Lessons From The Future



Volume VIII
Lessons From The Future


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 other crops.

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 Mexico.

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.

More information: Amy Seibert, Driscoll Strawberry Associates, 1750 San Juan Road, P.O. Box 111, Watsonville, CA 95076.

Phone: 408/ 726-3535.


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