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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 05, 2019 1:00 am

Organics, pesticides big topics for 2019

Ricky Kemery

Question: What do you see as some important issues in the gardening world for 2019?

Answer: The interesting thing about gardening is that the actual process of growing plants has not changed much. One still must prepare a healthy soil and care for plants in a way to sustainably and sensibly get the best results.

The healthy food revolution continues to be a huge issue with consumers. Shopping organic continues to grow exponentially. Eating healthy nutritious food still is very important to consumers. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) continue to make American consumers nervous.

It is difficult to escape GMO food. This is because almost all corn and soybeans (and other crops used in commercial food production in some way) are genetically-modified. Many are produced as Round-up ready, meaning that these crops can be sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate (Round-up is one brand name for glyphosate) with no damage to the crop. Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide, meaning it goes inside the plant. Recently glyphosate exposure has been linked with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for commercial applicators such as farmers, landscapers and lawn applicators. Recent studies have shown that glyphosate is present in food and water worldwide. This issue will probably not go away, and the issue of GMO food will most likely continue to be of concern to consumers.

Bio-pesticides continue to be released because of the desire for environmentally-friendly products to control insects and disease in the garden. I have recommended Serenade as an organic bio fungicide that works well on common fungal diseases and is even registered for bacterial diseases such as fire blight. Actinovate is a newer bio-fungicide that can be used for foliar fungal issues, but also can be used for fungal root problems such as root rot or Pythium blight. Two new fungicides in catalogs are Zonix bio-fungicide, which in theory helps the plant boost its natural defenses. Garden Phos fungicide supposedly works both as a curative and preventative fungicide. This can be used on fruits and ornamentals and lawns. It is supposedly effective against roots rots, downy mildew, Pythium and sudden oak death.

Buying local has been an idea that has been bandied about for at last a decade, particularly the idea of food “hubs” that will serve as a broker for local producers to market their products. The idea of food hubs is more difficult to achieve. I would contend that consumers have always bought local at farm markets or at restaurants or groceries that have contracted with smaller local producers for food items. The reality (in my opinion) is that we do not have enough producers to provide the quantity of food to large scale operations such as mainstream groceries.

Utilizing native plants, planting for pollinators, clean water, and water conservation also continue to be important issues with citizens.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.