3 Breakthrough USDA Inventions

Some people seem to think so anyway. My right eyebrow popped up in the air when I first saw them though. They’re nested nicely in a list of other accomplishments being talked up here and there lately. Not all of them appear cause for concern though, like chardonnay flour which they claim will help you lose weight and battle cholesterol. Sounds like a high priced trend that capitalizes on a wine industry waste product, but with good possibilities.

So where’s the cause for concern? How about fertilizer made from junk tires? Just the idea is scary. I can understand the need to find something to do with the zillions of old tires piling up across the USA in growing proportions every decade since the Model A rolled off Ford’s assembly line. The trouble here is multiple in my mind.

  1. Tires don’t decompose. The rubber takes over 50 years to even begin breaking down. I doubt anyone even knows how long it takes for one to turn completely to dust. The USDA research team finds no alarm over grinding up old tires for the small amount of zinc in them and mixing it into ground soil. They also contain heavy metals: cadmium, chromium, lead, among other toxins.
  2. Tires are a petroleum by-product. Yes, they are made out of rubber, but there’s more to it than process tree goo. They are both organic and inorganic.
  3. A tire fire is highly toxic. It pollutes both the air and ground water with extremely hazardous stuff. BUT, it’s ok to grind up tires and till it into the soil?
  4. Tire dust from the thousands of cars on busy motorways, and in large, densely populated areas are known to be part of the pollution problem motor vehicles create.
  5. Someone stated that this would be great for keeping compacted soil loose. Guess so. You won’t have to amend your tire’d soil for at least 80 years. Hope you weren’t growing food in it and don’t have well water.
  6. Tires grindings will be so beneficial to the organisms in the soil food web? Probably more like detrimental to it – for a century or more.

OMGAntimicrobial vapor packaging insert loaded with chemicals to keep strawberries and blueberries from rotting on the shelf. The key to keeping those tasteless Big Food strawberries in an edible state longer. Why not just invent edible plastic? Real strawberries have no shelf life at all. Picked at ripe perfection, they’ll start developing bad spots before sun down. They don’t travel well at all, not even just a few miles. You pick ’em and do something with them immediately to preserve them – like whip up some jam, slice and refrigerate, make a pie, or get them in the freezer.

This new breakthrough isn’t likely to do anything for adding real strawberry flavor to those unreal fruits. This antimicrobial stuff called Curoxin gives me cause for concern, because:

  1. It’s made from chemicals. “Light chemicals” according to the manufacturer, do we really need more chemicals in our food?
  2. How light is light? Curoxin is used to sanitize and maintain swimming pools and treat industrial effluent. Sound yummy?
  3. What kind of chemical is this? It’s “a broad-spectrum bactericide, algaecide, and fungicide.” Hmm, how would you top that… Cool Whip or ice cream?
  4. They’re excited that this new clamshell insert will “extend the post-harvest shelf life of blueberries and strawberries by maintaining fruit firmness, reducing water loss and decay and maintaining color and overall quality.” (USDA) This will be great because, “The single-use packets could help the international fresh-produce industry save more than $1 billion annually.” (Businessweek)

Last, but not least, is this little goody…

Yard waste harvesting by cities for biomass energy. Again this sound good until you think about it. So, like if you don’t stop composting your clippings and hand ’em all over, we’re going to tax you or fine you? So what brown stuff will you have to make compost with for your soil? Maybe you’ve never lived where the power company has control over natural resources, like waterfront property on ‘their lake’. So, you pay a few million for your golf course community home on the shore in this exciting new development, and spend another $500k on your landscaping, but in a drought you can’t:

  • put your boat in the water,
  • water anything in your yard,
  • and if you do?
  • You lose your dock and all waterfront privileges.

Why? Because it’s only your water until push comes to shove. In a drought, it’s the water they need for the power plant the lake was built for. And so, they could very well only be YOUR clippings while they’re still attached to your grass, bushes, garden plants, and trees. Once they become yard waste they are needed to create power. Yes, you will still have to pay to have them hauled away. (A bit far-fetched? Perhaps. Maybe not. It took a lot of land to give those lakes a home. Word is you had no choice but to sell.)

What else did the $200 million invested in USDA research discover in 2013? Full Report

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.