start in the vineyard, organic of course. Our guide explains that the
plastic bottles hanging at irregular intervals somehow frighten the
jackals away. (Why would jackals go to a vineyard? "Just because, and
they dig up the roots and cause damage.") But once the jackals stopped
coming, rabbits multiplied and they in turn ripped the mesh netting
around the pomegranate orchard right nearby. The netting keeps out pests
that ruin the pomegranates, so the kibbutz farmers set out wooden
"access tunnels" for the rabbits, so they wouldn't damage the netting.
There's more! Strategically placed in the fields are nesting boxes to
attract barn owls, buzzards and other predatory birds, to control the
field mice and other rodents that harm the crops – buzzards during the
day, owls at night. In the date orchards, herds of donkeys act as
"mowers", keeping the ground weed-free, thus saving precious water.
Nesting boxes to attract insect-eating bats are a new experiment in pest
control in the orchards. The entire system – integrated pest management
– relies only on nature to produce harm-free results.
they use only organic compost, produced on the kibbutz by recycling.
Nothing goes to waste. The pomegranates, for example, are sent to an
outside plant to produce pomegranate juice, with its supposedly
medicinal properties. The crushed seeds, together with the skins of the
fruit, are returned to the kibbutz. There they extract pomegranate oil
from the seeds and grind the skins into a powder, both much sought after
by the cosmetic industry.
by far the most interesting nature - science juxtaposition is the
kibbutz's SIT (sterile insect technique) plant, where millions of
sterile male Mediterranean fruit flies are raised. These are then
released into the wild, and the result is a pesticide-free reduction in
the fruit fly population. (The unfertilized females cannot produce the
eggs that rot the fruit.) Israel and Jordan cooperate closely to control
the Med fruit flies, and Sde Eliyahu sells sterile males across the
border for release there too.
runaway success is the Sde Eliyahu Bio-Bee system: Swarms of bumble
bees are bred in special nesting hives. These are then placed in
hothouses, where the bees do what bees do best – cross-pollinate
vegetable flowers to produce perfect peppers, marrows, cucumbers,
tomatoes and much more. A side benefit - farmers know that poison sprays
kill not only pests, but also the bees. Thus – no pesticides!
promoted the Kibbutz's third insecticidal industry: Bio-Bee Biological
Pest Control breeds a range of predatory mites, wasps, bugs and beetles
that simply live off the pests that destroy fruit and vegetables, but
themselves live in harmony with the produce. The predators are
introduced into the hothouses or released into the fields, where
survival of the fittest is the rule, and where Mother Nature's rules
maintain the ecological balance between the species.
Beit She'an Valley area has recently adopted a new name: "Valley of the
Springs", in recognition of the dozens of natural springs in the
environs. Beit Shean itself is a historical storybook, and the Gilboa
Mountains and the valley are rife with sites to discover, explore and
enjoy. Take time off from the "usual" and explore the area. Don't be
afraid – the wasps and bees don't sting.
© Copyright Jonathan Danilowitz 2008.