This means apple and pumpkin picking. While the environmentally minded champion the support of local foods and businesses, even environmentally conscious individuals generally forget the impacts of apples and pumpkins’ monoculture farming, where only one crop is produced on acres of farmland.
Like soybeans or corn, monoculture pumpkin or apple growth brings its own set of drawbacks. Plants do not normally grow in monocultures and, in conjunction with our style of industrial agriculture, pumpkins and apples have their own share of herbicides and inorganic fertilizers.
Herbicides are predominantly used in the farming of these Fall staples. According to the University of Illinois, pumpkin growers often apply Clomazone, Bensulide, and Sethoxydim, which are broad-spectrum herbicides that keep pesky weeds out of patches.
In addition to the use of herbicides, farmers use inorganic fertilizers to add nutrients to their soil, aiding to plant growth. Monocultures deplete soil rapidly, and nutrients must be supplemented. Using inorganic fertilizers, however, has its own set of problems. Most fertilizers are petroleum based, made from crude oil predominately shipped from abroad. With that comes all the drawbacks of fossil fuels – pollution and extraction issues to name a few. On top of that, inorganic fertilizers can infiltrate water runoff if not properly managed. This, in turn, can cause nutrient overloading in nearby habitats. Excess nutrients send ecosystems out of balance, causing major disruptions for species’ populations.
Herbicides are also on the hit list of ardent environmentalists. Herbicides, such as the ones used in pumpkin growth, do not only kill the plants they are aimed towards, but also can affect populations other than target species. Pesticides are poison, chemicals that do not care what the target is and isn’t.
The simple solution to growing apples and pumpkins in this manner is to switch to environmental methods, just as other sectors of agriculture are moving toward presently. Using organic fertilizers, rather than inorganic ones, such as compost can cut the use of fossil fuels. Using integrated pest management systems, such as utilizing a predatory species to control a pest species, can halt the use of poison on our holiday food.
If you’re not a pumpkin or apple farmer, the best environmental choice is to support farmers that use these systems, and reject the use of non-environmentally sound options. To find out, it’s as simple as asking a farmer which processes he/she uses to farm. Take these old holiday traditions and make them environmental for the new millennium. Happy Fall!