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Tropical Fruit Discussion / Alternative Pollinators
« on: August 22, 2018, 02:42:47 PM »
Honeybees are under siege, straining the business of farming. Now growers are turning to other bee species to help their crops.

The Integrated Crop Pollination Project, a public-private partnership funded by the Department of Agriculture, has explored habitat enhancement for wild bees, improving farm management practices, and the use of diverse or “alternative” bee species.

Of the thousands of species of bees in North America, just four other than the honeybee are already used or almost ready for use on a commercial scale in the United States, according to a review published last year in Basic and Applied Ecology. (Wild bees also make important contributions to crop pollination.)

The bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, can be an effective alternative to honeybees for pollinating watermelons and lowbush blueberries. The alfalfa leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata, is responsible for pollinating most of the alfalfa grown for seed production.

The ground-nesting alkali bee, Nomia melanderi, also pollinates alfalfa, and the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, is effective for tree fruits and nuts.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Orchard Crime Wave in New Zealand
« on: August 14, 2018, 10:34:07 PM »
In New Zealand, Avocado Shortage Leads to Orchard Crime Wave - The New York Times

With prices for the fruit soaring after two years of low harvests, orchards are experiencing a raft of thefts, and black markets have sprung up to distribute the spoils.
To counter the crime wave, some frustrated growers have taken matters into their own hands. An avocado tree in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, was surrounded with razor wire, drawing concerns from neighbors who feared children or cats could be hurt


Most of the carbon moving into the soil comes from the air, not the compost. But, the compost appears to help the plants draw more carbon from the atmosphere than they otherwise would.

When it comes to mitigating climate change, soil scientists are most interested in occluded carbon — organic material, often in the form of dead microbes, trapped in clods of dirt. This type of carbon can potentially stay locked away for centuries. (Another carbon type, called labile carbon, continuously cycles among the atmosphere, plants and organisms in the soil.) It was precisely this more durable carbon, Silver discovered, that increased in the treated plots.

Her findings corresponded with a shift in recent decades in scientists’ understanding of how soil carbon forms. Previously they emphasized how dead organic material had to physically work its way into the soil. But the newer model stressed the importance of living plants. Their rootlets are constantly dying, depositing carbon underground, where it’s less likely to go airborne. And perhaps more important, as plants pull carbon from the air, their roots inject some of it into the soil, feeding microorganisms and fungi called mycorrhiza. An estimated 12,000 miles of hyphae, or fungal filaments, are found beneath every square meter of healthy soil. Some researchers refer to this tangled, living matrix as the “world wood web.” Living plants increase soil carbon by directly nourishing soil ecosystems.



What’s a Zucchini? And Other Questions Americans Once Asked
By Max Watman

April 4, 2018
Barbour Lathrop (left) and David Fairchild aboard a steamer on the coast of Sumatra, Christmas 1896.
CreditFairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, Florida

The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
By Daniel Stone
Illustrated. 397 pp. Dutton. $28.

In a photograph dated Christmas 1896, featured in “The Food Explorer,” Daniel Stone’s biography of the botanist and explorer David Fairchild, his subject is sitting with his patron and friend Barbour Lathrop, in what looks like an empty saloon or a lounge on a steamship. The caption informs us that they’re off the coast of Sumatra; both are dressed in white and have mustaches that border on the extravagant. Lathrop is wearing a bow tie; Fairchild seems to be sitting on the bar. For the picture to be any more a portrait of the Gilded Age, it would have to sing the libretto of “The Mikado.”

In one memorable sequence of events, Fairchild took a train across the United States. “The Transcontinental Railroad connected New York to Sacramento at the new, exhilarating speed of 35 miles per hour,” Stone reports, adding that its passengers were fed on grouse and champagne.

When Fairchild arrived on the West Coast, he learned that the boat he and Lathrop were to board had already left, so they hopped on another train and began the two-week journey to catch another boat in New Orleans, stopping in Santa Barbara to meet Dr. Francesco Franceschi, “who cut for his visitor a slice of a curious squash — ‘zucchini,’ he called it.”

This distant age of wonder — an era in which worldliness was hard-earned and Barbour Lathrop circled the globe many times — was full of innocence and promise. In a Washington, D.C., boardinghouse, Fairchild roomed with a former colleague from the Department of Agriculture named Wallace Swingle; together, they brainstormed about building a team that would travel to foreign countries and “administer the introduction of plants.” As Stone explains, they “fancied their title as ‘agricultural explorer’ — a term so whimsical, so obvious, that it came out of their mouths at the same time.”

Soon enough there was a sign on a door and a new government agency: the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction. The results were tremendous. Avocados, soybeans, nectarines and kale, Meyer lemons, hops, seedless grapes and watermelons were all either introduced or improved by Fairchild and his team.

This isn’t another chapter in that old story about how we ate badly until fill-in-the-blank came along and revolutionized American dining. This is a story about a world in which there were no avocados until David Fairchild mailed some home, about a strange and meager period in our past in which no one had eaten a zucchini.

Stone doesn’t editorialize about the consequences. “In 1908,” he writes, “few people had seen a soybean,” adding that within 100 years, “the evolved descendants of soybeans that Meyer shipped back would cover the Midwest of the United States like a rug. Soybeans would be applied to more diverse uses than any other crop in history.” Although Stone wisely keeps himself out of the argument, it’s a safe bet that most of his readers will hear the alarm.

Fairchild lived in optimistic times. Problems of land and crop management, he and his colleagues believed, were going to be solved in an entirely new way: “America’s goal wasn’t just to farm; it was to construct an industrial agricultural system bigger and more profitable than any group of people had ever built.” The bloom, of course, is off that rose, but it doesn’t make Fairchild’s story, and the profound role he played in ushering us into modernity, any less fascinating.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / A little whipped cream on your roundup ?
« on: July 26, 2017, 06:27:20 AM » NYTimes: Traces of Controversial Herbicide Are Found in Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

A growing number of foods commonly found in kitchens across America have tested positive for glyphosate, the herbicide that is the main ingredient in the popular consumer pesticide Roundup, which is widely used in agriculture. But few brands on that list are as startling as the latest: Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont ice cream company known for its family-friendly image and environmental advocacy.


A box of rare daisies from the 1850s had been sent to Brisbane from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
But the pressed plant samples were incinerated because accompanying documents were filled out incorrectly.
Australian quarantine authorities have ordered a review into the incident.
The plants were destroyed in March because of missing information such as details of the specimens, they said.
'Highly valuable'
The French museum was upset that the "irreplaceable collection" had been destroyed, said Prof Michelle Waycott, chair of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria.
She said the flowers may have come from a habitat that no longer existed.
"Sometimes they [collections] may be the last remaining examples of species," she told the BBC.
"I don't think that was the case in this instance, but they are certainly highly valuable, particularly because they were collected so long ago."
Australia's Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which oversees biosecurity, has asked for a review.
"The department acknowledges the significant value as a botanical reference collection," a spokesperson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"The destruction of the specimens should not have proceeded while communication between the department and the intended recipient was ongoing."


NEW DELHI — Three years ago, Dr. Rajesh Yadav, an investigator with the India Epidemic Intelligence Service, moved to the city of Muzaffarpur, the site of one of the country’s most mysterious outbreaks. And he waited.

Every year in mid-May, as temperatures reached scorching heights, parents took children who had been healthy the night before to the hospital. The children awakened with a high-pitch cry in the early morning, many parents said.

Then the youths began having seizures and slipping into comas. In about 40 percent of cases, they died.

Every year in July, with the arrival of monsoon rains, the outbreak ended as suddenly as it began.

Beginning in 1995, investigations variously ascribed the phenomenon to heat stroke; to infections carried by rats, bats or sand flies; or to pesticides used in the region’s ubiquitous lychee orchards. But there were few signposts for investigators.

Instead of occurring in clusters, the illness typically struck only one child in a village, often leaving even siblings unaffected.

A joint investigation by India’s National Center for Disease Control and the India office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, published in the British medical journal The Lancet Global Health on Tuesday, has identified a surprising culprit: the lychee fruit itself, when eaten on an empty stomach by malnourished children.

In 2015, as a result of the investigation, health officials began urging parents in the area to be sure to feed young children an evening meal and to limit their consumption of lychees (sometimes spelled litchi). In two seasons, the number of reported cases per year dropped to less than 50 from hundreds.

“It was an unexplained illness for so many years,” said Padmini Srikantiah, a senior epidemiologist with the C.D.C. and the senior author of the paper. “This is kind of emblematic of why we collaborate, to build this kind of systematic approach.”

The Lancet article walks through a two-year medical detective story, as epidemiologists like Dr. Yadav closely examined the lives of hundreds of afflicted children, trying to understand everything they had eaten, drunk and breathed.

“It was a very intense situation, because we witnessed children dying in front of our eyes every day, as soon as they arrived at the hospital,” said Dr. Yadav, who now works with the C.D.C. in Atlanta. Especially difficult were the detailed interviews of parents, many of whom had carried a convulsing or comatose child for hours to get to the hospital.

“They were in a kind of panic,” he said. “Their children were dying, and it was an unknown thing.”

The first clue: There was no evidence the children had infections.

For 20 years, clinicians were unable to determine if the disease, which led to acute brain swelling known as encephalopathy, was caused by an infection — the immediate assumption in many outbreaks here.

Sorting through lychees in India. The fruit has been blamed for causing sickness in children. Credit Jaipal Singh/European Pressphoto Agency
Investigators pored over records from the previous year’s outbreak and were struck by the fact that many of the sick children did not have a fever. Analysis of spinal fluid samples overwhelmingly showed that the affected children did not have elevated counts of white blood cells, a sign the body is fighting infection.

The second clue: Most of the victims had very low blood sugar levels.

Having collected biological samples from more than 300 children, the researchers were able to scan a large number of markers — including some they hadn’t suspected.

Glucose had never been a particular concern for investigators. But some of the affected children had strikingly low levels, and those with low blood glucose were twice as likely to die, Dr. Srikantiah said.

“It seemed to be a little signal,” she continued. “One of the things we heard multiple times from the children’s mothers was that they didn’t really eat dinner properly.”

The third clue: Outbreaks had been associated with the ackee fruit, which is in the same family as the lychee.

It was in the fall of 2013, during a conference call with colleagues in Atlanta, that someone mentioned “Jamaican vomiting sickness,” an outbreak in the West Indies that for many decades caused brain swelling, convulsions and altered mental states in children.

The outbreak turned out to be tied to hypoglycin, a toxin found in the ackee fruit that inhibits the body’s ability to synthesize glucose, leading to acute hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose levels. “It had been going on for a decade, if not a century, before people really figured out what it was,” Dr. Srikantiah said. “Now, the grandmothers and the mothers teach their kids, ‘Don’t eat the unripe ackee fruit.’ ”

By late 2014, laboratory tests confirmed that lychees also contain high levels of hypoglycin, as well as a similar toxin known as methylenecyclopropyl glycine, or MCPG.

This was an answer hiding in plain sight. The Muzaffarpur area produces about 70 percent of India’s lychee harvest, and around the affected villages, “you really couldn’t go 100 meters without bumping into a lychee orchard,” Dr. Srikantiah said, referring to a distance of 330 feet.

Though orchards were typically guarded by caretakers, children often ate lychees that were unripe or that had fallen to the ground. But because everyone in the region eats them, it was difficult for many to believe that, in isolated cases, it could set off a catastrophic illness.

The fourth clue: Affected children had huge metabolic imbalances.

By early 2015, C.D.C. laboratories had developed a test to measure hypoglycin in urine. They found extraordinary abnormalities in the affected children. “The folks in the genetic labs said ‘We haven’t seen anything like this,’ ” Dr. Srikantiah said. “This was clearly abnormal.”

With that established, the investigators asked participants if they would be comfortable issuing recommendations based on their findings: that young children in the affected areas be encouraged to always eat an evening meal, and that consumption of lychees should be limited.

Everyone agreed. And it was done.

Tropical Fruit Online Library / The Incredible POMEGRANATE
« on: January 14, 2017, 02:59:45 PM »

Richard Ashton
Barbara Baer & David Silverstein

Winter Chilling is not necessary for most pomegranates. Chill hours are the
number of hours in the winter below 45 degrees (F). Some nurseries list 100-150
hours for chill hours for pomegranates but most pomegranates do not need any
chill hours. Some of the more cold-hardy varieties are an exception and do need a
little winter chilling for good fruit production. Many pomegranates are grown in
semi-tropical areas that get no temperatures below freezing in the wintertime; such
as the west central part of India where there are large plantations of pomegranates.
There are also several varieties that do not loose their leaves in the wintertime and
are considered evergreens. But these varieties cannot be grown in areas that have
any significant freezing weather. As to high temperatures, there are no areas in the
continental United States that are too hot for pomegranates. Pomegranates are even
being grown in Hawaii where they are reportedly are doing well.
This does not mean that pomegranates do not need a rest period, they do if
you want good fruiting. In west central India where the temperatures are not low
enough to really make the plants go dormant, to cause dormancy the Indian
farmers in the area have two methods. First, they do not water the shrubs and let
them dry out, this forces the plants into a type of natural drought protection causing
a rest period. If they have any rains in this period they pull the leaves off the plants
which will also cause a rest period. They have even figured out that by removing
leaves at different times of the year they can have fruit coming off year around.
The brief rest period is followed by flowering and fruit set.

Paraquat is the active ingredient in Gramoxone, a weed killer produced by Syngenta.

Paraquat, one of many pesticides that can’t be used in Europe but is sold in the United
States and elsewhere, has been linked to Parkinson’s disease in a growing body of research.


If all of us put up windbreaks, then we could grow our crops with a lot less water. The boundary plantings include food for humans, food for birds, leaf litter, wood and much more.   Birds then come and fertilize our plants. This year in this area is a bad year for mangoes.  There were rains at two major times that damaged the crops.  Our mango crop was not damaged, we do not know why, except that they are probably hardier than the commercial orchards.
And another thing- we know that plants grown by feeding of the soil taste a lot better than chemically farmed orchard fair.  Partly this is because we have selected cultivars (varieties) that have taste rather than shipping ability.  We believe there is a correlation between nutrition and taste.  We believe our method of feeding the soil means there is more nutritional value in the plants.    This is how they have evolved to receive their nutrition and given these optimal conditions they will produce optimal nutrition.    The one indicator we have found for this is the brix refractometer reading. Carrots grown with chemicals or even organic nutrients to feed the plant rate a 5 on the brix scale and plants where the soil is fed rate as high as 30.  One day science might choose to look at all this and tell us what is really happening.  Living organisms are very complicated.  Meanwhile we experience in ourselves how much more filling and nutritious this kind of food is.

Using leaves, stems, banana peels and other fresh plant materials left behind after fruits and vegetables are picked or processed, Apeel has developed a method for creating imperceptible, edible barriers that the company says can extend the life of produce like green beans and berries by as much as five times.

Edipeel can stave off anthracnose by up to 30 days longer than existing techniques for combating the fungus. “It basically sees a different molecule than it’s used to seeing and moves on,”

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Avocado Time Machine
« on: August 09, 2016, 10:16:42 AM »
It works by using steam to create pressure fluctuations that switch off the enzymes responsible for browning Avocados.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Don't cut Bee Sperm
« on: July 27, 2016, 01:09:59 PM »
A class of insecticide called neonicotinoids, which included imidacloprid, a common ingredient in Bayer Advanced Garden insecticide , cuts bee sperm by almost 40%, study shows.

The discovery provides possible explanation for increasing deaths of honeybees in recent years, according to scientists

The world’s most widely used insecticide is an inadvertent contraceptive for bees, cutting live sperm in males by almost 40%, according to research. The study also showed the neonicotinoid pesticides cut the lifespan of the drones by a third.

The scientists say the discovery provides one possible explanation for the increasing deaths of honeybees in recent years, as well as for the general decline of wild insect pollinators throughout the northern hemisphere.

Bees and other insects are vital for pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food crops but have been in significant decline, due to the loss of flower-rich habitats, disease and pests and the use of pesticides.

Neonicotinoids were banned from use on flowering crops in the EU in 2013. The UK opposed the ban and allowed a limited “emergency” lifting of the ban in 2015, but has refused further suspensions this year. There is clear scientific evidence that neonicotinoids harm bees, but there is only a little research showing the pesticides harm the overall performance of colonies.

Previous work has shown that neonicotinoids reduce the number of bumblebee queens produced and severely cuts the survival and reproduction of honeybee queens. But the new research, led by Lars Straub at the University of Bern, Switzerland and published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to test how neonicotinoids affect male bee fertility.

They exposed drones to the levels of two neonicotinoids, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, seen in fields, and found that they had on average 39% less living sperm compared with unexposed bees. “Any influence on sperm quality may have profound consequences for the fitness of the queen, as well as the entire colony,” said the researchers.

Queen bees perform mating flights soon after emerging to collect and store sperm from multiple males, which is then used for reproduction over the queen’s lifetime. The drones reach sexual maturity at 14 days, but the researchers found 32% of the exposed drones were dead by then, and therefore unable to mate, compared to 17% of the unexposed controls.

“This could have severe consequences for colony fitness, as well as reduce overall genetic variation within honeybee populations,” the scientists said.

The researchers also found that exposed drones lived for 15 days compared to 22 days for the controls. They concluded: “For the first time, we have demonstrated that frequently employed neonicotinoid insecticides can elicit important lethal and sub-lethal effects on non-target, beneficial male insects; this may have broad population-level implications.”


Peter Campbell, from Syngenta, the company that makes thiamethoxam, said the new research was interesting. However, he noted that the sperm quality of all the drones in the study was reduced, compared to earlier work. “Given the multiple mating of honeybee queens it is unclear what the consequences of a reduction in sperm quality would actually have on queen fecundity,” he said.

Christopher Connolly, at the University of Dundee and not part of the research team, said: “This study is important, as failures in honeybee queen mating is reported to be a growing problem for beekeepers.”

He added: “Although the insecticide levels used in this study are realistic, it is unclear whether both neonicotinoids are commonly consumed together at these levels.

“Therefore, it will be important to investigate the impact of the neonicotinoids separately. Importantly, this study demonstrates the complexity of the possible consequences from chronic exposure to pesticides and these are not assessed during safety testing. Therefore, this study further supports the need to adopt the precautionary principle on neonicotinoids.”

This article was amended on 27 July. It was originally published with an incorrect picture of hoverflies.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Build your house inside your greenhouse
« on: February 25, 2016, 05:00:43 PM »

The Concept House in Rotterdam, an energy-efficient wooden dwelling encased in a greenhouse, has made firm converts of its “test family.”

Tropical Fruit Discussion / When plants ( and fruit trees) go to war
« on: January 06, 2016, 04:49:20 PM »
In the fight against insects, plants have evolved an arsenal of ingenious chemical defenses.

Human composting-  if you want to really be part of your orchard, read below


The issues surrounding G.M.O.s — genetically modified organisms — have never been simple. They became more complicated last week when the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, probably causes cancer in humans. Two insecticides, malathion and diazinon, were also classified as “probable” carcinogens by the agency, a respected arm of the World Health Organization.

Mark Bittman

Roundup, made by Monsanto for both home and commercial use, is crucial in the production of genetically engineered corn and soybean crops, so it was notable that the verdict on its dangers came nearly simultaneously with an announcement by the Food and Drug Administration that new breeds of genetically engineered potato and apple are safe to eat. Which they probably are, as are the genetically engineered papayas we’ve been eating for some time. In fact, to date there’s little credible evidence that any food grown with genetic engineering techniques is dangerous to human health — unless, like much corn and soybeans, it’s turned into junk food. But, really, let’s be fair.

Fair, too, is a guess that few people are surprised that an herbicide in widespread use is probably toxic at high doses or with prolonged exposure, circumstances that may be common among farmers and farmworkers. Nor is it surprising that it took so long — Roundup has been used since the 1970s — to discover its likely carcinogenic properties. There is a sad history of us acting as guinea pigs for the novel chemicals that industry develops. For this we have all too often paid with our damaged health.

Rarely is that damage instantaneous, but it’s safe to say that novel biotechnologies broadly deployed may well have unexpected consequences. Yet unlike Europeans, Canadians, Australians and others, we don’t subscribe to the precautionary principle, which maintains that it’s better to prevent damage than repair it.

We ask not whether a given chemical might cause cancer but whether we’re certain that it does. Since it’s unethical to test the effects of new chemicals and food additives on humans, we rely on the indirect expedient of extensive and expensive animal testing. But the job of the F.D.A. should be to guarantee a reasonable expectation of protection from danger, not to wait until people become sick before taking products off the market. (You might have thought that government’s job was to make sure products were safe before they were marketed. You’d have been wrong — Rezulin or phthalates, anyone?)

Even now, when it’s clear that more research must be done to determine to what degree glyphosate may be carcinogenic, it’s not clear whose responsibility it is to conduct that research. The public health agencies of other countries? Independent researchers who just happen to be interested in the causes of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the cancer with which glyphosate is associated, according to the I.A.R.C.?
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Or — here’s an idea — how about Monsanto, which has made billions of dollars selling glyphosate and the associated seed technology. (The company produces crop seeds that are resistant to glyphosate, which can thus be freely sprayed onto fields, in theory killing all plants but the crop. This scheme isn’t working as well as it once did for weed control, because many weeds have become glyphosate-tolerant. But that’s another story.)
Continue reading the main story
Recent Comments
Mark White
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Mr. Bittman takes glysophate out of its larger context and further enhances the “guilt by association” trap that populist fear-mongering...
Jeff Cox
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I applaud Mark Bittman for telling most of the truth about G.M.O.s and Roundup. I say "most of the truth" because, despite his statement...
James J. Cook
1 minute ago

" date there’s little credible evidence that any food grown with genetic engineering techniques is dangerous to human health." Is this...

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Now that the safety of glyphosate is clearly in question, perhaps it’s time to mandate that the corporation — not the taxpaying public — bear the brunt of determining whether it should still be sold. Since the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the resources to test, let Monsanto pay for the necessary, and independent, research.

While we’re at it, let’s finally start labeling products made with genetically engineered food. Right now, the only way we can be sure to avoid them is to buy organic food. If G.M.O.s were largely beneficial to eaters, manufacturers would proudly boast of products containing them. The fact is that they have not. To date, G.M.O.s and other forms of biotech have done nothing but enrich their manufacturers and promote a system of agriculture that’s neither sustainable nor for the most part beneficial.

We don’t need better, smarter chemicals along with crops that can tolerate them; we need fewer chemicals. And it’s been adequately demonstrated that crop rotation, the use of organic fertilizers, interplanting of varieties of crops, and other ecologically informed techniques commonly grouped together under the term “agroecology” can effectively reduce the use of chemicals.

Meanwhile, how about getting glyphosate off the market until Monsanto can prove that it’s safe to use? There’s no reason to put the general population, and particularly the farming population, at risk for the sake of industry profits.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Termites are good for soil and trees...
« on: March 02, 2015, 03:28:41 PM »
The New York Times reports today

And while the public may view termites as pale, blind half-inch vermin that can genuinely eat you out of house and home, only a handful of the 3,000 or so known termite species are pests to people. Many of the rest, you can thank for the ground beneath your feet, which is where the majority of termites live and tirelessly work. The closer scientists look, the longer grows the list of subterranean tasks that termites take on.

“They’re the ultimate soil engineers,” said David Bignell, a termite expert and emeritus professor of zoology at the University of London.

By poking holes, or macropores, as they dig through the ground, termites allow rain to soak deep into the soil rather than running off or evaporating. Termites artfully mix inorganic particles of sand, stone and clay with organic bits of leaf litter, discarded exoskeletons and the occasional squirrel tail, a blending that helps the soil retain nutrients and resist erosion.

The stickiness of a termite’s feces and other bodily excretions lend structure and coherence to the soil, which also prevents erosion. Bacteria in the termite’s gut are avid nitrogen fixaters, able to extract the vital element from the air and convert it into a usable sort of fertilizer, benefiting the termite host and the vast underground economy.


NEW DELHI — An intensive investigation of a mysterious annual epidemic in northern India in which thousands of young children suffer convulsions, lapse into comas and die has concluded that a toxin found in litchi fruit may be the cause.

“We believe it’s likely to be some sort of toxin” that causes a sharp drop in blood sugar levels that then leads to seizures, said Dr. Padmini Srikantiah, one of the authors of a description of the investigation in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

Investigators are testing a variety of possible poisons as catalysts for the malady, including pesticides and heavy metals. But the region is India’s litchi center, and the epidemic occurs every year just as the fruit ripen. So a toxin found in litchi seeds has become a focus of further testing, Dr. Srikantiah, a senior epidemiologist with the American agency, said on Thursday.

The affected children begin arriving every year in mid-May, brought to overburdened hospitals in one of India’s most impoverished areas by panic-stricken mothers who generally report that their young children, healthy just hours before, awoke with a scream in the middle of the night, suffered convulsions and then became unconscious.

Although public health statistics are often unreliable in India, the mysterious illness is believed to afflict tens of thousands of people a year and kill thousands.

The first reports of the disease date to 1995, when nearly 1,000 children were sickened and 300 died in the three hospitals in Muzaffarpur in Bihar State. Smaller epidemics have followed almost every year since, and similar outbreaks have been reported in litchi-growing regions of Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Doctors work to calm the convulsions and keep the stricken children hydrated, but they then have to watch helplessly along with the anguished parents as a third of their young patients die, often within hours. Then, as suddenly as it started, the outbreak stops with the onset of the monsoon rains in July.

The newly reported investigation, led by Indian epidemiologists with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has given doctors another tool by suggesting they quickly assess the children’s blood sugar levels and provide intravenous glucose if levels are too low.

The hope is that further testing will definitively reveal whether the litchi toxin is the cause and perhaps help find an antidote. Why the sickened youths’ siblings and immediate neighbors are so rarely affected is still unknown.

Tropical Fruit Buy, Sell & Trade / Cocoa Beans aid memory
« on: October 26, 2014, 03:50:00 PM »
A new study shows that extract from cocoa beans improves some memory skills that people lose with age.

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Africa's edible indigenous crops
« on: September 25, 2014, 08:40:04 AM »
A great PDF on Africa's edible indigenous crops including Marula.'s-Indigenous-Crops.pdf

Tropical Fruit Discussion / A post hurricane go kit for the orchard
« on: March 03, 2014, 07:42:09 AM »
I am putting some supplies together to be prepared to pick up the pieces after the next big blow and was wondering if any of you with past experience have any advice.  I am trying to keep all trees under 15 feet and well pruned.

I have
1. Chainsaw
2 pick, shovel and sledge
3 tarp material
4 wood for tree stakes
5 white paint (although I read that lime and zink make a good whitewash for exposed trunks)

I was considering arbor tie for guying lines. Anyone use this stuff?

Anything I am not thinking of?

Thanks,  Dave

Tropical Fruit Discussion / Yard Tour from the TCI
« on: December 29, 2013, 04:12:39 PM »
Hello All,  Here are a few new photos from my yard in the Turks & Caicos Islands.  Many thanks to all of you who have helped me with advice, seeds and plants. Especially Ethan, Mike T, Squam, Luc and Adam.
Best, Dave

Seedling Sap, Soursop and Mulberry

Berchemia Discolor


Curry Leaf

Neem Tree and new rainwater harvesting berm



New planting area with shade structures and lots o mulch


South Yard with planted windbreak of Black Sapote and Jambolan Plum

Pom Wonderful

Black Sapote

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