Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Goodbye 2,4-D. Hello, diversity

Completely amazed at how different our lawn is after only a few months without broad-spectrum herbicides like 2,4-D – what Americans spread by the thousands of ton as "Weed & Feed."

The obvious is what I expected: the clover are recovering nicely. Not only the white that I sowed in fall, but some wild red, rabbit's foot and hop clover – legumes that perform many important tasks: they are greening up areas of the lawn where grass is less successful; they mow well; and they will be pumping nitrogen into the soil all season, extracting it right from the air.

A newcomer this year: Star of Bethlehem. A type of wild hyacinth, they're not native to these parts but have established themselves as an escaped ornamental. Poisonous to livestock and no favorite of farmers, we're happy to see them since we don't have any domestic animals grazing out there.

There's a fair amount of Wood Sorrel, which accents the lawn with pretty yellow flowers.

Speaking of which, of course there's a downside to giving up 2,4-D: dandelions. But we've had precious few compared to the neighbors' chemical lawns, which were completely overrun this year. The occasional bull thistle, chickweed, creeping charlie and fleabane have to be yanked by hand. But all in all I am very optimistic – I think the sudden surge in diversity is a good sign that the health of the lawn is improving and coming off the drugs won't be nearly as traumatic as what I envisioned last fall.

No free lunch

Roundup-resistant weeds are changing the game for agribusiness and its attempt to monopolize the world's food crops. Can't think of a better example of how technology will eventually fail – in a big way.