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Reply #133: So close and yet so far. [View All]

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TheMadMonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-28-07 05:11 AM
Response to Reply #129
133. So close and yet so far.
Cotton can't be "ecconomically" mono-cultured without the application of an enormous quantity of chemicals. Particularly pesticides. FULL STOP!

Cotton may well grow "anywhere", but to get nice pristine bolls and long fibers suitable for machine processing, either the plants have to be well separated, because if the plants are close together, or even intertwined as is standard practice, infestations of pests will spread to every plant. And the close packing of the plants makes irrigation far more necessary since the plants can't spread out their roots to take advantage

Mary Jane on the other hand a) produces linear fibers, totally unlike the tangles fibers of a cotton boll, throughout the entire plant. A plant can be chomped to shreds by pests ans provided it remains standing at all it can still produces quality fiber; and b) it sneers at pests anyway, because it evolved to mono-culture, (or it has been mono-cultured for long enough that evolution has tamed MJ's pest species.) I suspect habit has a good deal to do with the continued used of over irrigation and fertilisation. MJ's tolerance to both means there is no indicator to say enough is enough.

Cotton may well grow with nothing but water and something to anchor itself to, but not as a viable machine havestable and processable, commercial, bulk fiber crop. Not without close packing (which requires more water per square meter); pesticides to keep insect infestations from happening; and added nutrients to maximise the per plant productivity. Harvested cotton represents a tiny fraction of even the most productive plant. Yield per acre is everything.

As for "can grow without irrigation", think about where it IS grown commercially in the Americas. And think about what the geographic and hydrographic conditions were when cotton growing was established. The Carribean with it's huge rainfalls, and the "good old South" with the grand old Mississippi flanked by swamps and flood plains. Plenty of water again. Fertile flood plains of course go to cash crops, and the cotton grows on the verges of worthless swampland. (who cares about a few niggers taking sick of malaria). Then we figure out how to drain the swamps and turn it into productive land. And the "worthless" criterion for cotton growing switches from "too soggy" to "nutrient challenged" and irrigation comes into play. There are a whole raft of interconnected factors: slaves; the jenny; land reclamation; inertia; and many more, which over the years served to keep cotton going. And now in many many areas, only publicly funded "life support" maintains it viability at all.

Cotton grows best "naturally" in a fairly specific type of worthless soil. Hemp on the other hand can cope with both a very wide range of both nutrient AND moisture levels. As it becomes more and more clear that agricultural runoff is to blame for a good many environmental woes, and being Green is no longer just for loony fringe dwellers the pressure to limit the use of artificial soil additives is becoming significant.

Cotton is dead for everything but niche applications, the moment a viable decent "natural" silk fiber comes out of a vat. "Natural" spider silks will give a lot of other fibers a hammering to boot.

MJ's claim to fame is that the parts of the plant we are mostly interested in using are the bits which are usually waste in other crops. Serendipitously the bit we are most interested in for fiber production: the stringy "growing" layer on the outside and the supportive woody part in the middle, are the parts the plant needs to make the most of in order to "construct" itself. Thus these bits are pretty much just carbon, hydrogen abd oxygen with bugger all of anything else. Carbon dioxide and water.

And just to put the cherry on top. The other gross part of the plant which is commercially useful the seeds are the something a plant devoted the lion's share of it's "efforts" and even more so when conditions are not the best. Adding water (up to a point) will always improve fiber production, but unlike with many other crops, there is far less bang per bug from fertilsers. It's "soil improving" qualities suggests it fixes it's own nitrogen, (Which if you look at it in the right way is has a far stronger claim to the tittle "Element of life" than Carbon. Carbon undeniably is the scaffold of life. But Nitrogen is the element that characterises proteins, the mutable, "living" part of life.)

So once you meet the water needs of the plant, to whit: the point where photosynthesis can't churn out sugars any faster; and which can be accomplished with very frugal drip (or subsurface soak) irrigation, if needed at all. Trace element needs to match this are quite small. Fertilisation is except in the deadest of soils (and I've seen 6m+ plants grown in some bloody crap soil without any help at all) is pissing money up against the wall or advance preparation for whatever crop comes after. Charcoal/Biochar (even clean coke from coal) would probably be a better bet. (That's another essay)

MJ could be inter-cropped with trees slated for lumber. In the early years fast growth of mj to 2-3m in height will encourage trees to start tall and straight as they reach for the sunlight. As the trees mature the MJ starts "reaching" for the sun, seed production drops off, but fiber production increases significantly.

MJ and a modicum of water and planing could be used to march waves of forest across deserts if we think big enough. Forest do need rain to grow, but forests also create rain by returning water to the atmosphere.

One thing we're going to have to seriously consider is tossing out the idea of "pure consevation". Gross human interference has gotten us into this state and it's going to take gross human interference to get us out of this mess. Forget about "Fixing" and "Putting them right/back." the best we can hope for now is "making good".

That means thinking about doing the seemingly unthinkable, callously destroying whole ecosystems and/or chunks of history. Flood the Lake Eyre in South Australia and the Dead Sea basin and another in Africa on the other side of the Red Sea. Digging canals or tunnels to the sea has been within our capabilities for about a century now. (It would be hugely interesting to see models of what such flooding would do.

If we can dig holes measured in cubic kilometers, we can pile dirt and rock just as high and build moisture dumping hills and mountains in just the right places.

Microwaves from space to guide (and even make) weather is on the cards for a not too distance future.

Save whatever species we can by doing will he nil she transplantations of threatened species into potentially viable climate zones and letting nature take its course. Drop a dozen or two of everything in enough places and we should manage to save a fair proportion of otherwise doomed species. And those that die, die. Better to save what we can than loose the lot while we wring our hand that we can't save them all.

Monkey meddling is a given. Better to do so with imperfect forethought, than heedless greed, neh?

:hippie: :smoke: :evilgrin:
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