Pallets: The most inexpensive lumber you'll ever find.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
News briefs on uses for inexpensive wood and a recipe for homemade white fly pesticide.
Inexpensive Wood Pallets and Homemade White Fly Pesticide Recipe
They dwell behind loading docks, litter shipping yards, and
proliferate in stock rooms around the world. They represent
millions of tons of hardwood each year, and have a service
life of perhaps a few weeks or months. Each year in the
United States alone, there are about 460 million wooden
pallets manufactured, over half of which are discarded
after the first use. Most people simply don't realize that
this otherwise titanic waste could be one of our
eases—and certainly least expensive—sources for
The wood used for pallets comprises 10 percent of the
lumber and 50 percent of the hard wood cut down each year
in the United States. It is estimated that the amount of
wood used for pallets is equivalent to the amount of wood
used in the frames of 300,000 average-size American homes.
Although the number produced in most foreign countries does
not match U.S. production, pallets made in Africa, Asia,
and South America often contain endangered tropical woods,
such as mahogany.
A fascinating and informative book entitled, not
surprisingly, Fun Projects Using Wooden Pallets,
by Don and Peggy Crissey, has come to the rescue. The
couple, now from Silsbee, Texas, owned a container business
in Fort Myers, Florida, several years ago, where they
bought and sold various types of containers with the main
purpose of recycling them. One day they found a bunch of
decaying wooden pallets inside some ocean cargo containers
they had purchased. They recovered enough lumber from the
pallets to rebuild their front porch.
After this undertaking, they continued working with wooden
pallets in virtually every household construction project.
"Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as
everyone else and thinking something different;" explains
Crissey, offering his favorite quote from Nobel prize
winning physician Albert Szent-Gydrgyl.
Pallets are most often regarded as junk, because they
frequently have a weathered and tarnished look. But Don and
Peggy contend that simple deck cleaners, costing about $2
per gallon, will make the weathered look vanish
immediately. If you're not thrilled by this approach, a
simple soap-and-water solution and some sandpaper does the
job. There are also some hints to finding pallets
before they become weathered, which we'll leave
for Don and Peggy to explain.
Several chapters of the book contain full illustrations of
a variety of building projects including a utility cabinet,
a compost bin, several different furniture creations,
backyard decks, designs for plantscaping, and many more.
Further chapters include tips on building with wooden
pallets and advice on working with wood in general.
For more information, or to order a copy of the book
($12.95, plus $2 shipping and handling), write to Applecart
Press, Silsbee, TX.
The War of the White Fly
The sweet potato white fly (Bernisia tabaci),
carrying more than 40 viral diseases, is one of the most
nefarious crop pests in the world, destroying commercial
and home vegetable crops alike, and eating its way through
entire fields if not checked. In the most extreme cases,
the white fly has caused crop yield losses as high as 80
percent to 100 percent. Finding more than 600 varieties of
fruit, vegetable, ornamental, alfalfa, and cotton plants
desirable for feeding, the white fly consumes leaves and
sap, leaving behind partially digested sap and leaf sugars
known as honeydew.
To help alleviate losses, the Agricultural Research Service
and the USDA have joined together in search of ecologically
responsible alternatives to get the white fly situation
under control. In places with warmer climates, where the
growing season is year-round, researchers are looking into
fighting the white fly with their own natural enemies, like
the Delphastus pusilus beetle that feeds only on
white flies in all of their stages of development. The
beetle eats several white flies per day and in its six to
nine-week lifetime can consume up to 10,000 eggs or 700
Certain wasps native to Florida have also been introduced,
and though a potent enemy of the white fly, proved harmless
to livestock, humans, wildlife or plants and develop within
12 to 14 days. Some wasps sting the white flies and lay
eggs on their undersides. When the eggs hatch, the wasps
feed on the young flies. Others lay their eggs inside the
white fly larvae. Though a promising development, wasps as
natural predators have varying degrees of effectiveness
from crop to crop.
The USDA researchers have also tested the effectiveness of
different fungi on killing the flies, finding a strain of
Beauveria bassiana first identified in the 1870s
to be most effective. The fungus spreads through the white
flies' bodies and "eventually the fungus covers the whole
white fly, so it looks just like a little white puff ball,"
says entomologist James E. Wright, who works at the
Subtropical Agricultural research Laboratory in Weslaco,
Texas. Wright developed a fungal formula that is applied to
plants using conventional sprayers or crop dusters.
Originally created to control boll weevils, it has been
effective against white flies as well. In Florida, the
Paecilomyces fumosoroseus is under patent to distribute to growers.
Time is often a factor in controlling the pest, because
natural, biological controls take longer to act than
chemical pesticides and insecticides. Many farmers have
turned to biosoaps for their quick effectiveness. One
formula made from Nicotania gossei, a relative of
tobacco, forms a detergent compound that is effective in
killing both infant and nymph stages. In one greenhouse
experiment, entomologist John Neal found the soap to be 100
percent effective in controlling white flies, aphids, and
Many of these solutions are already available to commercial
farmers and are just starting to be marketed for the home
gardener. In the mean time, gardeners may want to try a
cost and time efficient homemade method that has been
developed by the Agricultural Research Service
Homemade White Fly Pesticide Recipe
· 1 tablespoon of dishwashing detergent
· 1 cup of vegetable oil
· 1 cup water
· Spray bottle
Mix detergent with vegetable oil and shake solution well. Add one or two tablespoons of solution to one cup of water.
Spray solution directly on insects and plants. Check plants for white flies every week.
The solution is recommended for carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, peppers, chard, and watermelon. It may burn leaves of squash, cauliflower and red cabbage. Wash your vegetables well before eating.