by David Mueller
We are blessed.
When you have 17,000,000-year-old soil to grow your food, you don’t get much to eat. Most of this planet is uninhabitable. Some because it is covered by oceans and some
because the climate is too harsh to survive. There are many places where humans barely exist. Modern agriculture is working to offer those border zones with new drought
resistant seeds and practices that can provide food consistently.
The insects of the world have flourished in warmer, temperate countries where food is scarce and poorly stored. The insects’ reproductive capacity is great in hot climates. It is not unusual to see 8-11 generations per year in these regions when we have 3-4 in our
temperate climate. The conditions of many border regions are conducive for the spread and development of destructive six-legged animals. In some parts of the world over
50% of the food is eaten by insects, contaminated, or destroyed.
So the first world humans, like you and I, live in the modern “Land of Milk and Honey” with vast crops produced on new moist fertile soils that arrived recently when the glaciers receded. The African soils have diseases, nematodes, insects and worn out nutrients that make it hard to grow a crop. This results in humans that need to work 100% of
their time on small plots just to feed their families. Compare this to most of us reading
this newsletter. In America we spend about 13% of our income on food. This means
that we can spend the remaining 87% on homes, cars, computers, cell phones, going out to eat, spare time for recreation and pleasures. We may be technically advanced but
we are blessed that we live where we do.
Dr. Duedoune Bartutia demonstrates the proper use of the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) to villagers in western Africa.
Recently at the IWCSPP Conference in Thailand we heard several talks about the PICS storage system. Dr. Duedoune Bartutia of Purdue’s Entomology Department, along with his large team of scientists including Dr. Larry Murdock and Corinne Alexander, have made a difference in the world by understanding the culture of the people and matching
a pest control strategy to protect food for people and not lose it to pests. People who spend their lives growing chickpeas (blackeyed peas), which is a staple in Western
Africa and other parts of the world, did not have an effective, safe, or economical way to protect their cash crop before PICS. By filling and sealing the chickpeas in three
poly bags and securing them tightly, this hermetically sealed bag will retain the carbon dioxide from the cowpea weevils that infest the cowpeas. The concentration of
carbon dioxide reduces the oxygen and causes the insects to dehydrate
and die. Basically an organic CO2 fumigation in special 50 kg bags.
PICS bags have created a local market by setting up distributors of the bags to sell to the local farmers at a profit. The farmer can now store his dried peas for several months when the market prices are higher. This allows the farmers to make more money and raise their standard of living. In short the PICS program helps raise the standard of living for hundreds of thousands of people that live on $1-2 a day. The PICS project has distributed
over 1.5 million bags to 35,000 villages in 20 countries….saving food and producing a business model that helps improve the local economy.
This project was funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (www.gatesfoundation.org) and carried out by a dedicated team of Purdue
University scientists who understand people, their culture, and pests.