Spirit in Farming

The Aliens Among Us

The Fight to Save the Citrus

“The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched
only by its hostility…its purity.
A survivor – unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”
From the 1979 film, Alien

Most scientists today would say that there is no such thing as a perfect organism. There is one pathogen that comes very close though, and it is living on earth. Enjoying the warmer temperatures of many sections of our planet, it has spread from its origin in China to other areas of the world. Arriving in the United States in 1998 it was first detected in Florida in 2005 and it has since spread to all of the southern states. Traveling on its own personal vector it is moving fast. California is desperate to avoid it and Florida is at war with it.

Driven by globalization, climate change and monoculture farming practices, the yellow dragon is spewing its fire over citrus orchards throughout the southern United States. This creature and its vector like the heat. They like it so much they have moved into Florida and over 80 % of the citrus crops have been affected, somewhere around 90,0000 acres of citrus. Arriving in Southern California in 2012 it has just recently been detected as far north as San Jose.

In China, they call it Huanglongbing, the Yellow Dragon Disease. An invasive microbe that originated from Asia and has circled the globe. Heat tolerant, the Yellow Dragon moves along on its own special spaceship, the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Diaphorina citri , an ugly little fly that moves around very quickly. The fly eats the new leaf growth and afterward its dark passenger is injected into the tree. The Yellow Dragon can kill a full grown tree in as little as 5 years. Escaping detection for the first couple of years, it has an opportunity to establish itself within the tree and once established it is impossible to eradicate. This lively little alien pathogen literally sucks the life out of a citrus tree.

There is currently no known cure for this disease and no known strains of citrus varieties are immune. Commercial growers are using conventional management practices to control the little fly such as pesticides and antibiotics. In some areas the trees are dug up and burned in a final attempt to kill the Yellow Dragon. Scientists are also working to develop a bio-engineered or GMO version of certain varieties of citrus to combat the disease.

None of these practices aids the organic farmer. She cannot use the highly toxic pesticides or antibiotics and she certainly does not want anything to do with GMO’s but she may have a hero. Biologic control in an even smaller creature, a parasitic wasp, found to be a natural predator of the fly. Tamarixia radiata is about the size of a flea and this tiny creature from Pakistan has a big job ahead of it. Released last year in California by UC Riverside Scientists to help protect the citrus crop from the microbial invader, once established it will seek out, attack, and kill the invader fly, in turn killing the Yellow Dragon. So far, this is the organic citrus grower’s only hope.

We squeeze oranges, slice lemons, wedge limes and section grapefruits at an astonishing rate to the tune of billions of dollars annually in California alone. It is hard; no make that impossible to imagine a world without citrus fruits. If this alien is not eradicated we may end up in just such a world.
While we watch and await the fate of the alien invaders, being ever vigilant of our contributions to climate change and the spread of the disease, this simple beverage will aid in the long-term appreciation of your orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit tree by creating a delicious beverage that enhances the natural flavors of the fruit and helps to preserve them.

Make a Citrus Shrub by adding 1 cup of your favorite citrus juice to a saucepan, (blood oranges are especially nice in this recipe) and mix it with ¼ cup local honey and ¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar. Bring the mixture to a high simmer, stirring constantly until reduced by 1/3. Remove from the heat allow it to cool and then pour it into your most beautiful quart jar. Stir well and cap it tightly. Leave it on the counter in the kitchen overnight. In the morning shake it gently and refrigerate for a few more days. The lovely citrus shrub is now ready to be mixed with sparkling water for a refreshing beverage.

“In a world where death is the hunter, my friend,
there is no time for regrets or doubts.
There is only time for decisions.” – Carlos Casteneda, Journey to Ixtlan

For more information on this invasive microbe and it’s devastating effects on the US citrus crop contact The California Department of Food and Agriculture .

(c) 2015 Debra Chase Originally published February 12, 2015 Davis Vanguard


The Butterfly Effects……

Should a butterfly flap its wings

The wind of worlds will swim and sing

A chill wind hits his face. Forging ahead in his canoe he travels the way his ancestors came before him, long pole in hand he pulls the rice stalks over into the canoe and with the pole hits the rice until he can see the fine grains fall into the bottom of the canoe. Looking around him he sees his brothers and sisters in their canoes doing as he has done, as his ancestors have done for many hundreds of years. Soon the harvest will be complete and the ancient ceremony of thanksgiving can begin.

It is said, over one thousand years ago the Anishinaabe People traveled from their home on the west coast of Turtle Island (North America) to the “place where food grows on water”. The great lakes region became their home and the native wild rice became more than just their food. It is used in their daily lives, ceremonies, and feasts of thanksgiving. The native peoples of America new the benefits of the rice, the cycle of life that the rice grass supported. The ecological importance of this native grass goes beyond providing habitat for a myriad of species; it is the power of water, patience and ultimately, oneness.

A warmer planet may mean less rice for the native peoples of the great lake region and ultimately for the rest of the world. It is showing us that what we do here and there affects the lives of the people there and here. It is reminding us of the great responsibility we have as individuals, as a community, as a people, to care for our great Mother Earth.

Before you go to bed tonight, take about ½ cup of wild rice, and place it in a large mason jar with 4 cups of water. Cover it with a sprouters’ lid or piece of cheesecloth held with a rubber band and let it sit overnight. Next morning, drain off the water into your potted plants or garden. Add clean water to the rice, cover, and let sit all day in a cool spot on your kitchen counter. In the evening drain, rinse and add fresh water again. Do this for two more days. Every day as the rice soaks up the water you will watch the process of “blooming”, the rice will open its “petals” and a beautiful pale center will be exposed. After the petals have bloomed drain and rinse one last time. Notice throughout this process how much water you had to use to sprout this small amount of rice. Now think of the vast fields of rice grown here in America and around the world and the amount of water needed for those fields of rice to sprout and grow.

Place the rice in your most beautiful bowl add a dash of olive oil a little apple cider vinegar mixed with some raw honey a diced apple and some thin slices of red onion. Make it your own by adding grated ginger, garlic or chopped fresh herbs. As you enjoy your rice petal salad, reflect on the many generations that have come before you that preserved the rice and kept it safe for you to enjoy today and for many more years to come.

“I don’t know what to say about it,
When all you ears have turned away,
But now’s the time to look and look again at what you see,
Is that the way it ought to stay?”

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant


c 2014 Debra Chase originally published January 14, 2015 Davis Vanguard

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