Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia

Have you ever noticed that the one plant that you’ve had on the side of your house for the past 15 years now becomes a problem to grow once put into cultivation? Never a black spot, powdery mildew, nor a problem with bugs… until planted with 500 more plants in the back field.

Throughout time we have built sophisticated greenhouses and developed complex chemicals to fight such problems, only to find out that new ones are developed, and that the old ones never really go away.

By spending more time and energy into making a plant happy, we will lower the incidence of disease and increase production more efficiently. Happy, healthy plants make money. A preventative approach toward treating a problem is much cheaper and more effective in the long run. What makes this plant happy? What can we do that will have a long-term, healthy effect on a plant that will make us less dependent upon the short-term fixes of a treatment?

Take for example two farmers who have moved onto identical pieces of land with identical soil and identical problems. Farmer number one automatically fumigates and has implemented an intense use of fungicides to prevent any problems. Also, because there is a big problem with cutworms, he uses a strong insecticide to kill off any pests prior to planting.

Farmer number two, on the other hand, realizes that his soil is very high in organic matter and in fact only has a couple of soil pathogens he needs to be concerned with, compared to the millions of species of beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. He does what he can to maintain and enhance his soil by adding compost around the plants, and by using manures and cover crops he works on increasing organic matter on the off season. He also has a big problem with cutworms, but knows that the use of a strong insecticide in the ground would be counterproductive to building up the biological activity of his soil. He uses an application of beneficial nematodes, which, although more expensive, is effective, and because he uses compost tea as the carrier rather than water, he was able to continue building up his soil.

In the long run, whose soil will produce the happiest, healthiest plants?