Feast Your Eyes: Strawberry Dust Devil Ballet Feast Your Eyes: Strawberry Dust Devil Ballet
Lifestyle

Feast Your Eyes: Strawberry Dust Devil Ballet

by Nicola Twilley

March 19, 2011

This hypnotic video shows a mini-tornado lifting the plastic sheeting off a strawberry field and swirling it in the air. It is industrial agriculture's equivalent of the plastic bag scene in American Beauty—an unexpectedly beautiful ballet of polypropylene and thermal currents.

Based on data in the USDA's 2007 Agricultural Census, roughly 55,000 acres of land is devoted to growing strawberries each year in the US, with 80 percent of the crop coming from California. And, as Eric Schlosser explains in his book Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, the majority of those strawberries begin and end their lives under plastic.

Before planting, and entire strawberry field is sealed with plastic sheeting and injected with methyl bromide*, a chemical brew that kills harmful microbes and nematodes. Then the sheeting is removed and workers install drip irrigation hoses in the beds, cover the beds with new, clear plastic, and insert the plants through the plastic by hand. This plastic helps retain heat, keeps the soil moist, and prevents erosion. At the end of the harvest, workers rip the plants from the ground and throw them away, along with the plastic and the drip irrigation hoses.

That's a lot of plastic.

Found via BoingBoing.

* Note: In an international treaty, the United States agreed to phase out the use of methyl bromide, a chemical known to deplete the ozone layer, by 2005. US farmers continued to use it long past that date due to a loophole in the treaty that granted exceptions until a "suitable substitute" can be found. At the end of last year, after a long battle, California finally permitted the use of methyl iodide as a replacement—a neurotoxin that many argue is as bad as the chemical it is replacing.

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Feast Your Eyes: Strawberry Dust Devil Ballet