This aubergine grower is no eco-warrior and yet he persuaded more than 400 of his fellow farmers to stop spraying chemicals. It’s a brilliant story. The Aki region, on the southern coast of Shikoku island, is devoted to the growing of aubergines. They are grown in greenhouses and seeds sown in July will produce plants which will crop continuously from September for ten months. Pest control was never a problem until 1982 when white fly was introduced from abroad (probably by an Englishman seeking revenge for Japanese knotweed). Initially whitefly was controlled by chemical spraying but over time the spraying became less effective and crop yields suffered. Then our doughty hero heard that whitefly could be controlled by a natural predator, nesidiocoris tenuis, and he went to Holland to find out more. When he came back he persuaded 100 farmers to forego chemicals and rely on the natural predator for a year. The experiment failed- 98 out of the hundred didn’t manage to control the whitefly. It turned out that all the 98 had lost their nerve and when they saw whitefly damage couldn’t resist spraying, killing the predator in the process. But the two that kept their nerve showed spectacular results and in time this convinced the rest.
Now, out of the 500 aubergine growers in the Aki region, 415 don’t spray. Their conversion didn’t come about because of missionary zeal- it was purely because of the search for the best way to grow aubergines profitably. And they’ve made quite a few converts to Slow Food along the way.