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tropics vs temperate

 
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is there any climate which is more productive and advantageous? I
 
pollinator
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Nope, just different challenges.

One of the real problems I often hear about with people trying to operate in the tropics, and even in temperate areas that don't freeze in winter, is that the soil biome is active all-year-round, meaning that organic matter is constantly being consumed. If you look at soils in tropical areas, they aren't usually very thick, with most carbon tied up in a slowly-decomposing litter layer.

This is why biochar, inoculated charcoal (just pyrolised wood, no additives other than compost), is such a big deal where the soil doesn't get a nap every winter. There's nothing for fungi or bacteria to break down in biochar, so it can readily hold the structure of the soil as unpyrolised organic matter is eaten and offgassed.

Though there is a school of thought, I believe frugavorian, that suggests that the most friendly means of sustaining human life is in a tropical food forest, wherein food grows all-year-round and storage is for variety and just in case. I don't know how true this would be, and not being a frugavore myself, I would find it tedious and boring.

-CK
 
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Your question is quite vague vin jea, could you please expand, being more specific really helps folks give you useful answers.

Productive in fruit species? vegetable species/ types? (root vegetables, vining vegetables, etc.), grains, tubers?

Tropical climates are going to have a particular set of food plants that do best in the Hot and humid climates normally found in the tropics that won't survive in northern or even temperate climates because of winter conditions.
Temperate climates are going to have their own particular set of food plants that do best but you can sometimes provide microclimate areas that allow you to expand to some of the plants that are on the edge of the temperate/tropical climate ranges.
The also allows you to sometimes manage to have plants that don't do well in heat or humidity in areas that get enough air flow (winds).

Overall, there isn't any one particular climate type that would be classified as "more productive and advantageous" without knowing exactly what is desired in the way of food or food stuffs.

Redhawk
 
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One advantage of the tropics over the temperate regions is daylength. In the tropics the daylength is always nearly the same, at least it never falls below 10 hours which is the point at which plants stop growing. Even in a greenhouse in the north once the days are shorter than 10 hours the plants stop growing.
 
Chris Kott
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Dan Allen wrote:One advantage of the tropics over the temperate regions is daylength. In the tropics the daylength is always nearly the same, at least it never falls below 10 hours which is the point at which plants stop growing. Even in a greenhouse in the north once the days are shorter than 10 hours the plants stop growing.



That's somewhat, um, inaccurate.

Plants have evolved into all sorts of niches on this planet, even those benighted places where the sun shines fewer than 10 hours in the day.

It's more accurate to say that there are a greater number of growing degree/days the closer you are to the equator, generally speaking.

-CK
 
Dan Allen
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Chris Kott wrote:

Dan Allen wrote:One advantage of the tropics over the temperate regions is daylength. In the tropics the daylength is always nearly the same, at least it never falls below 10 hours which is the point at which plants stop growing. Even in a greenhouse in the north once the days are shorter than 10 hours the plants stop growing.



That's somewhat, um, inaccurate.

Plants have evolved into all sorts of niches on this planet, even those benighted places where the sun shines fewer than 10 hours in the day.

It's more accurate to say that there are a greater number of growing degree/days the closer you are to the equator, generally speaking.

-CK




I'm referring to photoperiodism, not gdd. That is not to say that plants die, they just stop growing.  Kale for instance will not grow in a greenhouse in the short days of winter without supplemental lighting in the north, regardless of temperature. They won't die, they just won't  grow. Yes there are plants that have evolved to live in places with fewer than ten hours of day, but those places are generally under snow at that time of year and don't do any growing either way. Where I live the days are shorter than ten hours from December to February and nothing grows in my greenhouse during that time. Plenty of things alive in there, but not actively growing. But at that time in Florida I can grow anything. The shortest day there is 10.5 hours.
 
Chris Kott
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There are many plants that aren't photoperiod-specific. Such are sometimes referred to as auto-flowering.

-CK
 
Dan Allen
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Personally, if we were voting I would vote for the tropics/subtropics/warm temperate in that order, and I lived my whole life in a cold temperate place. Mainly because I love sunshine 😁.... And fresh food. I like picking fresh veggies in the winter and catching fresh fish without chopping through ice. I'm a pescatarian so I think for me the tropics would be ideal.
 
Dan Allen
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Chris Kott wrote:There are many plants that aren't photoperiod-specific. Such are sometimes referred to as auto-flowering.

-CK



Very true, however most of the plants we conventionally  grow as food are daylength sensitive. And not just in flowering schedule but growth as well. I know mum's like to grow and flower in short days. I've witnessed growth spurts and flowers outdoors in the snow.
 
Chris Kott
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I would snowbird. Summer in Ontario, winter in Jamaica or Costa Rica. Oh, and a share in a sustainable bison operation. Best of all possible worlds.

Honestly, I really like warm temperate. I like to be able to grow tomatoes outdoors in the summer. I also like the yearly mulching of leaf drop and the period of enforced rest that winter brings, and the way that occasional cold years can kill off invasive pest species.

-CK
 
Dan Allen
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Yeah there is a real beauty to a warm temperate climate. I've seen videos of snow falling on pomelos and people harvesting snow blanketed veggies in Sichuan. I think the hills of Georgia would be my second choice after Florida.
But my dream homestead would be somewhere in the central American highlands, like Selva negra, or Antigua.
 
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Feels like the question is largely irrelevant. We don’t usually get to choose our climate - we are stuck with what we have. And the frame work of permaculture thinking works in any climate type.
 
Chris Kott
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Actually, that's where most of the source material that I am familiar with comes from. There is a related variety of bushweed that is autoflowering, and it was included in several breeding projects.

I think that breeding programs that did the same, but with food production, would be of great utility, certainly in cold temperate climates, but also in situations where the photoperiod insensitivity of the plants can be used to take advantage of a much longer light cycle than otherwise possible, such as 18 hours on, with a dark period of six hours, so as to accelerate the rate of plant growth.

Also, imagine being able to take field crops bred in this way, sowing them as a cover crop and having them mature fast enough that you can harvest a grain or seed crop from them, and use the biomass as mulch.

-CK
 
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The tropics is not really one climate either.

We live in Colombia, which has high mountains (where it sort of is like spring all year round) and low lands where it can be very hot and anything in between.

There's wet tropics, which from a health point of view is a very difficult climate, or what we have in our place is wet-dry tropical, with harsh hot dry summers and cooler wet "winters"...

Then sometimes in a La Niña year it doesn't get really dry, or the other extreme, in an El Niño year when it barely rains at all.

I love living here though, because I don't miss the temperate winters with the snow and ice. And the 12 hrs daylight / darkness all year round works great with me too...

As someone said earlier, every climate has its good and bad points, and it depends how you look at those to determine what place best suits you.
 
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I also think that it is person-specific. While some people are able to be productive in a hot tropical climate, I would not. I do not work outside if it is above 70F, so right now, even in Oregon, my outside work hours are between 7-9 am. The fact that I can spend more time outside other times of year makes this time of year doable. But honestly, I really loathe heat.
 
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Agriculture originated in temperate climates, probably for a reason. A warm temperate climate (Mediterranean) is an "edge" climate between desert and cold temperate, and can often host productive plants from both of its neighbor climates. Edges are usually more productive than centers for that reason, as Bill Mollison liked to point out. Temperate climates can even grow some tropical plants in the summertime. (But of course, in Mediterranean climate, you need to worry about wildfires!)

Rene did a great job of explaining the major categories of tropical climates: high-altitude tropics (often a bit more like a temperate climate with no cold season), wet tropics and wet/dry tropics. But characteristics they all share I think are that nature is running at 110% all year round, so keeping up with growth is a challenge. The sun and the rain are amazingly powerful -- if you've ever been in a tropical rainstorm or gotten a tropical sunburn you know what I mean -- and designing to accommodate their strength and power is a big challenge. All that rain washes fertility out of the soil very easily, so perhaps surprisingly, hanging onto soil fertility is a very important focus.

Tropical climates are hugely productive but it's even more important to design well because the natural forces can easily overwhelm you. So a good design and hopefully a good team of people to deal with it all are a good idea.

Temperate climates are less of a hot potato to handle, but then you have to deal with winter. So putting work and resources into season extension (greenhouses, row covers, etc.) is a good idea.

As Redhawk said, every climate has its characteristics, and there are great permaculture ways to deal with all of them. So maybe it's more a matter of personal taste (if you're thinking of relocating), or being content and designing things well for where you are.

 
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Easiest? Somewhere south of me, we can grow from June to October. under 10 hours falls in October and March, nothing grows much then, not even weeds or the lawn. Everything has to be crammed into the summer which is cold and wet so while we do not need any irrigation we do need storage, we also need heating, it's 12th June when I am writing this and the temperature INSIDE my house is 59C this is normal through most of the summer, many people keep their heating on nearly all year.  To be honest this house is warmer in the winter than it is in the summer!
 
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