Pests – Insects & Weeds

In the late 1800s, a farmer who had a military background was trying to figure out new ways to battle the pests that plague agriculture. In this case, Col. Hardee was concerned with the Rocky Mountain locust, better known as grasshoppers. His solution – explode a lot of gunpowder near the field to stun the bugs.

Someone tried the gunpowder idea.

Almost as soon as the smoke cleared, the grasshoppers came back. The farmers gave up and went back to the tried and true method – club the locust to death as fast as you could.

This story is a measure of how seriously farmers take the battle against pests and how ineffective many of their early methods were. Pests come in two varieties – insects and weeds. Both can damage crops, reduce yields and reduce the profits of farmers. Insects eat plants or destroy them from the inside out. Weeds take the water, food and even sunlight away from crops.

In the 1930s, farmers were still using many of the same simple chemicals that had been used since the late 1800s to try and control pests. These methods were relatively expensive and not very effective.

But during this decade the stage was set for the coming explosion in chemical pest control. Soon, consumers and critics began to question the casual use of chemical poisons on the food supply. The 30s gave us a preview of the fierce battles of the coming decades.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

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