Friday, May 30, 2008

Guano is back


Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again, New York Times (May 30, 2008):

[G]uano, the bird dung that was the focus of an imperialist scramble on the high seas in the 19th century, is in strong demand once again.

Guano workersSurging prices for synthetic fertilizers and organic foods are shifting attention to guano, an organic fertilizer once found in abundance on this island and more than 20 others off the coast of Peru, where an exceptionally dry climate preserves the droppings of seabirds like the guanay cormorant and the Peruvian booby.

On the same islands where thousands of convicts, army deserters and Chinese indentured servants died collecting guano a century and a half ago, teams of Quechua-speaking laborers from the highlands now scrape the dung off the hard soil and place it on barges destined for the mainland.