Nature gives us what we need. When we started our conversion to organic farming in 1998, Terry the farmer was very uncomfortable about allowing nettles, thistles and dock leaves to grow on the farm. He had grown up on a ‘tidy’ farm where such things were eliminated. One of the toughest lessons was to allow these weeds to grow.
Then we realised that even if you spray them every year, every year they come back and you spray them again and again, (putting profits into the pockets of the multinational chemical companies). So we try to reduce them by management. This is why organic food is sometimes more expensive to produce because people have spent hours in the field ‘spudding’ thistles or pulling ragwort and docks.
Now we have a little helper- Gastrophysa Viridula, the Iridescent Green Dock Beetle. Dock leaves in meadows (mowing fields) are a bit of a nuisance. Their strong, stringy stalks in the silage (preserved grass) are not good for cows to eat and docks are very good at producing prolific seed heads. Their tap roots are very robust and difficult to pull out.
The jewel like dock beetle lays its little yellow eggs on the leaves, and when hatched the little beetles munch their way through the entire crop- it’s miraculous! If we were to spray either pesticide or weed killer we would lose these little friendly helpers.
Omsco (The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-op we sell our organic milk to) held a Hedgerow Safari here last week. We were able to show the children our friendly beetles, they were extremely impressed- until they saw the bank voles that was!
The contractor who cuts our silage came to check the fields a few weeks ago, ‘you’ve got a good crop of dock there’ he said. Then by the middle of June when he came to cut the fields, the docks had disappeared! ‘How have you done that?’
The next day we found him with a little box collecting some of the Gastrophysa Viridula and taking them off to his farm- trouble is he will have to stop spraying if he wants to keep them….