’s a story for another day). The most basic, and the one used in most ways in most places, is wood. Wood for shelter, wood for transportation, wood for paper, wood for fencing – you get the idea. There are so many things that are tree-derived that we use regularly without appreciating their origin. They include: wine corks (so necessary in these trying times), dental floss, furniture and car wax, makeup, turpentine, latex (how could we fight COVID-19 without this?), charcoal, candy coatings, medicines, waterproof fabrics, tires, chocolate and more chocolate, deodorant, and maple syrup (the real, ├╝ber delicious kind). One could write a book (and many have) of all the products we get from trees. I encourage you to look around and take notice of all they provide us.

A Native American Trail tree growing at an unusual angle.
 Humans have turned to trees to solve problems that nature has thrown at them since our prehistoric ancestors sheltered in trees. In modern times, indigenous people in the Meghalaya plateau of eastern India, create bridges from trees. In a mountainous region with deep ravines prone to extreme monsoonal flooding, reliable bridges are essential and these, made from the aerial roots of the Indian rubber tree, are strong and get even stronger as the trees grow over time. To see how they do this, check out this article. On this continent, some Native Americans used trees as markers to show the way to trails, burials, resources, or tribal lands. Young saplings were bent so that they would grow in a particular way that delivered a clear message to those that knew how to read them. To outsiders who did not know this language of trees, they seemed like any other tree, albeit a little quirky. Here is a man who has spent decades documenting these trees.

Viking Longships

Trees have also been the means by which people have been able to expand their resources and seek out better-living conditions. Take boats, for example: 10,000 years ago, someone used an ax to hack a canoe out of a Scotch pine tree. Known as the Pesse canoe, it is the oldest known boat and was found in the Netherlands. What were they after? Or what were they fleeing from? It’s an intriguing artifact. In the millennium since then, people have been taking to the water with help from trees. Ancient mariners traveled to Australia and throughout the Pacific islands. The Chinese built vessels during the Han dynasty (220 BC- 200 AD) and Romans built craft that enabled them to manage an expansive empire. The British were able to create an even larger empire, in part because they had plentiful forests to build their ships. And those ships ate up huge numbers of trees. Henry the VIII’s prized warship, the Mary Rose, required 600 oak trees to build in 1511. When you compare that to the 14 trees it took to build a Viking longship (also skilled sailors and colonizers), it is easy to see how the consumption of forest resources amped up over the centuries. As "new" lands and forests were populated (hello, America), the destruction of trees has continued unabated.

A sculpture of Buddha's head amongst the roots of a Bodhi tree.
Humans are experts at exploiting forest resources; things could be vastly different if we recognized the spiritual side of trees as eagerly as we do the economic advantage of them. It’s hard to understand why this is as trees play a role in every major (and most minor) religion. In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are 328 references to trees and, in Genesis, God created trees before Man. In the Quran, Muslims are instructed to plant trees, to treat them with respect, and to recognize their spiritual essence. In Buddhist tradition, the Buddha gained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. In Christianity, think of how Jesus’ crucifixion and everything that sprang from that would not have happened without that wooden cross. Animist beliefs, the essence of most indigenous religions, directly assigns spirituality to trees. This can be seen in Madagascar, where the awe-inspiring Baobab tree is believed to hold the spirits of ancestors. Across all these beliefs there are special trees, ones that are said to be miracle-makers, hold supernatural powers or cosmic secrets. In a time of great human divisiveness, we are bonded together in a spiritual connection to trees, whether we acknowledge it or not.
Children playing at the feet of massive Baobab trees in Madagascar.
As I write this, trees are imperiled by bookend tragedies in the United States. Wildfires are decimating hundreds of thousands of acres in the Pacific Northwest and West and back-to-back hurricanes have sent untold thousands tumbling in southern states. Forest fires in Siberia have burned 42 million acres this year and the Amazon is burning. Given our close bond with trees, this devastation must be causing subliminal harm to the human psyche. Perhaps this (Covid-19 aside) is part of what is causing such angst in people. I fervently hope that people will become unhappy and uncomfortable enough to address the causes of such mass forest destruction and act to protect this glorious plant, in all its variations, that has meant so much to us.

A cartoon showing two arms coming out and hugging a tree.Stay tuned: my next few blogs will be about trees as well - there's just so much cool stuff to share!
Take care.
Submitted by Pam

Stay tuned: My next few blogs will be about trees as well - there's just so much cool stuff to share!

Take care.
Submitted by Pam

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A Perfect Paring: Cannabis and IPM

A bud of cannabis at the bottom of a wine glassCurrent cannabis growing norms are ideal for practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Whether they are motivated by the desire to grow healthy, clean plants, or purely by regulatory constraints, the end result is the need to minimize impacts on people and the environment. IPM begins with getting your soil or soil medium right and moves on to pest prediction, trapping and monitoring; using cultural, biological and (carefully vetted) chemical controls and, throughout it all, conscientious observation and record-keeping to plan for the future (for more on all this see our IPM page here). All of which works perfectly for a well-run grow.

A close-up of a cannabis bud - Photo by Avery Meeker on UnsplashA good portion of IPM practices are pretty straight forward and easy to initiate, even for beginners to the field. The biological controls part, however, can be daunting (if not downright confusing) even for seasoned growers. Here at ARBICO Organics, our mission is to guide growers towards these best practices and help them maintain smooth and efficient biological control using the proper beneficials for the job.

Any IPM program no matter the crop or growing style, works best when it’s started before you even touch a plant. Soil/soil mediums should be pathogen-free, yet full of microbial life, before any plants go into it. The introduction of beneficial nematodes and/or Stratiolaelaps scimitus (Hypoasis miles), for instance, can offer early, pro-active protection from a long list of insect pests. Hypoasis miles specifically preys on the dreaded fungus gnats. A little bit of pre-emptive treatment early on can save you financial and emotional hardship later.

The life stage of a cannabis plant - seed, seedling, vegetative, flowering and harvest.Another necessary step to be taken from the start is close monitoring of the grow environment. Not only to ensure that plants are in optimal growing conditions, but also to spot pests and pathogens as soon as they appear. Biological controls work best over time, so it is important to apply them at the first sign of trouble. This is often the stage where growers who are new to biological control falter. We have been conditioned to reach for a killing spray as soon as we see a bug, so there is sometimes a learning curve and a change in expectations that needs to happen. Instead of squishing the bug instantly, observe and identify it, discover where it came from, and determine if there is a population living in your plants. Armed with the specific knowledge of what you’re up against, you can move on to your
next step – choosing the beneficial to use - with confidence.

An indoor grow - Photo by Ryan Lange on UnsplashKnowing the pest you need to control is important, but when choosing the right beneficial agent for your specific needs your growing environment needs to play a role in your choice as well. Certain beneficial insects have specific temperatures and relative humidity requirements to perform their best, while for other insects the amount of light can affect their biological functions. Outdoor growers are restricted in their choices by their environment, whereas indoor growers have more options, including modifying their conditions to ensure that the beneficials thrive. There are some biologicals that can work indoors and out for most situations, but for optimal control, you’ll want the best beneficial for the specifics of your grow. This does not mean that the “all-purpose” biologicals are no good, only that they are but one part of a multi-tool IPM approach.

A man with a cap on examining cannabis plants- Photo by Terre Di Cannabis on UnsplashThere is a wealth of beneficial/predatory insects and organisms that work extremely well to control pests in cannabis cultivation. Some of these include predatory insects and mites, parasitic wasps, microorganisms, and the afore-mentioned beneficial nematodes. Amongst the predatory insects, there are generalists (non-selective) predators and specialist (targeted) predators. The generalists aren’t picky eaters and go after lots of different insects in various life stages. They include Assassin Bugs (Zelus renardii), Green Lacewings (Chrysoperla rufilabris), Minute Pirate Bugs (Orius insidious), and even Ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens). The specialist predators have specific dietary proclivities and either consume or parasitize particular prey. They include Mite Predators (Phytoseiulus persimilis), Aphid Wasps (Aphidius colemani), and the Fungus Gnat Predator Hypoasis miles that I mentioned earlier. Unless you have used beneficial insects before or you are a professional in the good-bug field, it is perfectly normal to not know what to choose. That’s what we are here for. Likewise, if you can't identify the insect plaguing your plants, take a picture of it and give us a call (our specialist will tell you where to send it). Armed with the picture and your input, it is usually very easy for our pros to figure out your problem.

Spider mites on a cannabis plant
Once you have determined which beneficial to use, it is essential that you treat with the right amounts at the right time and keep it up. Continuity and scheduling should be your mantra at this point. Most pest insects reproduce at an energetic pace; you will need to outpace that reproduction with scheduled applications of sufficient amounts of predatory insects. Additionally, some specialist insects require a lead time in order to receive them, so you will need to plan to cover that time frame. Using beneficial/predatory insects is very much like taking antibiotics – do not stop your treatment just because the condition seems better; it is essential to complete the prescribed course.

A German Shepherd dog with his tongue hanging out in a field of glittering cannabis.If you have questions (and why wouldn’t you?), I encourage you to dig into our website. A good place to start would be our Hemp/Cannabis page. We also have a Cannabis Catalog with products that have been hand-picked for the industry. We have worked hard to provide comprehensive content to inform and guide any visitors, and I feel confident that you can begin your road to IPM through our pages. But, for those of you who prefer a person-to-person exchange, our Bio-Control Specialists are also available for free consultations Monday-Friday from 8:00-4:30 pm. (we are on Mountain Time). Let them help you figure out what will work for you. For more on cannabis and IPM, you may also be interested in reading “5 Questions with Arianna Weisbly Taylor” in the July 2020 issue of Cannabis Business Times.

Take Care.
Submitted by Pam

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