samedi 4 juillet 2015

47- Plant protection -1- What is a pesticide?


You know I like the series, I hope it does not tire you. It's just a way to classify subjects by theme.

It is difficult to talk about agriculture today, without talking about plant protection, with all that it integrates, including, of course pesticides. I've already mentioned it, but diluted in other subjects.
This series will be devoted entirely to it.

So the first part, because you have to start at the beginning, will be devoted to define, in my own way, pesticides.

Everybody talks about it.
Few people understand something, let alone to know something about this theme.
Those who speak the loudest about them, often have a militant argument, which aims generally their ban.
Those who use them, end up feeling the need to shut up, because the societal debate has become so biased and negative.

But what is the reality?
So what is it, and what is it for?

Living organisms live in association with countless organisms of all types and sizes, some beneficial (in humans, the intestinal flora, for example) or harmful (mycoses or lice among others), as appropriate.

Among these organisms there are bacteria, viruses, insects, mites, nematodes, fungi, algae, etc.

To fight against pests, humans use three types of products:

- Medicines to take care of their own health.
- Veterinary products for animals (dogs and cats, but also chickens, cows, sheep, horses and pigs), which are medicines, but which use is specific for the health of animals.
- Pesticides or phytosanitary products, which are medicines, but which use is specific for plant health.

Plants, like all living organisms, suffer attacks that affect their health. They are subjected to rain, wind, sun, heat and the conditions surrounding them may promote the development of certain parasites or diseases. Pesticides are simply medicines to treat them.

Damage to nectarine, of fusicoccum canker (Phomopsis amygdali), a fungus, wound parasite, which enters in rainy weather. The first symptoms are small, with a few drying branches. But if the farmer does not intervene, it's the survival of the orchard that can be questioned.

You can also see it in reverse, and that could also open new horizons to you: medicines are just pesticides for humans. And more, a large majority of pesticides for humans are chemical pesticides.

In animals and humans, some conditions can be treated by natural remedies, others not. In cases, ultimately very numerous where natural medicines are not enough effective, we usually resort to chemical drugs, more selective and more powerful.

Curiously it happens exactly the same thing in the case of plants. Certain conditions cannot be prevented or treated by natural methods. In these situations it is usual, and eventually normal and coherent, to use medicines for plants, from chemical origin. These medicines, chemical pesticides, generally have a higher efficiency than natural products (they were designed for that purpose), and allow to control the evolution of the problem.

Moreover, all medical methods, natural or chemical, have side effects on the organisms they are designed to treat.

It is important, in each case, to see a specialist who will choose the most suitable type of treatment for each case, for optimal results with minimal side effects. A misdiagnosis or poor treatment choices can cause inefficiency, delay in remission or even can aggravate the situation.

In agriculture, it is the same. The specialist will be the farmer, if he has received the proper training, or advisor, specifically trained to take such decisions.
In short, plant protection is the medicine for plants, and this is one of the bases in order to produce healthy food from healthy plants.

It is evident that those who do not understand this fundamental point cannot understand the high stakes.

It seemed very important to me to start with this simplified definition, since I believe the debate has totally diverted to unreasonable way. To convince you further, I will devote the next chapter of this new series to the benefits of the use of pesticides to human health. A kind of abridged history of plant protection.

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