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Business, Garden, Green Products, Practical Science

Mutilate the Corpses – An Organic Gardening Strategy

Despite the sound of this, it is not out of that farcical fantasy game Munchkins(™).  It is a genuine way to control pests.  It sounds like putting the remains of executed criminals on display as a warning for others, but the way it works runs much, much deeper than that.

I first heard of this idea from a quirky organic farmer at that oasis of communal environmentalism – Piedmont Biofuels in PIttsboro, NC.  These folks have prospered in the face of poor biodiesel economics and uncertain federal policy by building up a local community that does not just use the renewable, locally produced fuel, but they also embrace and teach many environmental principles in their outreach programs.  This fellow told us that the best organic pesticide was to take the bodies of the pest of concern, homogenize them in a blender, and then spray them back on the crops.  This attracted the natural predators of the chosen pest, be it another insect that finds them tasty, or a micro-organism that grows in their juices.

This is actually very enlightened science.  This is not the old-time view that flies are spontaneously created whenever you leave meat out in the open to go bad.  This is not the industrial-era importation of alien species to combat a pest, which then upsets the natural ecology/food chain to a ruininous point, whereby you end up with a more invasive pest than the original.  No, this recognizes the dynamic balance of the many local micro-regions and seeks to tip the balance in favor of one or another natural species already present in the environment.  It simply gives a helping hand to the predators in seeking out unusual concentrations of their prey.  You built the garden – the pests flocked to the scene, and only then can their predators slowly discover that concentration.  Takes several seasons, and by then your gardening hopes are ruined.  My first year of planting beans went pretty good, but each year there were more and more mexican bean beetles, which “knew” where to find my harvest.  The idea is to teach the predators where to find the bean beetles.

Note: the reason you don’t throw meat on compost is that it similarly provides an environment to cultivate the micro-organisms that live on meat – otherwise known as the producers of botulism.  This is bad.  But the point is we want to use this principle against the bugs.

Okay, so here is the business idea.  Can we sell digested bug parts to organic gardeners to spray on their gardens in advance of the invasion?  Can we cultivate bean beetles or stink bugs or whatever and mass-produce a spray?  We’d have to investigate shelf-life.  The organic gardener would normally not store their concoction very long.  I suspect that anything that grows in the mix, feeding on the dismembered bug parts, would be a plus.  We then sell essence of bean beetles, essence of cabbage worms, essence of weevils, and so forth.

Stage Two would be having gardeners bring in a jar with a mixture of pests from their own garden.  We would then homogenize the mixture and get it into a sprayable form.  This then gives them a cocktail customized to protect their very own garden from their very own pest population.

So are their customers for this?  Enough of them, willing to pay enough, to build a business?  Feedback anybody?

Bottom line tip: Best organic gardening practise is NOT to remove the insect pests by hand from your garden, but rather to mutilate the bodies and leave them on display.  Seriously.

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