Friday, May 30, 2008

Collectible, miniature Hostas for sale Spring 2014 (Washington DC & suburbs)

In order to support my invasive species writings, I grow a few natives and what I call "BaySafe " plants. If you live in central Maryland or Washington DC and want a wonderful small pernennial container plant, then I have something for you, mini-hostas, miniature hostas which grow less than 7 inches and are perfect for balcony and porch container gardens, even a rock garden would be perfect for these small collectibles.
For the month of March, 2009, and still dormant the following are available for sale. If you live with in an hour drive from Bowie, Maryland, I will deliver the plants in person for any order over $60.00.
Delivered price central MD & DC
[write to John Peter ( for quantity pricing opportunities]

$10.00 1qt H. BLUE MOUSE EARS

$10.00 1qt H. CHERISH

$10.00 1qt H. CRACKER CRUMBS

$10.00 1qt H. DRAGON TAILS

$10.00 1qt H. LIMEY LISA

Also available Mini HOSTAS: PANDORA'S BOX, MUNCHEN & BABY BUNTING $10.00 each

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sustainable gardening and weapons of mass destruction

The end of May means the beginning of summer in Maryland, and that means the garden faces an onslaught of pests and diseases. Many gardeners answer the call with weapons of mass destruction in quantities measured in pounds and gallons. Americans support the limitation of chemical application in farm fields, while at the same time reacting with carpet bombing when one bug is spotted at home

When it comes to pesticides, as with many issues, I am a radical moderate. I first look to healthy plants to fight their own battles, and then try to find the smallest amount of the least harmful product to help me survive the summer. A healthy, unstressed plant is the best defense against disease and insects. The right soil, water and light conditions with the right amount of feeding at the correct time goes a long way towards sustainable and affordable gardening.

Many insects are out to get your favorite plants because the plant is in a place you want it to be but the location is not ideal. For example, azaleas planted in full summer sunlight on a southern exposure are an invitation for lace bug and repeated pesticide applications. Over feeding annuals with high nitrogen products on a tight schedule produces great deep green growth at phenomenal rates and your own herd of aphids.

Watch your planting site choices; feed when necessary not when convenient. Provide healthy soils, and remember you do not need a gallon to kill one insect. Look for bag worms on evergreens now and be prepared to pull them off by hand (they look like brown left-over Christmas ornaments on arborvitae, cedars and other evergreens) if few, and spray with a product which contains Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt is a natural control agent though it is very time application sensitive.

If this gentle approach does not work, next week around June 6th, in the Washington D.C, area,, you can send in the heavy shock troops using the chemistry of acephates (Orthene) a toxic weapon which will take care of the problem. It will also take care of any beneficial insects and remove the song bird food supply for a while, so remember, moderation before reaction. Plant the right plant in the right place and save yourself some time and money.

New Weed Research Center - not in the United States

Here in the United States we are struggling to fund research into food, fiber, fuel, flowers and forests. The National Agricultural Research Center, BARC, which should be in the lead for scientific work in food safety and production as well as systematics and pest management, invasive species including early dedection and rapid response, EDRR, suffers from chronic benign neglect. Invasive species issues have long been a core progrommatic area for USDA ARS under different names during the past hundred years. However, we continue to underfund these crtically important programs resulting in fewer and fewer programs and researchers while other countries, recognizing the challenges begin to focus and fund work in critical areas of scientific and technical inquiry into our environment, our climate, our fields, forests and our general quality of life.

"Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed ManagementMedia releaseThursday 8 May 2008SCIENTISTS WELCOME PLANS FOR NEW WEED RESEARCH CENTREAustralian weed researchers today welcomed the announcement by the federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon. Tony Burke, that the government would establish a new national weed research centre.CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management (Weeds CRC), Dr Rachel McFadyen, said the announcement ended a long period of uncertainty about the future of research in this field.'The decision by the previous government in 2007 not to replace the Weeds CRC when its funding ended on 30 June this year was very controversial', Dr McFadyen said.Weed research delivers large benefits over long time frames across whole sectors - we have the evidence to show this', she said.'However, it is hard for particular companies to capture and sell the benefits of weed research in the market place, and especially hard to capture commercial returns for controlling weeds of the natural environment', Dr McFadyen said.'Yet everyone agrees the work is essential.'Dr McFadyen said it will be vital for any new weed research centre to have enough independence to give 'frank and fearless' advice to government.'The independent role of the Weeds CRC gave it great credibility in some important issues over the last seven years', she said.Dr McFadyen said the model of an independent research centre suggested in the Minister's statement was the right one.'It will be welcomed by all the major partners and state agencies. They know they need to work together and pool resources to make real progress with weed control, and this model will make that possible', she said.The immediate challenge will be to organise the new centre in a way that effectively targets national priorities in weed control, Dr McFadyen said.Further details on the proposed new centre are expected to emerge with the budget statement next week.More informationDr Rachel McFadyen, 0409 263 817Assoc. Prof. Chris Preston, Weeds CRC and University of Adelaide, 0438 892 362ImagesHigh resolution weed photos can be downloaded directly from"

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Feeding the world, a case for Agricultural Research

America, and indeed the world, may now be facing a crisis so old that it comes as something completely new and unanticipated as recently as the beginning of this decade – an acute world-wide food shortage and concomitant resultant political instability. We must recognize our self-interest in meeting this challenge as the only world player with the potential research resources and capabilities to solve the problem.

However, the challenge of a problem created by current approaches to long term research with an eye towards eventual technology transfer included, has resulted in a now decades- long funding process of using stakeholder -driven appropriations from Congress instead of executive branch requests. While any effort to fund a program or project such as the one below is desired, ultimately, we need to stop the earmark train and return to Presidential initiatives and requests. Today we have Congress proposing and the President disposing - which is a reversal of our traditional constitutional structure.

Thus, given today’s food crisis, and understanding that perhaps we should have been working on this project five years ago, now is not the time to decide that it is too late. We need to investigate all options to stay a leader in the world, and to help the world, including us, produce sufficient quantities of food. Here we have chosen rice as the most basic foodstuff on the planet.

It is important to understand that this is just one project of USDA ARS. The century of leadership on all fields is being compromised. Programs ranging from human nutrition to animal science, the environment to new cultivars adapted to our urban areas, continue to struggle for funding. ARS works to secure the country’s trade by assessing potential dangerous organisms with an ever smaller staff and more to search. The safety and well being of our food supply should be a priority in the defense of our nation.

Why do we have to wait for a stakeholder interest group to petition Congress to fund research like this? Are we the people not an interest group? Is it possible for the people of the United States to ask for an earmark if the Pressident will not ask for us?

The Rice Crises:

There are a number of factors that contribute to the overall rice crisis.

A. The world is consuming more rice than it is producing. The green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s led to a rapid increase in rice yields and overall production with a subsequent reduction in global poverty. However, with a steady decline (1-2% per year) in arable land, and increasing population (ca 1.5 million people per week) the gains of the green revolution had been negated by 2000. Rice prices have been rising steadily from a low of ~$200 per ton in early 2001, indicating that consumption has outstripped supply.

B. Annual growth in average rice yields is declining. Average yield increases from 1970-1990 were 2.1%, where as growth since 2000 has been close to zero.

C. Reduced public investment in agricultural research and development. With the abundance and low price of rice in the 1990s, there was complacency in agricultural research and development and investment as a percentage of GDP has been negative for developed countries for the period 1991-2000 (

D. Oil prices. Costs of energy have added to general inflationary pressure, but have added to the cost of shipping rice, fertilizer, pumps, etc. In addition, the recent mandate in the US and Europe that the percentage of bio-ethanol in fuel should be increased to reduce the impacts of climate change, has reduced grain exports, primarily corn from North America. In turn, this has increased reliance on rice production for individual countries to meet cereal demand. Interestingly, China recently announced a new mandate to obtain ethanol from non-corn sources (primarily cassava and sweet potato) in order to reserve corn production in food systems.

E. Climate Uncertainty. Natural disasters, including widespread drought in India and China in 2002, Australia in 2004-2007; typhoons in the Philippines in 2006, and major flooding in Bangladesh in 2007, (not to mention Myanmar’s devastating cyclone this week), have contributed to recent production shortfalls. While these anomalies are consistent with human-induced climatic change, it is unclear if there is a direct cause and effect for a single event. However, documented changes in high night time, relative to day time temperatures may already be having a negative effect on rice yields. Overall, greater climatic uncertainty, particularly with respect to temperature extremes or precipitation, must be quantified and projected for rice growing regions. In addition, effects on pests, weeds and diseases, particularly recent outbreaks in planthopper and viral infections, need to be determined in the context of a changing climate.

What can we do?

A. Increase average yields. Since land expansion is not feasible, increased yields per unit area must keep pace with population. Development and dissemination of improved technologies is the only long-term answer to ensure that adequate rice is available to the world’s poor.

B. Accelerate the adaptation of rice lines that have increased tolerance to environmental stress. This can be done by genetic engineering and identification of QTLs related to a given stress; or, alternatively by incorporating wild, related rice lines that are known to tolerate stress conditions into traditional breeding programs, or by a systematic evaluation of the thousands of existing lines.

C. Upgrade the means to transfer new varieties to the field level. Varieties exist that could increase production but may not be adapted by the farmer because they are not available.

D. Develop a new generation of rice scientists and researchers for the public and private sectors. Because of the success of the green revolution, few new scientists were added to R and D during the 1990s. There must be a major investment in training a new generation of scientists—before the current generation retires.

E. Increase public investment in agriculture. Adequate investment must be made with respect to physical infrastructure such as roads, irrigation systems, etc. However, investment in research personnel, including scientists, technicians, engineers, is also crucial. Also critical, although frequently overlooked, is investment in information storage and dissemination, such as libraries, crop models, publicly accessed data bases, etc.

Friday, May 02, 2008

BARC & NAL: National Security and the Presidential Election

Below is a copy of a message sent to the three major political candidates for President of the United States of America. Somehow, the idea that food is a national security issue needs to be brought to the forefront of our presidential debate. The work of USDA at BARC, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and other ARS sites, and the information collected and distributed by NAL, the National Agricultural Library needs recognition at a national level. We need safe food, and a strong production, unless we think that we should send our food production off shore and depend on the largess of others.
The science of food production and safety needs national attention. Pests which eat our food drive up costs. Invasive species, mammals, fish, insects, fungi, diseases and other organisms, which include weeds, compete for resources limiting production. Climate change demands new crop varieties. cultivars and strains. When we add bio-fuels to the mix, knowing what we are doing becomes critical in policy making. Food safety is expected, and the science at BARC leads the way, assuming we do not let the funding disappear and the work migrate to India, China, Europe, Russia or other quite capable societies.
We can, of course, let other countries pick up the work that for almost a century has come from BARC and ARS, and buy our crucial information from foreign libraries. We can say that everything we need to know us found on “Google”, and pay the price tomorrow of our confusing information with knowledge. If we think it a challenge to depend on foreign fuel supplies, wait until we can not feed ourselves, because we have let the science of agricultural wilt upon our inaction.
I hope that someone connected to the campaigns might actually answer, but I have low expectations. If you can help get an answer from the candidates, please let me know. Will they support the continuing funding of long term agricultural research at levels that produce world class results as we have done for over a century, or will we simply fade into a second class existence and let others charge us for the privilege of eating? Will we let our natural areas which support free eco-services deteriorate or will we rise to the challenge and support research which will allow us to adapt to growing populations and changes in the environment without loosing our quality of life?
“I am seeking Senator (Clinton, Obama, McCain)’s specific support & position for scientific long term research programs at USDA ARS. . I spend a considerable amount of my time as a volunteer with no financial support trying to get Congress and this administration to fund research in foods, fuels, fibers, flowers and forests, better known as ARS, Agricultural Research Service. ( The US national systematic collections which Homeland security depends upon are in a state of decline, and our food supply as well as our environment is under attack. USDA has long been the recognized leader for the world but now is suffering quick decline; the parasite collection which guarantees your meat is safe from disease is housed in the basement of a 70 year old barn with little to no funding; the scale insect position, scale causing 100’s of millions of dollars damage in North America each year is not vacant with no prospect of filling the position. Research into climate change and its impact on food crops as well as natural resources is scheduled to be quietly reduced because of funding challenges. As Secretary of the US National Invasive Species Advisory Committee, a FACA organization, I am dismayed to find that the US is falling behind in its scientific research in environmental impacts both to natural areas and to our food supply. I would like the opportunity to speak to someone with in the campaign about the candidate’s potential support. I shall be posting this request on my web log this weekend, and will be asking the other two major candidates the same question.”

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Foods, Fuels, Fibers, Flowers & Forests

The work of the National Agricultural Library was featured in today’s Washington Post. For almost two years I have tried to get public attention focused on the impending loss of a national treasure. I am grateful and delighted to have Barbara Damrosch write so well about the resources and plight of this great library.

The library holds the work of agricultural research much of which was and is done on the same campus in Maryland at the Henry A. Wallace “National” Agricultural Research Center (BARC). The work of BARC which the library keeps and distributes includes everything from human nutrition to the environment; from rice yields falling because of climate change to happy cows which produce the milk you want and can afford to buy; remote sensing which may have applications for nutrient run-off and more to the turkey you may eat; from pigs used in human infant inoculation research to creating the next generation of insect repellents (BARC having discovered DEET).

Like the library, BARC is suffering, and without the science performed at BARC in horticulture though the National Arboretum, a part of BARC, to alternative bio fuel research investigating non food crops as a source of energy, as well as the hundreds of programs which directly effect your food safety and your quality of life, we will all be worse off. BARC struggles to stay viable. Unfunded mandated payroll considerations slowly and steadily eat away at the scientific research capabilities of our world-class programs. Presidential initiatives to make research a priority in food sources is lacking, mostly, as far as I can tell, because we the people are not demanding that our government continue to be the world leader in agricultural research.

Call or write your Congressional representatives and Senators. Teklk them to start funding research in food, fuel, fibers, flowers, and forests; tell them that they need to fund BARC (and the National Arboretum) and NAL.

BARC & NAL: Funding challenges continue

Congressional call for a plan for the Beltsville "National" Agricultural Research Center & the National Agricultural Library

Invasive Species Complexities: A Wicked Inconvenience

Invasive Species (Kudzu) Meets Fox News

National Agricultural Research Center; Invasive Species, Climate Change & Poison Ivy

BARC: Funding for Research Continues to Fall

BARC-National Agricultural Research Center Alliance NARAB

Homeland security; E. coli, and diminished funding & BARC