The famous TED Talk by Alan Savoy about changing deserts to grasslands was first on my YouTube watchlist today. This was after I read this wonderful blog post by Sacred Sueños, a darme un the Andes where the forest was burnt down in 1999 to bring in cattle… And afterwards was used for corn and other crops, until the land was unusable anymore and it came into their hands.
The message is this:
After we have brought grazing animals to the land, whether it be desert land that is unusable, or grasslands, if we want it to become forest again or even crop land, we need another step.
We have to give it chance for succession if we want it to be productive again. We need to allow it to feed and for the soil to grow with mulches and leaves from trees and bushes, for the microbes and organisms to live within it.
It really makes sense. There is a wonderful video about a professor from the US going back to his native land in Africa, where the people were struggling to eat from the land, and creating a new biome with water and forest through agroforestry.
The traditional way of agriculture isn’t working for us. It will be our undoing, as it has been for so many cultures before ours. This is the power of history: let us learn from it and not make the same mistakes.
I was taught as a bio major that certain grazers feeding on plants stimulate them to grow more.
I never suspected that it could extend into the insect family!!
For several years, I have been growing two gardenias. They are native to Japan, but due to my lack of fertilization, perhaps, they have been scraggly since sprouting about four years ago.
This year I found a cute little caterpillar near my plants. And another one. I tried to see which ones they would eat by putting them on different plants, because, you see, caterpillars turn into beautiful flying creatures that pollinate our flowers and fruits. So I didn’t want them to die. I found that they liked my gardenias, and knowing it was early spring and they would grow their few leaves back, I put the little guys to graze on them. They chose only the tenderest sprouting greens, and we’re quite picky… They turned out to be SuzumeGa (Hawk Moth, or Sphyngidae, Larvae), who eat pretty much only gardenias. They are lovely, huge moths with a shape like an arrow that hover while sipping nectar from flower to flower. I hope they survived because I haven’t seen many gardenias around here.
Gardenias, by the way, come in two types. The horticultural variety, with many petals, and the native to Japan, with only five. That being said, the one with only five petals, also called Kuchinashi (meaning “No Mouth”) produces an orange, almost flavorless fruit. This fruit is used as a natural coloring agent, and rather than using carcinogenic Yellow Five, the Japanese use Kuchinashi to color everything edible from candy to everyday packaged foods.
Where did the petals go? Rather, where did the seeds go… The seeds were turned into petals over time, as in many flowers, by gardeners who wanted more elaborate flowers. And the seeds disappeared, meaning that all of those plants have to be propagated vegetatively by cuttings, and cannot have their own babies. They can flower but not fruit. So of we plant them rather than the ones that can seed, they can never make their own… Well, that’s another story for another time.
Anyway, lo and behold two months later, the places that were chomped on my Kuchinashis by those colorful babies are now full of leaves!! The moths, I believe, stimulated the leaves to produce more in response. Maybe it is similar to the technique that is being studied for stimulating crop production (see one of my earlier posts); bumblebees bite leaves to stimulate flowering earlier than normal. Anyway, food for thought. Don’t let your friends kill the caterpillars! Especially the cool-looking ones!!