Why are bugs so difficult to get rid of? If you’ve ever had an infestation even in your own home, you know that this can be an absolutely catastrophic nightmare. You might have to call an exterminator, and then all of a sudden, they are your best friend when the problem is solved. True heroes!
So why then are we so hypocritical as a society when farmers have to do it? Yes, I’m talking about pesticides. Exterminators are heroes when they solve the problems in a suburban home, so it’s time that farmers are hailed the same way. Who wants to eat bug- and disease-infested food? Who wants worms in their produce? Gross! Farmers kill bugs just like exterminators do. We don’t want them in our homes, we don’t want them in our food. Farmers solve problems in the food supply so we don’t have to!
Now what about herbicides? Yes, herbicides are another type of pesticide. The word “pesticide” is an umbrella term that encompasses any type of pest — from insects, weeds, disease, rodents, and more. The suffix “cide” means “to kill,” so pesticides kill pests, and weeds are surely pests and they compete with crops and steal our food’s food! Crops depend on food, nutrients, medicine, and more to thrive. When weeds take over, they steal these inputs, which can ultimately kill and destroy a crop and leave us as humans and animals with nothing left to eat.
Herbicides kill weeds and are used on schools, homes, golf courses, stadiums, and pretty much everything that we see on a daily basis. Lawn care experts, homeowners, building superintendents, and others ensure that parks are pretty, golf courses and soccer fields are immaculate, and we have plentiful access to enjoy of all of this in our day to day lives. And let’s not even get started on sports! Many baseball, football, soccer, and other teams play on beautiful turfgrass, and that beauty doesn’t happen on accident. Thank you to the pest control teams that allow us to enjoy the beauty and fun all around us! We can’t have our favorite teams stadiums without pesticides.
Let’s celebrate farmers and the related ag professions (agronomists, certified crop advisors, pesticide applicators, ag pilot “crop dusters”) who care for these plants. Heroes that are controlling these issues so we don’t starve to death!
We love exterminators who get rid of bugs. We love the people working behind the scenes in sports. And we also love doctors and nurses who solve our problems and make us feel better! When we are sick, our lives literally depend on them; where would we be without these amazing professionals? They prescribe us medicine that gets us well and saves our lives. Farmers (and agronomists, scientists, and others listed above) help solve these problems too with plant “medicine.”
Think about fungicides, which, you guessed it, kill a fungus. Disease. Check out this photo I took at a research plot with Michigan State University, which is a story about cherry leaf spot disease. The trees on the left have been decimated from cherry leaf spot, while the trees on the right have been treated with a variety of fungicides as test plots to solve the problem.
Wow! What a difference fungicide makes! If we weren’t able to control this awful disease, there may be no cherries at all. Same can be said for citrus greening disease, bacterial wilt, and more. The list goes on and on with problems that farmers deal with, in every crop, during every day, in every region around the world.
Hopefully this helps put some healthy perspective with regards to pesticides. Why do we need them and why should we celebrate them? It’s also important to note that farmers never want to use more than necessary, as they’re very expensive and time consuming to apply, and nobody wants to overdose the land! They’re also very well regulated.
We all care about the health of ourselves, our society, and our food supply. Let’s not forget that farmers are modern day heroes. Remember that not all heroes where capes — some of them drive tractors.
Michelle Miller, the “Farm Babe,” is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and social media influencer and travels full time to advocate for agriculture. She comes from an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farming background and now resides on a timber farm in North Central Florida.