Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tragedy of the (Maggot) Commons

The plan was to begin work trips with two week intervals, but the onion maggot infestation was weighing heavy on my mind. I went on Saturday, no time like the present. The goal was to remove as many obviously diseased plants as I could find.

This is a sad sight. It's not only the dying plant at center, but all the others that aren't even there anymore. One month ago each and every clove I had planted was up and growing, but now several are simply gone (below ground they rot).

This is the culprit.

A most disgusting sight.

The maggots eat away the planted clove, destroying the young plant's source of energy and inviting bacteria and fungal infection. Yet, the garlic has substantial roots now and the growing stems can survive the initial onslaught. In pulling dozens of plants I hope to stave off the more damaging second generation of maggots, already a glimmer in the bulbous eyes of flies, that will come near the time of bulb formation. You may recognize in this problem what can turn a farmer into a pesticide user. A wise farmer is a polyculturalist, and dare I say it -a prudent applicator of pesticides, organic or otherwise.

I wonder how well my garlic could survive the maggot attack had the field been better prepared. Currently low in organic matter, not abundantly fertile, and low in pH, the surviving plants all have the appearance of plants under stress. Of course, I was ready to prepare this field a year ago, but as you know I didn't get on the land until after Sandy.

I pulled roughly one percent of my garlic, disposing of them in black plastic bags, toting these back to Brooklyn. Of shallots I've lost nearly 30 percent, so far, and I am on course to lose the entire crop. I also believe, although the plants were bearing it on Saturday, that a magnitude of my garlic is under attack by the maggot. The increase in sick plants in just five days was rather disheartening, the infestation spread to each and every bed. It's not only my garlic, a neighboring farm is showing signs as well. With two months until harvest there is good reason to question whether there will be any harvest at all.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...