Minnesota Grower: Beauty in Biodiversity

Who can estimate the elevating and refining influences and moral value
of flowers with all their graceful forms, bewitching shades and combinations
of colors and exquisitely varied perfumes?   
These silent influences are unconsciously felt even by those who do not appreciate them consciously
and thus with better and still better fruits, nuts, grains, vegetables and
flowers, will the earth be transformed, man's thought refined, and turned
from the base destructive forces into nobler production.  One which will
lift him to high planes of action toward the happy day when the Creator
of all this beautiful work is more acknowledged and loved, and where man
shall offer his brother man, not bullets and bayonets, but richer grains,
better fruit and fairer flowers from the bounty of this earth.

Father George Schoener (1864 -1941),
    The Importance and Fundamental Principles of Plant Breeding

 Photo by Blake Dirks
This week on the student organic farm, we discussed the importance of biodiversity and the benefits it has on insect management.  The need for insect control practices in the garden is somewhat of a foreign concept to me.  My family garden borders a shortgrass prairie and is across a gravel road from a patch of woods.  The immense supply of biodiversity these environments supply help to reduce major “pests” to deer and rabbits that eat our beans and greens.  Sap beetles are also a problem in our raspberry patch when the raspberries were allowed to become overripe.  This particular problem is due mainly to our busy schedules and could be avoided by picking all the berries when they ripen.  I also found a sap beetle attractant recipe that I plan to try next year. 

The prairie is diverse in color, and in florescence type and flower size.   I remember most vividly the vibrant yellow of Black-eyed Susans, and the colorful accents provided by Purple coneflowers.  The picture above shows even the grasses are abundant in variety.

The vegetative diversity of the prairie’s effect on insect and other beneficial diversity is easily seen during the summer time.  Last year in the late summer, I remember the prairie being blanketed by a cloud of dragonflies, damselflies, bees, monarchs, and a myriad of other butterflies.  Upon closer inspection, smaller insects (that I won’t even attempt to identify) scurry between plants.

Organic gardeners and farmers have the opportunity to minimize damaging environmental practices.  In Minnesota, we also have the unique prospect of using the natural native environment to our advantage in managing insect pests.  Not only can Minnesota organic farmers avoid chemical input into the environment; the Minnesota grower can actually restore a piece of southern Minnesota to natural prairie!

~Whitney Dirks~

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