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Re: Cane Burning perhaps not such a terrible alternative?

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  • henry
    larisa wrote;  I believe that before people with the best of intentions blindly jump on board the burning is evil bandwagon and start a call for change, a
    Message 1 of 11 , Mar 7 12:29 PM
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      larisa wrote;  "I believe that before people with the best of intentions blindly jump on board the "burning is evil" bandwagon and start a call for change, a well studied alternative ought be asserted, and it ought to be asserted on the basis of a well investigated study of how burning actually interacts with the ecosystem on a holistic scale."

      i am sure your intentions were good also but not accurate either.  burning crops in costa rica is not holistic for the ecosystem. it actually kills beneficial fungus that grows in the soils here.  the amount of ash nutrients produced from burning is not nearly sufficient to adding nutrients for the soil to be fertile for the next crop. they need to either add fertilizers or grow crops in an organic process.  the burning process is not natural or beneficial to ecosystems in costa rica like other parts of the world.  costa rica was covered almost entirely by rainforest which does not benefit from forest fires.

      here is a scientific investigative  take on what you said.  this id from the (FAO) food and agricultural organization of the united nations.  according to the FAO this study would apply to idaho.  i know they still use chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides after burning as well.

      The burning of maize, rice and other crop residues in the field is a common practice. Residues are usually burned to help control insects or diseases or to make fieldwork easier in the following season. Burning destroys the litter layer and so diminishes the amount of organic matter returned to the soil. The organisms that inhabit the surface soil and litter layer are also eliminated. For future decomposition to take place, energy has to be invested first in rebuilding the microbial community before plant nutrients can be released. Similarly, fallow lands and bush are burned before cultivation. This provides a rapid supply of P to stimulate seed germination. However, the associated loss of nutrients, organic matter and soil biological activity has severe long-term consequences for growing the remainder of the crop

      Management practices that alter the living and nutrient conditions of soil organisms, such as repetitive burning of vegetation, result in a degradation of their microenvironments. In turn, this results in a reduction of soil biota, both in biomass and diversity. Where there are no longer organisms to decompose soil organic matter and bind soil particles, the soil structure is damaged easily by rain, wind and sun. This can lead to rainwater runoff and soil erosion, removing the potential food for organisms, i.e. the organic matter of the topsoil. Therefore, soil biota are the most important property of the soil, and “when devoid of its biota, the uppermost layer of earth ceases to be soil”.

      henry
    • bibbity1
      Dear Henry, Good information as always. Thanks for sharing it. You did mis-quote me on Idaho though- or I was not clear enough-- I said that additional
      Message 2 of 11 , Mar 9 11:11 PM
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        Dear Henry,
        Good information as always.  Thanks for sharing it.  You did mis-quote me on Idaho though- or I was not clear enough-- I said that additional pesticides, treatments, fertilizers etc were required after the ban that were not previously required.  I did not say that pesticides and fertilizers etc. were unused prior to the ban.  That aside, I often find your posts to be full of good information.

         Do you know a specific name of the beneficial fungus that grows in the soils here that you are talking about?  Or if it is a variety?  I'm not trying to give you a hard time, and if you know the name(s), preferably in Spanish and English, I am interested in investigating it further for other reasons.  I am willing to be wrong about my conjecture regarding cane burning-- I just hadn't seen any arguement up till now from the point of the soil--  However, it is of interest to me because re-learning to garden organically here in CR. I've been visiting organic and hydroponic set ups here (as procedure and amendments are very different from back in the USA), and  found a couple of different soil fungi for sale and it seems this is an area that you might be able to tell me a bit more about?

        And good or bad, I'll still take that shack.... *grins*

        Thanks for the intelligent response.

        Larissa

      • alajuelanorth
        Larissa, I ve been looking into composting (as our guys keep screwing it up) and it seems that bringing in new bugs through manure and such is lately being
        Message 3 of 11 , Mar 10 7:17 AM
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          Larissa, I've been looking into composting (as our guys keep screwing it up) and it seems that bringing in new bugs through manure and such is lately being frowned upon by the more scientific among us.  I'd be interested in henry's take . . . what I read is it is better to make your own bugs in your own garden (via the compost) and then use this as a bug/compost amendment or "starter" in the next compost pile . . . the bugs are then, in a generally healthy garden, "your own" and not someone else's.  Of course "my guys" insist it doesn't work right in the dry season cause it's too dry and it doesn't work right in the rainy season cause it's too wet. 

          Berni
        • costacoffee2
          A former Tico neighbor, used to dig a hole approx 1 deep and 6 across for his compost pile. He filled it with the usual stuff and let it dry out for a
          Message 4 of 11 , Mar 10 9:15 AM
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            A former Tico neighbor, used to dig a hole approx 1' deep and 6' across for his compost pile. He filled it with  the usual 'stuff' and let it dry out for a month or so. He then set the dried top  material on fire for just a few minutes then 'turned' it over,  in the hole. He produced great compost in only 2 months. In the rainy season he covered it with a tarp.
            In my compost pile, it doesn't seem to do much, except produce really nice avocado seedlings and this 'crop'  are presently there are now 3 ' tall.



          • clnewlin
            Berni, I had never composted either but here it is easy. What I did was build out a corner wall making an open box (on dirt) with cider blocks about 1x2
            Message 5 of 11 , Mar 10 10:44 AM
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              Berni, I had never composted either but here it is easy.   What I did was "build out" a corner wall making an open box (on dirt) with cider blocks about 1x2 meters and a meter high.  There is a door in front so I can easily get inside.  Leaves, grass clippings and all my household "green" garbage, melon rinds, banana peels, coffee grounds, eggshells etc go in the box.  About every three months I shovel it all up on one side, then use that to cover the new stuff the next time.  In the dry season I do add water occasionally. And there is a "hole" at the base so water can't stand in the rainy season.    I initially would put any earthworms I found in the box as well.  Now I have a wonderful box of rich black dirt that I use for potting plants and spreading in the garden.    I have had a little trouble with possums getting in the box but they need to eat too.  



            • alajuelanorth
              You know he only set it on fire to upset henry? Berni
              Message 6 of 11 , Mar 10 2:11 PM
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                You know he only set it on fire to upset henry?  Berni
              • joanritchiedewar
                The firing of cane is not a legal requirement in Costa Rica – the opposite in fact. As recently as September last year, the Supreme Court (Sala IV) accepted
                Message 7 of 11 , Mar 11 2:25 PM
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                  The firing of cane is not a legal requirement in Costa Rica – the opposite in fact. 

                   

                  As recently as September last year, the Supreme Court (Sala IV) accepted an unconstitutionality petition filed against agricultural burning in Costa Rica.  The issuance of cane-burning permits (following certain guidelines as required by the Ministry of Agriculture since 2009) was ordered to stop.  That order has not been rescinded.   However, MAG trumps Sala IV and permits are still being issued in this new season/year. 

                   

                  That petition was filed by two groups active in fighting the Quemas (firing) problem in this country:

                  La Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca and Aire Limpio Vida Sana in Grecia.  (I hope you will follow them on Facebook).  The petition questioned the legality of burning as contrary to the Constitution and a long list of laws and international conventions that protect public health and the environment.

                   

                  The UN in 2005 declared environment pollution as the 3rd global critical problem after famine & poverty.  Despite being known as a world leader in environment issues, Costa Rica is lagging in this respect.  Reaching proclaimed carbon neutral goals of 2021 are gravely in doubt.

                   

                  Last week the Constitutional Court ruled that the fundamental rights of Gadi Amit of the Guanacaste group have been violated by the unreasonable time it has taken for a complaint filed by him in 2008 to be addressed. As far back as 2002 the courts ordered development of a plan to solve these issues.  Over a decade later, the country is still waiting.

                   

                  In this enlightened 21st century, the average Costa Rican and the ex-pat community are becoming aware of the health problems created by not only the pre-harvest firing of sugar cane but also of post-harvest burning of biomass (plastic in tomato, pineapple, rice and banana fields), bush fires and from automobile emissions.  I don’t know about ash content, fungus & chemical replacement in the ground, just that our health is affected by the pollution.  I've also heard that the quality of sugar deteriorates slightly when fired.

                   

                  The WHO deems air pollution a significant risk factor for multiple health conditions including respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer. Studies in many countries of the world indicate that respiratory diseases increase during the sugar cane season; also that asthma is very high in young people in this country.  It is said that it takes 250 days to cleanse the air of particulates – just in time to start a new cane-firing season!!!

                   

                  Most cane-firing here is illegal, ie. no permits obtained.  Machinery for ‘cutting green’ has been developed and is being used successfully by some who are concerned, with costs apparently amortization over 5 years. 

                   

                  Ingenios (processing plants) are a significant factor.  Some work to minimize burning; others actually require that cane be fired before they will process it, to save money on transport, etc.  Smokestack emissions from ingenios add to the polluted atmosphere.  

                   

                  Economics don’t cut it as a reason for risking our health.  Just as Costa Rica has established a certification for sustainable tourism program, I think the same should be developed for the agro industry.  


                  Joan (in the midst of sugar cane near Grecia)



                  ---In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, <alajuelanorth@...> wrote :

                  You know he only set it on fire to upset henry?  Berni
                • Robert Williams
                  Joan said:
                  Message 8 of 11 , Mar 12 7:39 PM
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                    Joan said:

                    <The firing of cane is not a legal requirement in Costa Rica – the opposite in fact. 

                    And then she stated: 

                    <Most cane-firing here is illegal, ie. no permits obtained. 

                    Which statement is correct? The first statement implies that the burning of sugar cane fields is illegal. The second statement implies that the burning of sugar cane fields is conditioned on a permitting process. If the second statement is accurate, where does a gringo or gringa do research to determine whether or not a cane field has been permitted; and where do they find time for such research? Candidly I have better things to do with my time than snoop public records. Perhaps my attitude is tempered by the fact I spent over 30 years in the public sector, and prefer to be as removed as possible.

                    And then reference was made to cane cutting machinery as if every cane farmer could afford one. Being from the heart of cane growing country in south Florida I can assure you that only the largest growers found the mechanical harvesting of sugar cane cost effective; and even they burned more cane than they harvested mechanically. 

                    As a gringo, trying to enjoy the twilight of my years I have much more to be concerned about than meddling in tico business. And I say this being born with a respiratory condition. I have no rights of citizenship in Costa Rica, but rather see myself as a guest. If I decide I no longer enjoy the culture or economic conditions, or environmental climate, I have the option to leave.

                    Robert
                  • joanritchiedewar
                    Hi Robert: The first statement ‘the firing of cane is not a legal requirement in Costa Rica’ is in response to John’s opening statement in this thread
                    Message 9 of 11 , Mar 13 9:32 AM
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                      Hi Robert:

                      The first statement ‘the firing of cane is not a legal requirement in Costa Rica’ is in response to John’s opening statement in this thread that ‘currently the sugar cane fields must be burned before sending the produce to the refiners.’  It doesn’t have to be burned.  Some concerned farmers do indeed cut green, whether by machinery or hand, for health benefits for their workers and the country as a whole.  More are trending that way but there is a long way to go. 

                      The second statement ‘most cane-firing here is illegal, ie. no permits obtained.’ refers to the requirement since 2009 for anyone planning to burn cane to submit application in advance to MAG, stating a firing plan with dates, time of day, location, etc. and agreeing to comply with rules that determine the size of the safe area cleared around the firing zone, number of workers present, proximity to a school, etc.  Many farmers, unfortunately, do not bother to apply or conform to those rules.

                      And, you’re exactly right, Robert, it is almost impossible to determine who owns the fields, whether or not they have permits, find other witnesses to the fire, and a huge amount of red tape.  I am surrounded by Costa Ricans and ex-pats who are greatly concerned, knowing full well these challenges.   None of us have time or energy to give to fruitless endeavors.

                      The two groups La Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca and Aire Limpio Vida Sana, are Costa Rican, not gringo.  Some are scientists and the research I quote is all theirs, normally communicated only to Spanish media and government.  They deserve credit for efforts to improve the quality of the environment on behalf of all of us – Costa Rican citizens, the expat community and visitors.  My Costa Rican neighbors and friends in the Grecia area are great supporters of their efforts.  I have an option to leave or try to help by telling others about their progress, or non-progress, as the case may be.

                    • Deborah Gedling
                      I am one of the people who live in the Grecia area who, like Joan Dewar, appreciate the efforts of La Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca and Aire Limpio
                      Message 10 of 11 , Mar 14 8:37 AM
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                        I am one of the people who live in the Grecia area who, like Joan Dewar, appreciate the efforts of La Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca and Aire Limpio Vida Sana to improve the quality of the Costa Rica's environment for all who happen to be here--Tico or not.  Cane firing is a major topic of conversation for those who live around it and there is much concern about its effects on our health.  I wish these organizations great success and will give them whatever support they need.  
                      • Robert Williams
                        It is most interesting that many expats are concerned about the burning of sugar cane, but seem to care less that over 16,000 cane harvesters have lost their
                        Message 11 of 11 , Mar 16 5:34 PM
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                          It is most interesting that many expats are concerned about the burning of sugar cane, but seem to care less that over 16,000 cane harvesters have lost their lives throughout Central America over the last several years. The loss of life in Costa Rica has been minimal compared to other countries, particularly Nicaragua and El Salvadore.

                          The cause of death is attributed to an incurable chronic kidney disease (CKD). The reason for this illness among cane cutters is unknown, but in Nicaragua and El Savadore there are more men dying from CKD than there are dying from HIV/Aids. It is suggested it might be caused by cane cutters peeling the bark from stalks of cane while working to chew and suck the juices might be a cause. Some suggest that the excessive consumption of sugar in this manner might be a cause for the disease. However, a study prepared in 2012 in Sri Lanka suggests indicates a high level of two toxic chemicals, cadium and arsenic, exists in those with CKD in that country. It is suggested that due to the high rate of chewing to prevent dehydration might cause an unusual amount of ingestion of these toxic chemicals. And it assumed these chemical traces are absorbed into the sugar cane from the fertilizers used. 

                          In Costa Rica the problem is of significance in Guancaste, where the bulk of the sugar cane is grown. The regional hospital in Liberia exhausted its resources for in hospital treatment, and had to establish a home dialysis program

                          The following references might be of interest to those concerned:

                          http://98.139.237.209/search/srpcache?ei=UTF-8&p=illness+of+human+life+harvesting+cane+in+central+america&fr=yfp-t-726&u=http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=illness+of+human+life+harvesting+cane+in+central+america&d=5062088351286587&mkt=es-US&setlang=es-US&w=hoSSStviQv r9-O25kthP6514c9_Tyzn5&icp=1&.intl=e1&sig=hC926kfo6s7u3DG91o0Zkw--

                          http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/16/13866856-mystery-kidney-disease-decimates-central-america-sugarcane-workers

                          http://www.publicintegrity.org/2011/12/12/7578/thousands-sugar-cane-workers-die-wealthy-nations-stall-solutions

                          But perhaps we, particularly expatriates are too absorbed in our own comfort to care about the persons who have right of passage in this great perhaps we from other nations are on a mission to "change", to try an enforce these people to adapt to our standards, rather than move here and accept their standards.

                          Fuss is made about the infrequent application of burning by cane farmers, but the expat does not address larger issues such as pollution to cars. Why? My guess it is a much bigger issue, with too many to challenge. A few hundred cane farmers a reasonable target, a few hundred thousand drivers of polluting cars, an unreasonable target.

                          And the rivers and back bays being polluted by commercial, industrial and resdiential waste? That is not an issue that needs addressing? Perhaps, but the gringas and gringos do not dare attempt to get involved in that issue, for it is an issue much larger that their resources can address.

                          And why, if there is concern about the health issues among the gringas and gringos do not they pick up a larger banner and become concerned about the thousands of deaths caused by sugar cane production.. Is it that they really have no care about others human life, only theirs? Or perhaps it is because they might discover they might be fighting a much bigger issue; the power of fertilizer and chemical companies such as Monasanto.

                          But the occasional burning of cane by farmers; perhaps that is a winnable fight, particularly have groups like La Asociacion Confraternidad Guanacasteca and Aire Limpia Vida Sana on their side. My first question is who do these groups really represent; how were they initiated? Do they represent the common citizens of Costa Rica, or on the other hand are they nothing more than a front for the corporatist whose objective is to take over agribusiness worldwide. 

                          In general the independent farmer is independent in his thinking, does not attempt to bother others, and likewise does not appreciate being bothered by others. He is a conservationist because future successes of his crops depend his ability to conserve. Along with conserving natural resources, the independent farmer is generally conservative in his philosophy of life as well. He will listen to opposing views, and will allow criticism of his agricultural practices, but the criticism must be backed by scientific knowledge before he will respond. Nor will he take seriously someone that knows nothing about agricultural economics to tell him how he should manage his business. Yes, the public might humiliate a farmer, but he will not back down to them; but will these in the public who have a fixation of destroying private enterprise be victorious. 

                          A farmer is a survivor, and he his motivation is to continue farming to provide food and fiber at any cost. Rather than yield to the tennis shoe brigade he will more than likely "sell out" to the corporatist. He will continue to produce, but not to an edict the tennis shoe brigade tried to cause, but rather to a corporatist entity which establishes production levels, etc., with said corporatists caring less about who in the public gets hurt in the objective to produce more. A corporatist objective is more production to increase there bottom line, nothing more. If others get in the way, then the corporatist has legal resources and/or political backing to abate any problems. 

                          In the meantime the individual farmer has been relieved from the annoyance of tennis shoe brigade by the corporatist.
                          He is given a role as farm manager, and while he might not have the independence he once had, the corporatist has provided other comforts such as remuneration and benefits at a level he had not previously enjoyed. No longer an individual farmer, but an employee of a corporation, the person has the corporation as a shield from those who previously interfered.

                          Thus before complaining about the conditions now, some need to better analyze their actions as they could be "eating out of the hands of others" that might make conditions even worse. I find it very interesting how people can complain about a farmer whenever their mouths are full.

                          Perhaps these persons prefer the corporatists, the Monsantos, the Archer-Daniels-Midlands, the Tyson Foods and the likes to determine what is produced, how it is produced, and whether or not the food is healthy to eat. The slight inconvenience of the independent farmer was of much more significance than the assurance of being assured of eating healthily. 

                          About 40 years ago I had a old farmer friend tell me, "Son, people complain about the truckers going on strike, they complain about industry going on strike, they complain about teachers going on strike; but if the farmers were to go on strike the human race would resort to cannibalism within 48 hours. I do not know the validity or accuracy of the old farmer's statement, but it sure gave me food for thought at the time.

                          But over the last 40 years I have seen the old farmer friend did not see something coming. He did not see the corporatist takeover of agribusiness, thus his observation will never be known. The quality of food has changed, none for the better as a result of a few making the production decisions, but the quantity is here, whether healthy or not.

                          In closing, I am here as an expat, a resident, not a citizen. It is the citizen's right to change this country, not we residents who came to enjoy, at least what we perceived as paradise. We have the option of leaving if we no longer accept the citizens as they are. But the truth might be that so many expats made the mistake of committing resources to the purchase of a home and find the liquidity is non-existent. With some that might be the real issue; not the cane farmer's burning, but being immobilized by their decisions.. 

                          Robert
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