Volume 10, Number 9                                         July 29, 2007

The Farmer


Searching for that "Weed Fairy"

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad


At this time of year most farmers and gardeners, if they have done a good job of land preparation, planting and watering, are now faced with many enemies to their crops. By far the worst enemy is the "W-word", weed. Weeds are just plants in the wrong place with the wrong agenda, like agents, hypocrites, spies and ignoramuses in our organizations. However, I should not compare weeds with the human "ignoramuses", because we have learned from farming that weeds are very intelligent and crafty. This is why farmers and gardeners are always looking for that magic formula, "silver bullet" or "weed fairy", if you will, to take care of these pesky, tenacious, water hungry, brutes.

My wife, Sister Anne, jokingly suggested that we should save one of our seeds that we were planting, put it beneath our pillow, then wish for the "Weed Fairy" to come by and overnight rid our fields of weeds. We have not tried it yet, but if any one tries this and finds that "Weed Fairy", please let us know (smile). Otherwise we are going to wear out some more cultivator tools and workers with hoes in their hands to fight these little and sometime big demons. Of course we could rely on chemicals or worse, genetically modified crops plus heavy doses of the all purpose green plant killer, Round-up.

Other than hand to hand combat with the weeds, the best way to handle them is to not let them get started. You can do this by smothering them with plastic, cloth, paper, or straw mulches. Also if you use raised beds and bring in new soil and compost that contain no living weed seeds, you can be pretty sure that you won’t have weed problems at least for the first year. However, weed seeds can be blown in by the wind or carried in by rodents and animals. Weeds can lie dormant for as long as 30 years in the soil, then on some type of clock or climatic key, wake up and cause havoc in your garden or field.

A multi-billion dollar industry has sprung up among the chemical giants to confront and control weeds. However, weeds still exist even under the most stringent chemical poison regimen, because of their adaptability and survival instincts which we have observed first hand here at Muhammad Farms.

As I stated earlier, weeds can lie dormant in the soil for years waiting for the right climatic conditions or a signal of some sort for them to germinate. One such signal is the chemicals given off by the germinating seed that you plant and water. Soil must have water or moisture for your seed to germinate. This same soil water is a carrier of chemical signals given off by a germinating seed.

However, your weeds also can read these chemical signals and germinate as well. It seems that when you plant broadleaf plants such as beans, watermelons, okra or squash, the broadleaf weeds are the first to sprout. Then, when at another time you plant grasses, such as wheat or corn, the grassy weeds pop up.

The weeds like to get real close to your plant and seemingly mimic the appearance of your plants, so that if you take a whack at them you may inadvertently kill your plant. This is why a farmer plants in very straight rows. Then he can set his cultivator for a tight fit and kill anything outside of the "drill" in which he has planted his crop. Even so there are still usually weeds that grow right up in the drill. This is where the hoe or hand must be used to get at the weeds.

The chemical industry has produced herbicide tailored to kill the unwanted weeds yet leave your crop standing. However, over time these herbicides become less and less effective because the weeds adapt and change their genetic structure to become tolerant of these chemicals. Heavier doses applied to kill the weeds then wind up damaging or killing your plants, requiring that you switch to another herbicide.

This constant battle between farmers and weeds has led the farmer to depend on and trust their "Weed Fairy" called the chemical industry. This dependency has set the stage and opened up the door for the production of genetically modified crops that can withstand high levels of herbicide application.

In March of 2005, the University of Georgia sponsored a workshop concerning the use of other herbicides in "Round-up Ready Cotton". The presenters were explaining to farmers that although "Round-up Ready Cotton" was designed so that the only herbicide you needed was "Round-up", certain weeds had taken genetic information from the cotton and developed strains that were resistant to "Round-up". The specialists recommended that the farmers needed to go back and use some of the other herbicides along with the "Round-up" to destroy the new "self-modified" weeds before they get out of hand. In other words, nature done fooled "Round-up".

Of course the producer of "Round-up", Monsanto, is probably busy at work developing a more potent formulation of "Round-up" and new genetically modified species of cotton, corn and soybeans that can withstand the more poisonous chemical. But there can be a more sinister side to this escalated war on weeds. I use the word "species" instead of "variety", because the modifications that Monsanto and other chemical/bio-tech firms are making are at the genetic level and may incorporate DNA from a species outside of boundaries of the crop to be modified. And because these new genetically modified "species" are patented, no one can check to see what else may have been inserted into the DNA of that "Round-up Ready Corn" such as a spermicide.

According to an article in the September 9, 2001 edition of "The Observer",

"Scientists have created the ultimate GM crop: contraceptive corn. Waiving fields of maize may one day save the world from overpopulation….The pregnancy prevention plants are the handiwork of the San Diego biotechnology company Epicyte, where researchers have discovered a rare class of human antibodies that attack sperm."

For more information on the genetically modified crops please go to the "Farmer Newsletter" section of www.MuhammadFarms.com and read the articles: "The Faith of Seeds", "If I were Satan", "The Miracle of Taste", "Food: New Weapon of Mass Destruction", "Who is Poisoning the Homeland?", "To Kill a Sperm" and "From Maize to Poison Mess".

So when you see a weed in your garden, pluck it up by hand or get a hoe and forget about that "Weed Fairy" that may bring into your home some unwanted side-effects like genocide.