To weed or not to weed: Shakespeare as Ag Communicator



An Ag Communication specialist recently read through the Bard’s plays and found several quotes about the importance of controlling weeds.

“I suppose Shakespeare wasn’t an agronomist in the proper sense so much as he had an acute, affectionate love of nature along with the transcendent genius to contemplate and express his sublime sentiments. It wasn’t that he surveyed or discovered things in the world that no one else could see externally, but everywhere in nature he found metaphors for the human condition.

The Bard was so comprehensive and universally appealing that multitudes of professions have “claimed” him as their own practitioner: Why can’t we agricultural communicators claim him as our own as well?

Without further ado, here are just a few quotes I plucked out of the Bard’s works pertaining in some manner to the foulness of weeds or other pests.

I would go root away
The noisome weeds, which without profit suck
The soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.

The whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,
Her fruit-trees all unpruned, her hedges ruin’d
Her knots disorder’d and her wholesome herbs
Swarming with caterpillars?
Richard II, act iii, sc. 4

I think the above clearly shows that Shakespeare would’ve concurred with our contention that one must control weeds if one wants to preserve moisture and nutrients for one’s crops.

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fye on it, ah fye! ‘tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
Hamlet, act I, sc. 2

Fye on you weeds! Thou art rank and gross! My fellow ag communicators have been proclaiming this for years… just like Hamlet.

I must up-fill this willow cage of ours0
With baleful weeds and precious juiced flowers.
Romeo and Juliet, act ii, sc. 3
“Baleful weeds”…now that’s ominous.

Now ‘tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden,
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.
2nd Henry VI, act iii, sc. 1

Bravo! Spray weeds early and often!”

Author: Loftis, D.
Affiliation: McCormick Co.
Title: To weed or not to weed
Source: Agri Marketing. November/December 2009. Pgs.54-55.

European Hop Production has Relied on Insecticides for 150 Years

A key pest of hops in Europe is the hop aphid, which feeds directly on the hop plant, extracting cell sap and nutrients with its sucking mouth-part. Hop aphids excrete prolific amounts of honeydew. Sooty mold grows on the honeydew and can destroy a crop’s value, as mold renders hop cones unacceptable for brewing. How do European growers cope?

“Dried female flowers (cones) of hops are used for flavoring and as a preservative of beer and related beverages. They provide bitterness and aroma. … Feeding by large numbers of aphids can debilitate hop plants and may induce premature defoliation, sometimes followed by a total loss of yield. Because of the threat posed by [hop aphids], treating hops with pesticides was already being recommended in England by the end of the 17th century and has been used regularly since about 1865.”

Authors: A. Barber, C.A.M. Campbell, H. Crane, P. Darby and R. Lilley
Affiliation: Horticultural Research International, Kent, UK
Title: Cost-benefits of reduced aphicide usage on dwarf hops susceptible and partially resistant to damson-hop aphid.
Publication: Annals of Applied Biology. 2003. 143:35-44.