Herald: Nature has much to offer and we know little

Nature has much to offer and we know little

03 Dec 2017 05:33am IST

Report by
Eugenio Viassa Monteiro

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03 Dec 2017 05:33am IST

Report by
Eugenio Viassa Monteiro

Leave a comment

Facts prove that greater knowledge is needed to take full advantage of Nature’s bounty. To use it best to our advantage a lot more time and effort must be spent on in-depth study of its wide-ranging features.

A young student observed the widespread use of pesticides sprayed directly on fruit-trees to kill off insects, a procedure thus preventing them from piercing and destroying fruits. Besides being harmful to human health, pesticides also kill many bees and other insects responsible for pollination and fertilization. Claims have been made of a 30 per cent or more reduction in total fruit production as a result!

Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University points to the overwhelming presence of pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture:

"Farmland has very little to offer to any wild creature. It could be simply that there is no food for them or it could be, more specifically, exposure to chemical pesticides, or a combination of the two. We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse."

Replacing chemicals by organic products could be a solution to improve the productivity of orchards: let more bees and friendly insects live to actively perform their job.

Developed countries have allocated more resources to Nature and collaborative fauna deemed helpful to agriculture. The outcome has paid off as concrete economic results have shown: while having breakfast at hotels you may have noticed many small bottles of multiple-flavoured honey. Honey is produced by bees sucking nectar from flowers; each variety is obtained depending on the flower/nectar the bees sucked from.

Looking after honey bees and their hives is about craftsmanship. Science is incorporated to boost production, create more varieties and mainly to raise standards of quality and hygiene. There are techniques to attract and restrain honey bees to their beehives; they can then be placed in areas where a particular type of flower grows so choosing a specific taste and flavour to the honey produced.

Little things, in fact, that add up in a systematic way. If broadly divulged amongst local villagers they may kick-start a number of small and medium sized family enterprises. Such village industries provide self-employment and are highly profitable.

It might play out better still if a villager who has entrepreneurial skills is hired. He/she would have the competence to summon other producers to set up a cooperative or buy honey from them. The honey would then be processed, purified, bottled, labelled with all required specifications and validity date and readied for sale in large quantities.

Selling the produce in volume and variety requires that proper channels need to be recognized. These might be hotels, canteens, catering companies, etc.

The number of families mastering the trade would grow rapidly and so would their incomes.

Knowledge on local plants of economic value, medical and food properties should be organised systematically. It would then be taught at schools to get children acquainted hands-on with such plants, preparing them for large-scale use later.

So too the techniques for the reproduction of vegetable species through cloning (plant tissue culture) have contributed to increase varieties of high economic and nutritional value, within each specie. For example, the ‘alphonso’ mango that will have been singled out by a Portuguese missionary in Goa (therefore the name afonso, just as there are the mal-corada, the monserrate, the fernandina, etc) centuries ago now grows profusely across India. Known for being fleshy, it is nearly fibreless and outstanding in taste, besides displaying a beautiful colour and look when ripe.

Agriculture may become more relevant and prosperous benefitting from the knowhow gathered experimentally and spread amongst farmers.

The acquired, structured knowledge-base ultimately leads to constant expansion as new field applications and crossbreeds are developed.
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