Sunday, April 2, 2017

Observation, Reflection, Pondering, & Questions unveil how Nature really works

Medical Dictionary Definition of  Periphery
"the outward bounds of something as distinguished from its internal regions or center"
If you've been reading this blog for very long, you know I value having an open minded peripheral view of nature as opposed to the often Tunnel Vision approach many scientific researchers take. I have two examples here of different approaches to research studies and their outcomes which were based on either broad observational viewpoint or a narrow minded tunnel vision approach. I've often had numerous discussions with defenders of the industrial science business model approach to agriculture versus a biodiverse perennial plants and mycorrhizal soil system approach. The response to the observed evidence outdoors based on the reality of how nature maintains and sustains has always been met with, "Your evidence confirming an observation is evidence that your observation is wrong." Well not is so many words, but these are the very people who are religiously hung up on "evidence-based science" and "peer-review." Pure unadulterated blind faith belief in both of these states as an only means at arriving at a truth can be easily debunked by viewing the effects on Nature. Below are the  two contrasting approaches as to how science is done, with the later example being the most universally common ne practiced and the degradation of our Earth's ecosystems are evidence that the first approach should become more well funded.
Scientists follow seeds to solve ecological puzzle
Mice hammer a rare native plant by feasting on its seeds, but their spoliation is human-enabled
Credit: Molly Kuhs

"Scientists Tiffany Knight and Eleanor Pardini in restored dune habitat at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California. Plants native to the area, such as the Tidestrom's lupines that surround them, are adapted to stiff winds, dune blowouts and winter storms at sea."

Credit: Eleanor Pardini
Up in Marin County in northern California at the Abbotts Lagoon in Point Reyes National Seashore, there is a sand dune ecosystem where a rare low growing spreading flower called, Tidestrom's Lupine (native), is being eaten from existence a, Deer Mouse Peromyscus maniculatus (also native), but which also prefers the seeds of another more common larger Lupine called, Chamisso Bush Lupine (again also native). The basic dilemma here was that there was a decline in the rare Lupine populations around these sand dunes. The situation was so dire that realistically it was thought they would go extinct. The mouse was eating both types of Lupine seeds and even preferred the larger more common Bush Lupine seeds, but the smaller low growing Lupine was still the one that was declining. But they eventually determined that Humans were in actuality the enablers of the imbalance that had taken place between various NATIVE components of the ecosystem. That was the interesting part. Incredibly, this was not one of those textbook cases of some foreign exotic plant or animal wreaking havoc on some California ecosystem. True, a European Beachgrass was utilized in an attempt to stabilize the sand dune, but they could well have chosen any native California bunch grass with the same imbalanced result. These were native organisms out of balance struggling within a familiar ecosystem for which as the researchers explained, "the spoliation was human enabled." One native California organism pitted against another. What I love most about this article were the well thought out questions that drove the researchers which the author published at the beginning:

"What bothers a plant? Why are some plants rare while others are common? Are the rare plants simply adapted to rare habitat or are they losing the competition for habitat? Are their populations small but stable, or are they dwindling?   
And how can scientists usefully frame these questions when there are so many possible variables? 
One way is to compare related — or congeneric — species that have many traits in common but also differ in some ways. This clears out enough underbrush that carefully designed experiments can provide answers."
Washington State University St Louis: Scientists follow seeds to solve ecological puzzle

Credit: Eleanor Pardini

"The common Chamisso bush lupine holds its seed pods above the ground or hides them in the middle of its shrubbery. This lupine’s architecture makes its seeds less vulnerable to predation while they remain on the plant."

Credit: Steve Kroiss
This little native Deer Mouse at right was at first glance the trouble maker. In the old days the rule of thumb from the Scientific Orthodoxy would be to recommend without question a science-based synthetic pesticide to eradicate the Mouse. Problem solved! But was this little mouse really at fault ? Nature is loaded with all manner of living things which do not think, reason and scheme like humans. They are however incredibly sophisticated complex biological machines being run and directed by an informational communications network (DNA) & complex sensory system which responds to environmental cues. The researchers found that some time back a human decision was made by the Park Service to prevent dune erosion by planting a type of beachgrass. Apparently there were a combination of domino effects that went negative. It would seem the beachgrass provided safe haven for the little Deer Mouse who felt safe and embolden to venture out and eat the seeds of the rare Tidestrom's Lupine. But two years into the study the Park Service then removed the beachgrass to save another bird's (Plover) nesting site. Here is a description of what happened next:
The removal of beachgrass has already taken the pressure off the rare lupine. There are two reasons for this, Pardini said. One is that Tidestrom’s lupine is adapted to a disturbed habitat and needs wind and dune blowouts to thrive. The second is that with the beachgrass gone, mice have to take bigger risks to take lupine seeds.   
“Tidestrom’s lupine is popping up like crazy in the restored areas,” Pardini said. “The seed germination rate is very high, survival rate is extremely high, it’s reaching high densities in the restored zones, the plants are huge and they’re extremely fertile.”
(Read the entire Article HERE)
You can read the rest of the entire article on your own. It's loaded with lots of interesting reading. But now lets take another look at the second approach to research which at the beginning on the surface appears to be a faster way to shortcuts, but in reality holds back valuable strides forward. Especially when urgency is the motivating factor.

Fighting World Hunger: Robotics Aid in the Study of Corn and Drought Tolerance
Credit: Gui DeSouza

Credit: Gui DeSouza
This next study is an old one. This ongoing insistence that only biotechs can find the answers to drought resistence in preparation for future climate change. But in this case it takes an unnecessary course of direction. The attempt here is to get a little too cute with electronics. Robotics right now is a hot topic and all industries are looking at them to save time and money. The article and video they provide starts out justifying the research by the all too common cache phrase, "In the fight against world hunger . . "  They then continue on with numbers and stats along with a dire prophetic warning of time running out. 
"Developing drought tolerant corn that makes efficient use of available water will be vital to sustain the estimated 9 billion global population by 2050."

So the message here is that developing drought resistent corn crop varieties can only be accomplished with robotics facilitated by a $20 million grant and hopefully something positive will just happen by 2050 to save the world from hunger ? By contrast most of the early mycorrhizal research decades ago was done outdoors in a natural environmental setting. Being outdoors provided Mycologists and other researchers to observe the reality of how nature really works. Scientists (Mycologists) watched, observed, pondered and formulated numerous questions not just on the fungi alone, but their interaction with every other living thing around them. What has always beens a puzzle to me is why the mycorrhizal soil management systems approach has never been as well funded as the industrial science approach to bland boring monocultures ? But that's not really what industrial science is all about. Their goals are entirely different from tradtional study and research, take a look at a quote mentioned in the video at time spot 1:08:
"We're trying to automate as much as we can. We're trying to install networking so we can do everything from the Lab -- we can remotely log into the devices, collect images, download the image and all that so that we don't have to go to the field as much."
University of Missouri: Fighting World Hunger: Robotics Aid in the Study of Corn and Drought Tolerance
Image - Mycorrhizal Applications Inc

The industrial approach is all about what they imagine to be shortcuts provided by this robot which might mean greater returns on investment. The study on the mouse vrs the Lupine had no such monetary funding or future $$$ ambitions to motivate those researchers involved. But seriously, Robots to identify heat stress in plants ??? Question: Does the average farmer really need a robot to tell them which corn plants are stressed and which ones are doing fine ? Look at the pic above. All this continual talk of Biotech research work going into finding that right drought resistence gene has always been a complete waste of time. There has been for 1000s of countless years a tool Nature has always had available for dealing with drought resistence in plants. That would be the various varieties of mycorrhizal fungi who have a vested interest in the health and welfare of their hosts. So why the high techie robots ? Yes, in these modern times, fungi are probably not as sexy and sophisticated as modern technological advancements like robots, but their function as mutualistic partners with crop plants is far superior to anything biotech scientists or robotics engineers could ever do to problem solve quick solutions just around the corner, let alone a decade or two away. Our planet Earth doesn't have a decade or two. Pursuit of a mycorrhizal approach is in reality the real shortcut. The biggest roadblock is that a genetically modified seed comes with a lot of required aftermarket baggage ($£€) like a plethora of synthetic fertilizer inputs, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, miticides, etc which do nothing more than provide the promise of obscene profit for a handful of giant chemical corporate entites. Now to be completely fair here, I'm sure this Associate Professor, Gui DeSouza, and his intelligent engineers are conscientious people and know their electronic gadegtry stuff very well. But modern Science's biggest problem is wanting to do almost everything inside of some Laboratory. Much of today's Science left the outdoors decades ago. That's not to say that there are no scientists today who no longer practice outdoor research, because many still do. The researchers at the Dune site proved this to be true. But I highly doubt any of these industrially motivated guys have much understanding of underground soil mycorrhizal networks and their relationship with any plant let alone crop plants. 

The direction the prevailing industrial Scientific Orthodoxy is to white wash the bad news to the public by their propagandizing which is almost identical to the words of warning by Patrick Henry who himself was quoting from a biblical text of (Ezekiel 13:10) where false prophets were suckering the common people into believe the coming dire situation was really not all that bad. Our present dire reality is that this world doesn't have until 2050 to find solutions. There's no luxury of time to piddle around, beg for funding for pet projects and problem solve for profit. Ecosystems are deteriorating faster than ever before and have been for some decades. The picture I often use above from the University of Florida and Mycorrhizal Applications Inc testing the product MycoApply with multiple blend of fungi species points a glaring spotlight on how this drought & heat stress resistence can be dealt with in one season on many corn (& other crop) varieties that they already know will grow well in hot climates. It also exposes what a real propaganda sham this biotech search for that illusive mysterious drought resistent gene really is about. If their goal really was about feeding the world & food security, the mycorrhizal approach would be snapped up instantly. What this is really all about, is Industrial Agriculture in bed with Industrial Science trying desperately to keep a status quo monopoly on agribusiness. As that is the case, they are stubbornly committed to a tunnel vision industrial answer approach and not any peripheral view of anything outside of their narrow minded small inner circle of elitest ideas. 

Speaking of Sand Dunes

The beauty of the animal, plant & bird dilemma at the Sand Dune Project was that these researchers did spend quite a bit of time outdoors for four years. They also came up with not only great questions one after another based on observations, but also created some beautiful terminology along the way to illustrate and expose the multiple ways humans have managed to screw up the environment even without introducing any invasive exotic non-native species of plants, birds or animals. Expressions like, "subsidized native predators" & "spoliation is human enabled," which fits nicely with Martin Luther King Jr's, "sincere ignorance" & "conscientious stupidity." Take a look at their final thoughts in the Dune/Beachgrass/Mouse/Lupine research:
A Final Twist
"A final twist Ironically, the beachgrass was removed not to help the rare lupine but rather to help the endangered western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus). Just as the lupine lost germination sites to the grass, the plover lost nesting habitat.   
And both the lupine and the plover suffered from subsidized native predators. In the case of the lupine, the predator is the deer mouse; in the case of the plover, it is the common raven (Corvus corax),   
“Corvid populations have been exploding worldwide since the 1970s,” Pardini said. “You can see it in the Christmas birdcount data. One reason is that they feast on the refuse people provide.   
“So the emerging story about human intervention and the ravens is analogous to the one about the grass and the mice,” she added. In both cases, people are subsidizing a species that is upsetting the balance that once existed between other species: on one hand two lupines, in the other two birds.
The summary sheds light on so many things. Humans have not only subsidized various forms of invasive species which have brought about environmental ruin to many areas of our Earth, but they've also somehow managed to pit one native organism against another unintentionally. Previously most all native things have lived in almost perfect balance for 1000s of years. Suddenly, a form of new freedom promising scientific enlightenment bulls it's way onto the world scene 150+ years ago and we find ourselves as an actual slave to it's death dealing consequences. The beauty of the Lupine/Mouse study on those Northern California sand dunes illustrates how humans can truly unmask and expose the cause and over a long period of time use the powers of observation within peripheral viewpoint of an entire environment, inspire numerous thought provoking questions and come up with a nonsynthetic pesticidal solution for creating back the natural balance again. Giant corporations are easy big targets to blame because of their extraordinary size for expossure. But what really frightens me are all those small to medium size property owners out there who still buy into the rat poison advertisement indoctrination as a first option in arriving at problem correction. Take a rural drive almost anywhere and look how the average property owning citizen lacks the understanding in taking a natural balanced approach to maintaining the ecology of their land. This is the kind of approach that should be easily taught in elementary school through high school (secondary school) long before a student gets to college. Just think of all the unnecessary baggage they wouldn't be lugging with them when they finally do go to a University ? 😵

Dr. Eleanor Pardini's Research Blog