SHORT CUTS

CANADIAN PESTICIDES

At this writing, the Canadian parliament continues to consider pesticide legislation that would revamp Canada's pesticide regulatory system. Two versions of the bill exist, and must be reconciled. Meanwhile, anti-pesticide lobbyists are working to get the bill amended to ban “cosmetic” pesticides, as some Canadian government officials are recommending. Cosmetic pesticides are defined to include any that are used to control turf pests.

POWER PLANTS MAKE SOIL AMENDMENTS

A recent field study from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) indicates that fly ash and bottom ash (byproducts of fossil-fuel power plants) can be blended with biosolids to provide soil amendments for the horticulture industry. As an alternative to peat moss, processed pine bark and other organic materials, the application opens a new market for fly ash at a time when old markets for the ash are becoming saturated. Visit EPRI's Web site at www.epri.com for additional information.

BAD SCIENCE DIES HARD

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They hardly ever make the news, but it's not that uncommon for studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals to be retracted because other scientists could not duplicate the results, errors or even misconduct.

As reported in “Bad Science Never Dies,” by Howard Feinbergh, a contributor to techcentralstation.com, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study that examined 235 peer-reviewed research papers that had been formally retracted. The authors found that the retracted studies were cited by other researchers 2,034 times after they had been retracted. The vast majority of the citations made no reference to the retraction, treating the study as still valid.

Perhaps the most notable example relating to the Green Industry is the now-discredited Tulane study purporting a link between certain pesticide combinations and endocrine disruption. This study has frequently been cited as evidence of the dangers of pesticides, even though other scientists could not duplicate the findings, and one of the study's authors eventually admitted to falsifying data.

BETTER WAY TO APPLY NEMATODES

Parasitic nematodes offer considerable potential as insecticidal products. However, a number of technical problems have prevented widespread use and acceptance of nematode-based insecticides. One problem has been cost, which often is higher than conventional treatments. This is, in part, due to the need to grow nematodes inside of insects and then extract them from the dead bodies of the hosts.

A more effective way to apply the nematodes may be in the works. U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service scientists have developed a starch and clay coating that can be applied to the host cadavers to preserve the nematodes inside. Then, the cadavers themselves can be applied, after which, in the outside environment, the coatings decompose in the presence of moisture, releasing the nematodes. No commercial product using this technology has been developed yet, though the option is being explored.

VINEGAR AS HERBICIDE

Some home gardeners use vinegar as an herbicide. But no one has tested it scientifically until now. U.S.D.A. scientists offer the first scientific evidence that it may be a potent weedkiller that is inexpensive and environmentally safe.

The researchers hand-sprayed weeds with various solutions of vinegar, uniformly coating the leaves. The researchers found that 5- and 10-percent concentrations killed the weeds during their first two weeks of life. Older plants required higher concentrations of vinegar to kill them. (Vinegar is a contact, and only kills top growth of treated perennials.) At the higher concentrations, vinegar had an 85- to 100-percent kill rate at all growth stages. A bottle of household vinegar is about a 5-percent concentration.

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