March 2, 2008

I have said it before, but I have to say it again:

The trouble with playing God is that you can’t ever quit. We keep screwing around with the balance of things. From deer to rabbits to rain, we have things in a fine uproar.

In the past I’ve written about kudzu, a wonderful woody vine that some very learned types introduced into the South in the late 1800s. Everybody figured it would grow well and be a useful crop. They were half right. It grows like nobody’s business, and you could probably feed it nuclear waste and not slow it down. It’s not useful for much except aggravation, though I did once make dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) out of kudzu leaves.

There really isn’t all that much demand for dolmas.

Kudzu is only one of the more obvious snafus we have created for ourselves because we seem incapable of realizing that everything in the world is connected to everything else in the world, and if you grab a string and tug on it, you just never really know what bell’s going to ring.

We see it time and again, rabbits in Australia, hundreds of invasive species in the U.S., from shrubs to fish and snails to starlings, which were imported from England by some oddball in New York City who wanted to see that all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare were in this country, too. Have you ever walked under a tree full of starlings? Much ado about doo-doo. Ugh.

We’re also guilty of removing things without thinking through the consequences. The best example is the plague of whitetail deer up and down the eastern U.S. We removed all their predators because we did not like the idea of sharing space with wolves, cougars and the like. We cleared the heavy forests for agriculture (and now housing developments,) creating just the kind of environment the deer require. Hey, you might think those landscape plants are for decoration. To Bambi, they look like a buffet. So, today, deer are the new pigeons. At least they can’t perch on statues.

Now, with some areas under persistent threat of drought, we find that we may very well have brought a lot of it on ourselves because we are so good at fighting plant disease.

Scientists have long known that raindrops, snowflakes, and so on, need a teeny bit of something to form around. The assumption was that the “something” was dust.

Well, sort of.

Researchers at Louisiana State University have discovered that a big share of those “nucleators” is actually a type of bacteria that make certain kinds of plants sick.

The most common germ found was Pseudomonas syringae, the sort of moniker that makes me glad I don’t work in radio. This particular bug can cause disease in plants, including tomatoes and beans. The scientists say that as high as 85 percent of the snowflakes tested had that particular germ at their center. In samples taken in 20 locations around the world, the same little speck of life was found.

Naturally, Pseudomonas is one of the bacteria that our agricultural scientists have been trying to eliminate to help increase crop yields.

See where I’m going with this? There is a clear possibility that our efforts to eliminate some plant diseases has contributed to drought, to some degree. So, here we are, caught on the horns of another dilemma of our own devising. Do we continue trying to make healthier crops and beans, tomatoes, and so on and risk more droughts? Do we start re-infecting our bean fields with Pseudomonas in hopes that additional rainfall will make up for the crop losses created by the bacteria?

Somebody go wake up Dr. Frankenstein…he only THINKS he had problems with HIS monster.

Maybe we should just learn to eat kudzu.


© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

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