Fighting fungus during off hours

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Editor: I have no doubt that Mr. Linkletter is a good person who cares about his land and his produce. He has to be in order to live the life he does and suffer endless hectoring by people like me. However, as befits the chairman of any large industry board, his commentary piece is a fine and classic example of deflection and obfuscation.

Note the use of a whopping 4,000 litres of water, 30 huge football fields and a mere 1 kg of pesticide in the same paragraph to give the illusion that these numbers are related. Throw in the comparison to a kg bag of safe, harmless sugar and suddenly it all seems too silly to worry about; a technique used by marketers and politicians since the dawn of time.

By his numbers, the 4,000 litres covers 40 acres and so will require 40 kg of actual pesticide which is a pretty hefty sack compared to a little 1-kg bag of sugar. This works out to 100 litres and  1 kg of pesticide/sugar per acre at 10 g per litre. Pour a bag of sugar in your gas tank or go mix a tablespoon of sugar into a water bottle; pretty sweet and not at all as weak and dilute as suggested particularly when dealing with toxicity levels in parts per million.

Add the fact that the article only talks about fungicides without which “... (we) would not have a potato industry” and would have to relive the Irish potato famine. Fine hyperbole but no mention of herbicides for weed control, fertilizer or Reglone sprayed at the end of the season to kill all the above ground growth to ease harvest and make the potatoes pretty; all of which leach into the waterways and cause no end of problems.

There is the good news, though, that the soil faeries won’t let anything nasty sprayed on the ground get washed down to the tubers in the next rain. Perhaps they could fight fungus in their off hours.

Owen Stephenson,


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