The Declining Mennonite Farming Community, Biological Insect Control and More Bits & Pieces

Learn about the declining mennonite farming community, biological insect control, the benefits of houseplants and more in this Bits & Pieces.

| March/April 1985

  • Fire ant
    The boll weevil may finally have met its biological match, ironically in the form of another infamous pest, the fire ant.

  • Fire ant

The Declining Mennonite Farming Community

The Mennonite community has a long-standing reputation for producing frugal and successful farmers, but not even the Mennonites have been able to escape the economic problems that beset the American farmer. So, at a special assembly in Mt. Pleasant, Pa., 130 Mennonite farmers formed a national organization to help other farming community members combat the accumulating debts that are driving established growers into bankruptcy and young people away from the farm.

In 1963, 38 percent of the North American male members of the Mennonite church farmed. Only 19 percent of the men farm now, and most of those individuals find themselves in situations similar to those of American farmers at large, who now account for only 30 percent of the American male population. That even such careful husbanders as these should find themselves in trouble underscores the seriousness of the decline in American agriculture.

Biological Insect Control: Fighting Fire With Fire

Biological controls have come into their own lately. Scientists at the USDA Insect Research Laboratory in Missouri have begun a release program involving two species of European weevil, which they hope will help control the musk thistle, a multimillion-dollar-a-year crop pest.

And that other weevil, the boll weevil, may finally have met its biological match, ironically in the form of another infamous pest, the fire ant. Researchers found that unsprayed cotton fields in East Texas with high infestations of fire ants reported no economic loss from boll weevils over the 11-year period from 1971 to 1982. On the other hand, fields from which the ants had been eradicated with Mirex in 1974 showed 90 percent cotton-bud damage when surveyed in August. While no one is recommending that fire ants be introduced into fields where they are not already prevalent, the research suggests that for some farmers, fire ants may be a problem worth living with.

Benefits of Houseplants

People typically buy indoor plants on the basis of two characteristics: The plants' aesthetic value and their ability to survive neglect. But scientists at NASA point out another attraction — the plants' ability to reduce concentrations of poisonous chemicals in the air.

The scientists subjected a variety of household plants to formaldehyde-laden air and monitored the results. Spider plants came out on top: One plant reduced formaldehyde pollution by one-seventieth in an 1800-square-foot home. Add 69 more plants, and presumably such a home can be guaranteed formaldehyde-free. Other plants and their ability to clean the air of other chemicals are now being tested.

Bob Reinlie
9/26/2008 8:27:55 AM

I have a no-cost, no-chemical method for eliminating fire ants. If you have multiple ants piles, take a scoop of pile A and put it on pile B. Take a scoop of pile B and put it on pile A. The mixing of the two piles causes a war between the "two sects", causing a complete annihilation of both piles. At least, the next day, both piles are void of any ants and I don't see any evidence that they are just moving to a new neighborhood. No expense and very little time!


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