How Colorful Stripes of Wildflowers Could Reduce the Need for Pesticides

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

The UK is emerging as a global leader in the effort to reduce our dependency on pesticides. In November 2017, the nation moved to restrict a class of pesticide that’s deadly to bees, and now 15 farms across the country are testing a natural supplement to the chemicals. As The Guardian reports, colorful strips of wildflowers have been planted among crops as a way to combat pests.

The floral stripes add vibrant pops of color to the farmland, but they’re not there for show. By planting wildflowers in the fields, farmers hope to attract predatory insects like hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and ground beetles. These are exactly the type of bugs farmers want flocking to their property: They don’t eat crops and instead prey on the insects that do. With more natural predators to control pest populations, farmers may be able to reduce their use of harmful pesticides.

The wildflower strategy isn’t entirely new. Farmers already knew that planting borders of wildflowers around their fields is an effective way to lure in good insects, but this method still leaves the center of their farms vulnerable. By dispersing flowers throughout the area, they can broaden the predatory insects’ range.

The 15 farms planted with wildflowers last fall are part of a trial run put together by the Center for Ecology and Hydrology. The organization will monitor the farms for five years to see if the experiment really is a viable alternative to pesticides. In the meantime, farmers will have plenty of room to plant and harvest as usual, with the flower beds only taking up 2 percent of their land. The selected flowers include oxeye daisy, red clover, common knapweed, and wild carrot.

There's a long list of reasons for farmers to phase out chemical pesticides, from the damage they do to local wildlife to the threat they pose to our own health. As lawmakers around the world begin to crack down on them, you can expect to see more natural alternatives gain attention.

[h/t The Guardian]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

300-Foot Wide Floating Saucer of Ice Forms on a River in Maine

iStock.com/Onfokus
iStock.com/Onfokus

People are crowding the banks of Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine to see a strange natural phenomenon. As temperatures in Maine have plunged, a giant, floating ice disk has formed on the river's surface, NBC News reports—and it's gaining worldwide attention.

The ice disk appeared when a cold snap hit the Portland, Maine suburb earlier in January. It isn't unusual to see ice chunks floating down the Presumpscot River this time of year, but this floe is notable for its size (roughly 300 feet across!) and shape. From land, it looks like a near-perfect circle, prompting comparisons to flying saucers and the moon. And as of Wednesday, January 16, the disk had been slowly spinning counter-clockwise.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Julia Vainer (@vainerj) on

The uncanny sight is actually the result of a natural process. According to experts, the disk likely formed when a chunk of river ice got caught in a vortex powered by a waterfall 100 feet upstream. As the ice spun it would have bumped into the shore continuously, smoothing out its rough edges into a smooth circle.

CBS 13 reports that the giant ice pancake stopped spinning on Wednesday after getting caught on another piece of ice near the the riverbank. It continuous to attract spectators and serve as a landing pad for local ducks.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Life With Weather (@lifewithweather) on


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Kert Ülenõmm (@kertmedia) on

[h/t NBC News]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER