Plants, pests and unknown unknowns.
"As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know."
When it comes to my knowledge of farming it's fair to say we sit squarely in the unknown unknown box. Some of the issues we've encountered building our house have shown us that - we won't get everything right, primarily because we just didn't know we had to do x, y or z. Fortunately we've had good architect/builders to keep us on track, even if there have been a few communication issues along the road.
But we expect to meet a lot more barriers along the way, most often because of unknown unknowns, and sometimes a result of known unknowns. Other times it might just be because we didn't think! :)
After planting our trees a month ago, we're kind of kicking ourselves because we didn't think, and it's really just down to a lack of experience. We have a really exciting learning curve ahead of us, and it means we have to get into the right mindset. There will be a lot of setbacks along the way, but it's how we deal with them that's important.
Ideally we'd have planted everything while we are on the farm, but I guess the excitement took over and we wanted to get started. Observation will play a really important part in what we learn, from seeing which plants grow better in different places, looking at where the rainwater flows after a storm, etc. But we planted, and our local family have been taking care of things since.
One of the habits we are trying to break is the use of pesticides, but what we didn't plan sufficiently for was an having alternative. We've let nature run its course, and that inevitably has meant we provided a good feeding ground for a few leaf loving insects.
The main culprit appears to the leaf eating weevil, and by the looks of it they've been well fed on The One Tree Farm. For all the trees we planted, they seem to have mainly focused on the mahogany, rosewood and terminalia ivorensis - not sure what the English name is, but it's Hu Grajong หูกระจง, in Thai. These were long term plantings for us but we only bought very young samplings, largely as an experiment. So lesson learned, I guess.
As well as leaf eating weevil, there's a good chance scarab beetles are also responsible for the damage, but it's hard to see if we are not there. The biggest issue with the weevil is that they tend to deposit eggs under the leaves too, although they haven't left many leaves for this, but the issue of prevention becomes really important for us.
One plant that has been avoided by the pests is the Sadao, or Neem, tree. Apparently the leaves have a bitter taste, which insects don't like. Even better, we've discovered that the leaves are used to make Neem oil, yellow, bitter oil that can be used as a natural pesticide, so in the coming week all of our plants will be sprayed to see if it makes a difference. it might be too late for some trees, but hopefully if gives other a bit more protection.
"Neem seeds are ground into powder that is soaked overnight in water and sprayed onto the crop. To be effective, it must be applied repeatedly, at least every ten days. Neem does not directly kill insects on the crop. It acts as an anti-feedant, repellent, and egg-laying deterrent and thus protect the crop from damage. The insects starve and die within a few days. Neem also suppresses the hatching of pest insects from their eggs." - wikipedia
Annoyingly, I'd read about the benefits of neem trees, and even factored it's use as a natural pesticide when deciding to plant these trees. But lack of thinking/experience meant we didn't make the link to actually protecting our new trees now, when they need it most!
The conversion from unknown unknowns to known knowns begins.