One of the most important aspects of any culture is the food. Due to air freight, it’s now possible to enjoy food from just about any region.
True, this is convenient. However, in recent years, many professional chefs—as well as their customers—have returned to a more traditional approach to cooking. For a large part of human history, people ate only the food that was available to them locally. That’s how particular regional cuisines developed, after all. People used those ingredients that they had immediate access to instead of those that could be flown in.
In an effort to preserve the culinary traditions of the world, there has been a push to focus more on farm-to-table cooking in which chefs plan their menus based on the food that’s available from local farms.
Farm-to-Table Movement Grows
Partially, this impulse has to do with the main preoccupation of most professional chefs, food critics, and culinary enthusiasts: flavor. While we are fortunate to live in an age where it’s possible to preserve and transport food to virtually any part of the globe in hours, many feel that fresh food grown locally simply tastes better.
However, that’s not the only reason why the farm-to-table movement has grown in popularity. Regional cuisine is an essential reflection of the part of the world from which it originates. A great meal does not merely taste good. It embodies the spirit of the people who first crafted and perfected the recipe. Smart chefs understand this, and that’s why many of them are starting to change the way they plan their menus. Rather than trying to craft delicious meals using whatever ingredients they wish, they are limiting themselves to ingredients from local farms. While this in turn forces chefs to be more creative, it also allows them to serve meals that capture the essence of a region.
Agrochemicals Play An Important Role in Society
This is yet another reason why agrochemicals play an important role in society. They protect crops from disease, pests, and other crops competing for resources. The more effective they are, the more food a farmer can grow. The benefits of this practice from a culinary perspective are obvious, but two in particular are especially worth highlighting.
First of all, a chef cannot create a successful restaurant using fresh, locally sourced ingredients if they are not readily available. The more crops that a farmer can grow, the easier it is for a chef to plan and execute a farm-to-table cooking strategy with a consistent menu.
More importantly, when farmers are preoccupied with keeping their crops healthy, they cannot necessarily focus on other priorities. They devote so much time and energy to simply growing a reasonable amount of food that they do not have the time and energy to concern themselves with the actual quality of the food.
Cultivating Healthy and Flavorful Crops
Agrochemicals change this situation. They make it much easier to protect crops and boost their overall growth. This gives farmers the opportunity to work on cultivating the healthiest and most flavorful crops that they can. Chefs who adopt a farm-to-table approach very often work closely with local farmers to develop farming methods that result in not only abundant, but robust and delicious crops, as well.
If local farmers must concentrate too much on simply keeping their crops alive, then they won’t be able to collaborate with chefs in this respect. By using the right products, they can shift their focus and begin to take the flavor of the food into account.
Spreading and Celebrating Culture
This is yet another example of how the agriculture and agrochemical industries help to spread and celebrate culture. As has been mentioned before on this blog, agriculture allowed early human tribes to develop art, music, religion, and other staples of culture that were far more difficult to develop for hunter-gatherer tribes. Rather than focusing solely on securing a food source in a given region, they could pursue other interests and endeavors. In some respects, the shift to an agrarian style of living allowed for the very idea of culture to come into existence in the first place.
While we may be very far removed from those ancient ancestors in some respects, in other ways we are still very similar. We still rely on farms to provide us with our food and to help us grow, enrich, and share our cultural traditions. Again, the farm-to-table movement is not just about serving flavorful meals. It is about giving people the opportunity to rediscover the classic, locally focused cuisine of their own region. Without agrochemicals to protect the crops that these recipes and meals rely on, we would not have the opportunity to do so.
Although this blog touches on subjects ranging from politics to ancient history, its primary focus is agrochemicals and their uses in farming. However, that’s a fairly broad topic.
To have a richer understanding of (and appreciation for) agrochemicals and their uses, it helps to learn some specifics. By knowing the difference between various subsets of agrochemicals, you’ll get much more out of what you read here.
What are agrochemicals?
Quite simply, an agrochemical is a chemical-based product used in farming, typically to boost crop yield. These products have been used in a variety of forms for a very long time.
That said, modern innovations have made for much more effective agrochemicals than those of years past. Innovations continue to this day, helping farms supply more food to the global population.
The following are the key types of products that fall into this category:
Animals and insects pose a major risk to crops. If they’re drawn to a food source, they could seriously deplete the supply of that particular plant. Pesticides, as the name suggests protect crops by killing, incapacitating, or warding off these invasive species.
It’s important to note that the benefits of pesticides aren't limited to boosting crop yield, though. Many of the pests that are drawn to farm plants carry illnesses with them.
Before pesticides were in widespread use, people were at risk of contracting these illnesses if they ate plants that had been in contact with disease-causing pests. Thanks to increased pesticide use in farms throughout the globe, this is much less of a threat now.
Insecticides are a tape of pesticide and serve essentially the same purpose. The primary difference between the two is easy to guess. While pesticide is an umbrella category for any chemical substance designed to protect against different types of pests, insecticides target insects specifically. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, however.
These products are generally tailored to guard against particular species of insects. This makes them a good resource to have available if there is a certain insect that is especially common in a given area.
Another factor that makes insecticides worthy of attention is the fact that they fall into two separate types. One type of insecticide, called a contact insecticide, simply kills an insect when the insect comes into contact with it. These products are effective, but the effect is short-lasting. Since they don’t remain on a plant permanently, they’re not a long-term danger for insects.
Other forms of insecticides - through complex chemical and biological processes - essentially become a part of the plant. In other words, the plant begins to absorb the insecticide. That means when an insect tries to consume the plant, it also ingests the insecticide.
Even if you don’t work in the agriculture industry, the odds are good you’ve used herbicides. If you’ve ever sprayed weedkiller on your property, you’ve used an herbicide. It may have been a consumer market herbicide, but weedkiller is an herbicide nonetheless.
Herbicides are useful because animals and insects aren’t the only pests that pose a threat to crops. Other species of plants can begin to grow in the same area, competing for nutrients and resources.
Herbicides are designed to kill off invasive or unwanted species of plants while leaving the useful crops unharmed. This gives the crops a greater chance to thrive, as they’ll make greater use of the nutrients in the soil.
Many species of fungus have also been known to cause significant damage to crops. As such, fungicides are commonly used in agriculture, but they are also widely available to the average consumer in a variety of forms. These products effectively prevent fungi from doing harm to any crops to which they're applied.
To be more specific, synthetic fertilizer.
Many fertilizers are actually natural materials. These don’t qualify as agrochemicals because they have not been designed or manufactured to include any special chemical-based formulas.
However, it’s no secret that fertilizers play an important role in agriculture. Without them, it would be far more difficult to grow healthy, robust crops. In fact, the role fertilizers play is so important that many have chosen to improve on natural fertilizers by creating synthetic, agrochemical varieties.
There are several other types of agrochemical growth agents, like hormones, commonly used in farming. With them, it’s even easier for farmers to grow the most food possible.
Once again, that’s good for everyone. Agrochemicals may have been in use for many years. However, it’s important that they continue to improve and that the industry continue to progress towards more effective solutions.
Although the agrochemicals in use now are strong, they don’t completely maximize the potential of a farm to produce crops. The closer the industry gets to reaching that goal, the more food there will be for people throughout the world.
These days, even people not directly involved in the agriculture sector understand that chemicals such as pesticides are important. Pesticides maximize the amount of food produced for human consumption, prevent the spread of insect-borne disease, and help preserve the earth by allowing farmers to gain a greater yield from a smaller section of farmland, keeping them from converting other neighboring areas into additional farmland.
However, herbicides are just as important. By killing select plants without harming the main crop of a given area, herbicides eliminate any competition that crop may have for resources. As with pesticides, this means more food for the people of the world, and no need to displace nearby animals by turning their habitats into farms.
Read on for some exploration of the history of herbicides, and the benefits they offer not only to those in the agricultural industry, but society as a whole.
Agriculture is one of the oldest industries in the history of humankind. Prior to its development, the hunter-gatherer model was the primary manner in which societies were organized. But when agriculture was developed, tribes could settle down, build greater structures, and create real cultures of their own.
Because agriculture played such a foundational role in human society, it’s something of a surprise to learn that herbicides are essentially a 20th-century invention. The first breakthroughs in this field were in fact the byproducts of chemical experiments during World War II. Researchers ended up creating 2, 4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2, 4-D), a chemical that could kill unwanted weeds without doing any damage to the major crops.
In 1946, 2, 4-D first hit the market. Within an incredibly short period of time, it had a major positive effect on the world, dramatically increasing the output of farmers. Since then, other chemicals and processes have been invented and discovered, allowing farmers to grow the crops they wish to and eliminate the plants that rob them of their resources.
Why Herbicides Are Important
If you work in agriculture, it’s probably easy to imagine the long-term benefits of using herbicides. How successful you are hinges on how much food you can produce. If your land is full of weeds and other plants that crowd out your crops and deplete their share of resources, you need to be able to handle this problem effectively and affordably. Herbicides make this easy, boosting your production (and profit) without requiring you to make great investments of money, effort, time, or additional lands.
If you merely consume the food produced by farms, however, you also benefit from the use of herbicides. First of all, while we may have limited control over the immediate effects of the climate or weather, we can use innovations like these to limit the harm that inclement events, such as a drought, might do to us. Before herbicides, droughts were absolute catastrophes for many reasons; a key reason, though, was that they severely reduced the amount of food a farm could produce.
However, we should not downplay the adverse effect that a drought can have, even today. That said, thanks to herbicides, that effect is not as devastating as it once was. In the past, weeds would use up much of the limited water available to crops during a drought, resulting in massive food shortages. However, when weeds can be controlled, even during times of limited rainfall, many crops can still grow reliably, as they do not need to compete for resources.
From an economic perspective, herbicides are also good for society as a whole. According to researchers, their use earns farmers in the United States an additional $16 billion per year. When herbicides were put to use in Argentina, the country’s economy benefited from a $30 billion boost. Even if you’re not a farmer, this is good news: that money is funneled back into the country’s economy, and because we live in an increasingly globalized world, your country and its economy will benefit as well.
Agriculture is an interesting line of work. On the one hand, it’s almost as old as human civilization. On the other hand, it keeps changing due to fairly recent innovations such as herbicides. Luckily, those changes have been positive, as we are better able and equipped to feed the world. Keeping people fed has always been the goal of agriculture, and now, we can think beyond the limits of our small tribe.
In agricultural industries, pesticides are essential to maximizing the yield of farmers’ crops. For those outside of this line of work, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the benefits that pesticides offer. Yes, you may already know that using pesticides ensure that more food is grown for human consumption, and that certain illnesses have fewer opportunities to spread.
However, that is not the only reason pesticides are useful. Given the recent, dramatic changes our planet has gone through, experts are striving to convince all of us to “go green” in whatever way possible. For many of us, that means driving less frequently, investing in energy-efficient appliances, and making other lifestyle changes to reduce our carbon footprints.
For farmers, though, climate change offers yet another reason to make use of pesticides. For example, anyone who makes a living working in agriculture knows that they have to produce a certain amount of food each season. By using pesticides, farmers prevent pests from ruining significant portions of their crops. As a result of this efficiency, they don’t have to convert more neighboring lands into farmland. This leads to a variety of social benefits.
Pesticides Enable the Advancement of Civilization
Agriculture is among the greatest innovations in the history of humankind. Prior to developing the ability to grow food reliably and regularly, hunter-gatherer societies were prevalent. With the introduction of agriculture, however, communities could establish permanent communities. This led to the development of medicine, art, extended family units, and a vast number of other advances that we now take for granted.
Pesticides made agriculture even more effective at strengthening a society. Most obviously, they kept animals and insects from eating crops. This allows farmers to create more food for the human population, which, quite simply, helps a civilization to flourish.
Pesticides Prevent Disease
There’s also the matter of disease prevention. In many parts of the world, mosquitoes and other pests can spread illnesses like malaria. This is a particular danger when they’re drawn to crops. However, when farmers use pesticides, disease-causing pests are much less of a problem.
Already, it’s clear that these products play a major role in keeping people healthy. However, they’re also very useful when it comes to preventing hunger.
Pesticides Improve Crop Yields and Prevent Hunger
Farms are unlike any other manufacturing plants in the world. If the factory where your television was built fails to produce enough units to hit its projected goals, the consequences are fairly minimal - maybe the company suffers some quarterly losses.
On the other hand, if farms don’t produce enough food, people go hungry. As such, farmers know they need to take all the steps necessary to maximize the yield of their crops.
Before pesticides, this often meant using additional land. If pests were regularly depleting farmers’ harvests, they couldn’t simply accept their losses. People still needed food on the table. Because of this, those who worked in agricultural industries were often forced to cut down trees, displace animal communities, and destroy natural habitats in order to convert neighboring lands into more farmland. They simply had no other options.
Pesticides Allow the Preservation of Wild Ecosystems
Pesticides, thankfully, changed that. When farmers began using these products and strategies, they found that pesticides reliably kept insect and animal populations from consuming food that was meant for human use. As a result, instead of needing to expand their operations, they could work within the existing boundaries of their farms, leaving more of the natural world intact.
Again, most consumers already understand that pesticides are often used in order to produce more food and prevent health problems. However, that’s far from the only benefit they offer to society. Keeping people fed is important, but so is preserving the planet.
That’s one of the many reasons pesticides continue to play such a major role in agriculture. Already, they serve to help farmers more effectively feed the world. By reducing the need to expand the borders of farms, pesticides also help to ensure that the world itself stays healthy and wild ecosystems remain intact.
Future Pesticide-Related Innovations
Of course, innovations never cease in agricultural industries. From the days of early farming societies right up until today, humankind has consistently found new ways to crop yields. It’s safe to say that this will also be the case with pesticides. As we learn more about how to protect our food from insects and animals, we’ll also learn more about how to protect our planet.
It probably goes without saying, but that’s good for everyone.
Agriculture is among the most important innovations in the history of humankind, right up there with the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel. Prior to its development, our ancestors lived nomadic or semi-nomadic lives, hunting prey, gathering food, and moving on to a new location before long. The emergence of agriculture in different parts of the world around 12,000 years ago was nothing short of a revolution. Domesticating plants allowed us to form stable communities and build upon them—rather than focusing strictly on survival, we could also develop art, culture, and new technologies. No longer needing to move from one place to another in order to stay alive, we could put down roots and build civilizations.
As history marches on, agriculture has maintained its significance, even thousands of years later. That said, it isn’t exactly as it used to be; numerous advances have made agricultural processes even more effective and efficient than ever before. One such advance is pesticides. Early societies were forced to accept the fact that there were other organisms that were drawn to the food they planted. This limited how much of their harvest they could distribute amongst themselves, and made it necessary to employ more people in the work of farming. With the introduction of pesticides, though, this was no longer a problem, as crops could finally be protected from such organisms.
In the world of agriculture, pesticides have offered the following specific benefits:
This is the first point worth mentioning because it is the most important. The goal of farming is simple: to create food for the people of a community. Insects and other pests, though, can intrude on the crops, reducing the amount of food available for a given population. With pesticides, farmers are able to keep these pests from consuming their food, allowing them to produce more for human consumption. A stable source of food is vital for growing the population and making society stronger.
With pesticides, farmers are able to spend less on labor but still produce more crops to sell, allowing them to make more money. Without pesticides, farmers have to hire people to weed the crops and remove pests by hand. When they use pesticides, though, these costs are significantly reduced, and the savings are passed on to those who buy the crops. People thus have more money to spend on other goods and services, which further supports the economy.
One of the most widely-recognized benefits of pesticide use has to do with public health. Mosquitoes, for example, transmit malaria, a disease that killed 438,000 people in 2015 alone. Other pests also spread potentially harmful diseases. When pesticides are used more frequently in agriculture, we’ve learned that the spread of these illnesses seems to slow, as fewer people are exposed to them via these pests. Some scientists estimate that since 1945, the use of pesticides has prevented the deaths of some 7 million people.
Before pesticides were commonly used, if farmers planned to grow more crops, they often had to convert more of the surrounding area into farmland. This displaced many animal species, and transformed entire environments as natural habitats shrank in size. However, because pesticides have been effective in maximizing the yield of a given portion of farmland, farmers have been able to produce more food on smaller patches of land, allowing them to preserve neighboring areas.
Plants are not the only food source that pesticides help us get the most out of. Farmers and ranchers are able to keep larger, healthier herds of livestock thanks to pesticides. This is because pesticides prevent livestock from being bitten by pests that may carry disease. They also eliminate many poisonous plants that livestock might otherwise consume, keeping them healthier.
As mentioned earlier, before agricultural societies took hold, humans obtained food by hunting and gathering. In these societies, people tended to have a limited number of roles to fill. The survival of the tribe was most important, and as such, there was no real place for artists, engineers, teachers, or any of the other major occupations that we now take for granted.
However, the advent of agriculture allowed communities to obtain a reliable, predictable supply of food—and even surpluses to tide them over during lean times. As such, agriculture relieved some people from the work of food production, and allowed them the opportunity to fulfill other roles within their community. With the development of modern pesticides over the last 150 years, agriculture has become even more efficient and productive. Globally, the number of people involved in food production has plummeted.
One could argue, therefore, that pesticides have helped to advance civilization and speed human progress. And in terms of our most basic needs, they have made it possible to feed more people than ever before.
Pesticides have become part of everyday life. While many focus on the usage of these chemicals in the agricultural industry, their use has implications that cross almost every aspect of human life. Many of those who oppose the use of pesticides fail to consider the ramifications of pest populations left unchecked.
The individual bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus may die as a result of contracting the disease. Contaminated crops may be unsuitable for human consumption, causing the farmer to lose revenue. Animals with fleas may become sick. Termites may cause damage that results in thousands of dollars in damage to structures.
For most of the population, these situations are avoided, thanks to the regular use of pesticides. Understanding the impact of pesticides on every area of life is important when debating the use of these agrochemicals in the future.
Pesticides Improve Crop Production
One of the most commonly-debated uses for pesticides is in the agriculture industry. Farmers use pesticides to control pests that affect their fields, improving crop yield and quality. With comprehensive, environmentally-safe farming techniques, farmers can manage large commercial farms more efficiently and effectively. With proportionately less farmland than previously in history, today’s farmers are producing more food, and they are able to meet the rising demands of a growing global population.
Using targeted pesticides, farmers are able to manage the particular needs a crop may have without harming the surrounding area. Using long-term sustainability plans and technologically-advanced biochemical pesticides, the use of these agrochemicals is safer and more effective than ever.
Pesticides Support Biodiversity and Protect Wildlife Habitats
The elimination of pests that reduce crop yield helps farmers maximize profits and capitalize on available farmland. With high levels of production on high-yield farms, there is decreased need for additional farmland.
By utilizing existing farms, natural habitats and preserves are spared from development. This allows for wildlife and native plants to thrive, protecting the earth’s biodiversity. Capitalizing on the advancements of today’s pesticides, these critical wildlife preserves, forests, wetlands, and plains can be left for future generations to appreciate.
Pesticides Protect Property
Learning your home has been damaged or destroyed by pests can be devastating. Insecticides are used to protect homes from carpenter ants, termites, and other insects that can damage a structure. They prevent infestation of cockroaches, spiders, mites, and other invasive bugs that can destroy homes from the inside out.
In addition, pesticides protect valuable keepsakes such as historical documents, treasured garments, keepsake plants, and more. The work of pesticides within homes and other buildings to protect both structures and the contents within saves homeowners, business owners, and other building managers money and heartbreak from loss.
Pesticides Improve Transportation Methods
Roadsides, intersections and airways are all safer with the use of pesticides. Tall weeds and brush are eliminated along roadways, near train tracks, and around street signs with the help of herbicides. Removing obstructions makes travel safer by increasing visibility, improving water run-off, and reducing the potential for automobile accidents.
Airlines use herbicides to prevent mold from forming in fuel filters, helping to maintain safe air travel. Railway companies use pesticides to preserve railway ties from insect feeding and decay, preventing broken tracks and train derailments. In these ways, a simple trip to the corner store is made safer with the use of agrochemicals.
Pesticides Make Recreation More Accessible
Anglers and sportsmen benefit from the use of pesticides to support fishing and boating on lakes and rivers. Herbicides can eliminate weed cover that smaller fish hide in, allowing bigger fish to find (and eat) the smaller fish in larger quantities. As a result, a healthy fish population thrives, giving fishers more opportunity to tell fish tales.
Pesticide use near lakes and ponds makes boating and swimming more accessible with the removal of invasive weeds and excessive growth. Herbicides and pesticides are used to maintain sports turf fields, park areas for picnicking and recreation, and more.
Pesticides Pro mote Good Health
Recent outbreaks of the Zika virus have strengthened public awareness of the importance of pesticide use in a community. The use of pesticides to control insect populations and repel insects is essential in promoting good health.
With the use of disinfectants, hospitals can prevent the spread of disease and infection. Housing developments employ rodenticides to control rodent populations, minimizing and eliminating the spread of rodent-based diseases such as hantavirus. Utility companies monitor and control bacteria in public drinking water by using chlorine to sanitize water supplies. Without the use of these pesticides, living conditions would be vastly different for much of the world.
The broad role that pesticides play in today’s society can be overlooked by the casual 27 observer. It is common today to question the use of pesticides; however, few pause to consider the ramifications of eliminating these powerful agrochemicals and the benefits they bring the world. Partnering with agrochemical corporations to develop more effective products in the future will support a healthy life for all.