Herbicides or fire?
Although illegal, fire is the dominating weed control agent in northern Thailand. Fire is linked to biodiversity decline, air pollution, respiratory disease and impoverished soils since the lack of organic matter reduces the water holding capacity and the density of earthworms, resulting in compact, concrete-like soils.
An emerging alternative, almost equally simple as fire, is the very frequent use of herbicides. The common Paraquat herbicide is indeed toxic to humans and Roundup is dangerous to human skin. I have seen with my own eyes Thai children play in the herbicide clouds administered by unprotected and poorly trained staff in fruit plantations. Driving along the canal road towards Chiang Mai town sometimes reveal long stretches of brown vegetation killed by herbicides of reasons unclear to me, interrupted by green stretches along the gated communities where more educated and well situated people live.
Instead of writing a long blog I simply refer to the simplified Wikipedia articles below and their references. As a responsible land owner one should consider every alternative carefully. If you do select herbicides, show respect by not spilling over to farms and gardens where the owners have selected non-chemical gardening. Do not leave the selection and administration of herbicides to analphabetic workers. Personally I believe mowing is better than both fire and herbicides, and grazing animals or shady trees would be even better alternatives when possible.
What about mechanical tools? Sickles are commonly used for rice harvesting, but they are very bad for your back. I have tried to find a scythe in Thailand but failed. Sometimes I simply use my bent pruning saw as a mini scythe, a quiet and chemical-free alternative to manage weeds. That alternative also keeps my heart in good condition and reduces obesity, without gym machines and medicines. Next time I go to Sweden I shall bring back a scythe.
Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
What is quality of life? A scythe is perfect for controlling weeds in small areas: cheap, non-pollutant, non-chemical, silent, keeps your heart strong and provides exercise to reduce obesity. A group of neighbours can use this tool together and keep chatting, which is impossible next to roaring machines or through the masks protecting you from herbicide-induced Parkinson’s disease.
Photo: Yvonna Gailly, from Swedish Wikipedia.
(Precipitation report: 7 mm today on September 4th)