Pilgrims Faced Farming Challenges

One of the many gifts the Native Americans gave to the Pilgrims were crops, such as corn, that were better suited to their new farming location. Ph: Richard Pratt

One of the many gifts the Native Americans gave to the Pilgrims were crops, such as corn, that were better suited to their new farming location. Ph: Richard Pratt

When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth colony, they weren't able to rely on regular supply ships from England. They had to become self-sufficient as soon as possible. That meant growing much of the food they needed. They faced three main problems: experience, temperature and soil.

The Pilgrims came mainly from around London or from Holland, where they had lived in exile for 10 years. Being urban dwellers, most of them had little to no experience with farming. Written farming resources in the 1600's were almost non-existent, and in any case, few of the Pilgrims could read.

Cold hardiness zones in England range from the equivalent of US zone 7a to 10a, with the zone near London being 8b (15 to 20 degrees F); zones in Holland range from 8a to 9b. The cold hardiness zone around the Plymouth area is 6b (-5 to 0), which is significantly colder. The growing season was shorter, probably unexpectedly shorter.

The shallow, sandy, stony soil was also vastly different from the deep, nutrient-rich loams of southern England. It did not retain water nearly as well, so many of the crops the Pilgrims brought with them grew poorly or died due to lack of water. For a detailed examination of the soil challenges the Pilgrims faced, read the article: "WHAT TYPE OF FARMING CHALLENGES DID THE PILGRIMS FACE?"

Had it not been for the techniques (like the "three sisters," growing corn squash and beans together), the crops (Corn and squash were unknown in the Old World, and the bean varieties common there did not do as well here.) and the knowledge of local wildlife (Turkeys are native to the Americas.) shared by their Wampanoag neighbors, the Pilgrims would very likely have starved their first winter in the new world, and our concept of the Thanksgiving feast, if we even had one, would be vastly different.

Finding Caterpillars in Your Plants?

Not to worry. According to Texas A&M Professor and AgriLife Extension Urban Entomologist Dr. Mike Merchant, fall caterpillars don't do that much damage. Check out the article below.

Photograph of walnut caterpillars. Walnut caterpillars may strip leaves from portions or all of the canopy of pecan or walnut trees. However severe damage is unusual and late-season damage rarely harmful to the tree.

Walnut caterpillars may strip leaves from portions or all of the canopy of pecan or walnut trees. However severe damage is unusual and late-season damage rarely harmful to the tree.

A Win for the Bees: Bayer Will Change Advertising

There has been a lot of controversy about whether or not neonciotinoid-containing pesticides are harmful to pollinators. Numerous scientific studies show a variety of harmful effects, but most pesticide manufacturers stand behind Bayer Crop Science's position that, “In no study of neonciotinoids with realistic exposure scenarios and a correct use of the product have harmful effects on honey bee colonies ever been observed.”

Despite this claim, Bayer Crop Science has agreed to change its advertising in response to an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office. Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement, “Bayer made numerous misleading claims to consumers about the safety of its pesticide products, including falsely advertising that they were similar to giving ‘a daily vitamin’ to plants, when in fact, they are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators in the environment."

Read the article from Bee Culture magazine below.

Scotts Miracle Grow has decided to phase out neonciotinoids in its products beginning this year, following in the footsteps of the two biggest hardware store chains, Lowe’s and Home Depot, both of which have agreed to phase out neonicotinoid-based pesticides in the coming years.

Link to article, "BAYER MUST CHANGE ITS PESTICIDE ADVERTISING"

I'm Gonna Eat a Bug...Maybe.

Molly Keck, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist from Bexar County, recently coordinated "Insecta Fiesta," an event featuring a "three-course, fiesta-inspired gourmet meal made with insects or insect-based ingredients." The even was held at Blue Star Brewing Company in San Antonio, The choice of venue was probably a wise one; a lot of us would need to imbibe a bit before sitting down to such a meal.

The trend toward offering insect-based delicacies has been increasing over the past decade. Wikitravel lists the top 10 U.S. restaurants serving insects, including Hugo's in Houston, which advertises "a wide variety of authentic Mexican cuisine including a main entree of sauteed chapulines (grasshoppers) served with guacamole." A search for "restaurants serving insects near Dallas, Tx" returned not only the Wikitravel article, but several discussing other restaurants in Austin and San Antonio. None in Dallas so far, but how long can it be?

Many scientists and nutritionists see entomophagy, or the eating of insects, as a solution to the problem of feeding our growing population if (or when, if you listen to some experts) modern farming methods can no longer keep up with the increasing demand for food, especially protein.

Check out the article from AgriLife Today for more details about entomophagy.

Insecta Fiesta provides ‘ant’eresting culinary experience for attendees