THIS VACUUM DOES LETTUCE
In California these days a vacuum cleaner not only removes bugs -it keeps the environment cleaner by reducing the need for pesticides.
As the perfect example of how Information Age technology is providing solutions to problems created by the Industrial Age is this
device invented by entomologist Edgar Shaw, working with the Research
Division of Driscoll Strawberry Associates of California, who now
have the device working successfully in their own operation. Although
originally designed for strawberries the vacuum is now being used on
The 97-hp, tractor-mounted, 8-fan US$ 80,000 machine (lower-priced
smaller models to be available) named the "Salad-Vac" is now
straddling 16' large rows of iceberg lettuce simultaneously in fields
operated by Tanamura and Antle, America's second largest producer of
lettuce. The machine produces almost hurricane-velocity winds that
blow bugs to their doom in split seconds as they are hurled against
the fan blades. The dead bugs get sprayed out to add to the soils
content. Tanamura and Antle will try to utilize these machines
eventually on all their 20,000 acres in California, Arizona and
Authorities say the machine does at least as good a job as pesticides without the damaging burn and yellowing side-effects that
accompany chemical protection. Quality of mature lettuce is expected
to be higher than when traditional spraying is used.
One reoccuring problem with traditional insecticide spraying was
that beneficial insects like lady bugs (which eat aphids) got
eradicated in the process. According to officials from Driscoll, the
wind that flows over the top of the plants sweeps up the fruit-eating
lygus insects, while beneficial bugs are partially protected because
they spend most of their days on the leaf's underside. Thus biological control remains for such pests as spider mites and flower
lips between the Bug-Vac's periodic sweeps.
Bug Vac was developed as one answer to the growing concern by both
consumers, growers and environmentalists over the dependence on
chemical sprays, including sprays that were becoming less effective
due to increasing resistance built-up over the years by certain types
of insects. Now threats, to ground-water supplies from run-off
chemicals, can also be minimized.
Rachel Carson would approve.
Amy Seibert, Driscoll Strawberry Associates,
1750 San Juan Road, P.O. Box 111,
Watsonville, CA 95076.
Phone: 408/ 726-3535.
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