Monday, August 23, 2021

Tailor Made to Push My Buttons

Have you ever read an article which seems like it was written specifically to get a rise out of you, and perhaps you alone?  Via Lawyers, Guns, and Money, we have an article from the New York Times Magazine which concerns the development of herbicide resistance in a common weed:

A farmer in Kansas, Nicolet had plnned his season around the herbicide, planting his fields with soybeans that were genetically modified to survive being showered with the chemical. He was well aware of dicamba’s tendency to vaporize and drift from field to field, causing damage to crops and threatening nearby wildlife and trees, but he didn’t feel as if he had much of a choice: Dicamba was one of the last tools that provided some control over Palmer amaranth, an aggressive weed that would quickly go on to choke out his sorghum crop — and that threatened to overtake his soybeans too. “There was a little bit of a moment of panic there for a few hours,” Nicolet said; he was worried that a season without dicamba would mean devastation for his farm.

If there’s a plant perfectly suited to outcompete the farmers, researchers and chemical companies that collectively define industrial American agriculture, it’s Palmer amaranth. This pigweed (a catchall term that includes some plants in the amaranth family) can re-root itself after being yanked from the ground. It can grow three inches a day. And it has evolved resistance to many of the most common weed killers, continuing to reproduce in what ought to be the worst of circumstances: A three-day-old, herbicide-injured seedling, for example, can expend its last bit of energy to produce seeds before it withers up and dies. Unchecked, Palmer amaranth can suppress soybean yields by nearly 80 percent and corn yields by about 90 percent.

This topic pushes my buttons because it involves one of my obsessions, the use of herbicides to kill useful plants... Palmer amaranth is edible, leaves, stems and seeds.  It is somewhat toxic to livestock, though, which is one reason farmers might hate it.  Amaranth varieties were a staple among the Aztecs, and high end amaranth flour is available.  

The go-to guy for eating the weeds is Green Dean, who's mantra is 'Eat the Weeds':



Of course, a weed is a plant growing somewhere it isn't wanted, so the problem is that Palmer amaranth is unwanted, utility be damned.  In the comments, my favorite misanthrope, M. Bouffant, posted his typical misanthropy:  

You can all yak until you're blue in the face, but the only problem actually confronting this planet is seven billion idiot primates on the loose, who seem to think they have some "right" to eat everything. Until y'all face up to the necessity of sterilizing your entire species it's just gum flapping & misdirected outrage.

The problem is that we don't eat everything, there are plenty of plants we have forgotten to eat.


Ten Bears said...

I was wondering if someone else would notice. Amaranth, like hemp, is a wonder plant.

Not a weed ...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I'm also a big fan of chenopods. The same people dumping roundup on the lambs quarters in their yard are paying top dollar at Whole Foods for quinoa.

Richard said...

The same old freak out. It's an amaranth, they grow in disturbed places. I think this problem is something some people created and the plants are too stubborn to give up.
So they spray poison everywhere and kill everything else.
But the amaranth will find a way.
My favorite ones that i have grown are A.cruentus "Hopi Red Dye" because it is so beautiful and one of the best. I sure love them and they volunteered around here for a few years until they got called weeds.
One time we were tasked to pull weeds and i asked my friend Como Se llama esta hierba

La Mano de Eva.

Anyway, there's lots of good Amaranths to grow. There are hundreds of varieties and i think they are a project.
So you can try to grow some.
Ok this palmers amaranth might not be the best cultivar, but what are we to do?