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Let's see some Chop and Drop experiments side by side.

 
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I'm not .yet. convinced that chop and drop is always the best way. For an extreme example, you could imagin cutting all the leafs off a tree mid spring, yes you'll get those nutrients from those leafs in your soil faster, but at what price.. The tree dies, you don't get its hydraulic lifting, all the minerals left un mined from the stones, all the deep subsurface nutrients never brought up.... Obviously if you can't wait for the plants to naturally drop their productions, like if your going to starve, or go bankrupt if you don't produce enough that season, then chop n drop away. But maybe waiting is often more symbiotic... Mulching and composting are closely related, but seperat topics. I know they can help make chop n drop more worth while.  
 
master steward
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I'm thinking of Chop and Drop is situations where instead of pulling a weed or mowing and bagging up grass clippings, you chop them off and use the plant material to mulch your desirable plants.  They do this all the time at Wheaton labs with grass on their hugels.  They hand sickle down all the grass near a plant they like and use it to mulch that plant.  The grass mulch then slightly suppresses the next round of grass.  

For your tree example, it might be that you're chopping branches off a black locust and mulching an apple tree nearby.  The locust doesn't die but it releases nitrogen to the nearby apple as it sheds root nodules (or something sciency sounding like that).  The mulch helps the apple by giving its soil biome more material to eat and moisture retention.  

It wouldn't be that you chop branches off the apple to mulch the apple.  Except, I guess, if you're pruning it anyway.

But regardless, some experiments to show the difference would be cool to see.

Maybe four identical plants with grass around them.  Plant 1 gets no weeding and no mulch, plant 2 gets weeding via pulling and no mulch, plant 3 gets weeding via chopping and no mulch, plant 4 gets weeding via chop and drop plus the dropped mulch.
 
Josh Golden
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Thanks! Sorry I probably should have said I'm fairly well read about all of this, but your reply will help others more Im sure..  but yeah I'd like some side by side tests.. And I'm sure in the first year, maybe even two years, the natural drop would have a hard time competing with the chop n drop; being put directly on the ground.. but soon they would be dropping nearly the same amount, only the non chop n drop side.... Never.. gets.. chopped..... (Posibly needless damage) and so soon it would be producing more biomass.. But yes human concentrations of bio for like a tree as you said, is again almost another topic.. A.. sub catogory where chop n drop is much more usefull.. But as you said, biomass is usualy not rare.. So needlessly damaging plants to get it doesn't seem like it'd always pay off..
 
pollinator
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I've never heard of chop.and drop where someone chops a plant they want, only chopping plants that they wanted dead and gone. I thought the idea is chop and drop instead of chop and remove to compost elsewhere.

I think the experiment would have to be;
1) control - no weeding, no mulching

2) "standard" - weeded and top dressed with finished compost

3) "chop n drop" - weeded with weeds laid on soil.

Results would have to factor in effort to produce compost and would probably need to be run for several years
 
gardener
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I see what you're saying with the two trees can get more minerals. They're also sharing the water and minerals.

It's about soil building, creating a habitat where mycelium gets a change to go. And once mycelium which teams up with the rootsystem gets on the go, you signifaicantly increase the reach of the root system of the tree you wanted to see grow. Mycellium breaks down plant matter that roots can only extract the water from if they're lucky enough to penetrate. While shading the ground with leaves and plant litter, like in a forest. Soil critters will fill the habitat. All that while not killing the source , the nitrogen fixing tree, which will grow back to be chopped again.

Forests are great examples, they grow really big, no fertilizer needed. That's what chop and drop mimicks. But more efficient, faster.
Geoff Lawton talks a lot about it. He plants notrogenfixers on floor level, herb level, etc. Maybe there you can find your experiment, there is one you tube where he visits his first foodforest/permaculture place. He shows the soil he has build by using not very much energy.

So that's two examples.

I'd like to see a scientific test done as well, but sadly universities are more and more in the business of helping the system that creates scarcity for the many and riches for the few. Permaculturists are basicly doing the opposite, although science is at the core of permaculture.

Hope this helps and is not a waste of your and my time.

Good day.
 
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Josh,

Perhaps chop & drop is not the best in *all* situations, but it is a powerful tool at one’s disposal.  I can’t imagine removing every last green leaf of a tree to use as fertilizer, but I do grow comfrey specifically for chop & drop.  I do agree with you that chop & drop works best with some form of symbiosis.  When I planted my comfrey, I did so into fertile holes filled with bat guano—pretty excessive as it turns out.  

Today I pile on woodchips that are chipped from my own perpetual overgrown fence row. Now those wood chips are inoculated with wine cap mushrooms.  Each year I add more chips to the pile and each year I get more bountiful comfrey that then goes right onto the directly adjacent garden bed.  I have my own little chop & drop ecosystem.  

While this works great for comfrey (seemingly nothing can kill it, at least not easily) I cannot say this would work for every plant.  I suppose that chop & drop would work for many weeds, but I could not recommend it for just any plant,

Like I said, it is a tool, but often one needs the right tool for the specific job.

Eric
 
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Josh Golden wrote:I'm not .yet. convinced that chop and drop is always the best way. For an extreme example, you could imagin cutting all the leafs off a tree mid spring, yes you'll get those nutrients from those leafs in your soil faster, but at what price.. The tree dies



If the tree dies, the chop and drop isn't being done right.  The tree is cut when precipitation is higher than evaporation, at the end of a dry period.  The tree grows back, it doesn't die.  If the tree dies because it is cut, it isn't an appropriate tree for chop and drop.

This video explains the timing:

 
Eric Hanson
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I want to briefly add to what Tyler said.  It is rarely necessary to sacrifice the entire tree for a single application of chop & drop.  One could use tree trimmings in much more sustainable fashion.

Eric
 
pollinator
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No one argues that chop and drop is a way to have your cake and eat it too--i.e., to chop your tree and have it too.

Chop and drop means two things:
1. When you prune your tree, leave the prunings where they are.
2. Chop some trees to benefit the soil.

That is all.
 
pollinator
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Hey Josh, I've found that there's nothing better than doing your own trials.  If you really want to satisfy your curiosity, do the comparisons that you'd like to see.  If you do, please report back so we can all learn.
 
pollinator
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Josh Golden wrote:Thanks! Sorry I probably should have said I'm fairly well read about all of this, but your reply will help others more Im sure..  



Josh, I'm sure you didn't intend to, but your post came across as really condescending.  Such is the way of written communication sometimes.  Body language, tone, inflection are missing, so miscommunications happen easily.  I just wanted you to be aware.

I'm not sure what you read, but I've never heard of anyone recommending anything like your example of cutting all the leaves off a tree to put back around the tree.

As other have mentioned, chop and drop is normally planting something that is to be used specifically for chopping and dropping.  I use comfrey, burdock, grass, weeds, nitrogen fixing trees planted just for sacrificial use.  Comfrey can be cut multiple times a season for chop and drop and it doesn't hurt it at all.  Burdock too.  Native weeds continue to grow, grass continues to grow.  With all the things available to chop and drop, why would anyone cut up a valuable tree unless, as has been mentioned, you are pruning it?  Even then, measured amounts are taken, certainly not enough to harm the tree.
 
Josh Golden
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Wow didn't think anyone would respond! Thanks for pondering with me, us... Trace Oswald, yeah I didn't mean anything negetive, i was just saying sorry for not preemptively saying I knew a good amount about all this, and that I'm sure others would benefit much more than me from your post, so hopefully you don't feel like I wasted your time. All must be discussed or people will doubt...  Anyway, So there seems to be some confusion, the tree I spoke of being killed was only an -extreme- example, just to drive my point home. But looks like it had the opposite effect.  And I wasn't talking about any 'essential' cutting.. Or lawns or stuff like that... I think the best way iv found to say it is that: if one were to wait a year for the plants to drop on their own, then after that year of growth, the plant having never been damaged, will have produced a lot more and would be is less prone to infections.. And so, then, after a wait, you get more biomass in the soil.. So it would seem that after a few years of natural drop, the natural system would be able to out grow the constantly cut back system.. Another way to think about it is "having no down time, 100% of the possible growth of each plant is allowed to occur" ... And this isn't about like say grinding up a row of dead corn, that's obviously going to be way faster than waiting for it to get into the soil.. But it is about killing the corn early....
 
s. lowe
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Hey Josh, I'm still not sure exactly what your getting at. The style of chop and drop that you keep mentioning (cutting a bunch of leaves off a tree to add biomass to the soil) isn't really a technique I've heard anyone recommend or promote or claim to practice. Do you have a YouTube video or some other link to someone promoting this technique that might help me(and others) understand what you're describing?

I always thought of chop and drop as either a way to deal with weeds or another term for coppicing where you have trees/shrubs that you want to keep small and branchy so that you can harvest their young shoots as forage or mulch. The second style I always associate with low, wet areas of properties where there aren't many crops that could thrive but nutrients.might get washed down to. The chop and drop in that case is a way of cycling mineral nutrition back up hill
 
Hugo Morvan
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I do believe i know what you're trying to say now.
Do you mean it's better for the soil to let the nitrogenfixer get to the end of it's life cycle, because as a tree grows, it's growth is accelarating, and the in between action of chop and drop will hinder that acceleration and is therefore in the end a loss for the soil? If so... i like how you think, but...

That might be so in some cases. But if trees stand close together and get very big it is more troubling towards the end of the lifecycle to cut. It will take more time, to attach a rope with a ladder, get a chainsaw, etc, than keeping it smallish, cut a few branches. Especially if you don't have the luxury of free space around, felling a single tree in a food forest for instance is more trouble than keeping it short.
Another factor comes in play. The nitrogen fixing nodules on these trees roots tend to self prune when the tree is pruned releasing masses of nitrogen fixing bacteria in that soil when the nodules die off. They'll continue fixing nitrogen which will end up in the soil food web you're creating.
All that while shading out the bottom with sponge like biomass which retains the moisture levels in that soil. Meanwhile creating a habitat mushrooms thrive in, which can be incredibly helpful for the fruit trees.

Still in some cases you can argue don't do it, here it might be better to wait. There are always exceptions to rules and it's upto the critical thinking of every free soul to decide what applies where. And we love these situations, because exceptions create situations that make us think and ponder and open new ways of seeing the whole picture of nature better.

Permaculture is not perfect, it's a tool created by people to work with nature instead of against it with big machines and chemicals. It's a shame there are not the scientific experiments done by universities, but they're on board with the machine and chemical guys. Although recent scientific developments about webs of mycelia in forests and communication between trees and insects and bacteria and roots have completely caused a complete review of the view on the soil biome it hasn't caused a revolution in agri culture. But permaculture by observation was there years before, and indigenous tribes before that. The whole thing is up side down man. They should invest in experimenting with chop and drop, with their billions upon billions of research they suck out of the tax paying population, but they won't. There is no money to be made by any company teaching people to chop and drop. And please come with criticism of anything you doubt, because thinking and analysing only makes this tool stronger.
 
Josh Golden
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Yeah you mostly get it, and thanks, I like how you think to.  The Trees example is just, just, an example to make my point.. (For anyone still confused, most non essential chop n drop has a cut (damaged) plant productivity loss relation to the tree example, but obviously most chop n drops aren't as 'bad'.... Kinda sounds like that dr oath, the hypocritic oath, do no harm... Err do as little harm as possible.. Natures good at doing its thing, we are part of that nature, but sometimes, in some ways, we are not as ideal as I think we can be, I just want to make sure we think hard about all this...
 
Josh Golden
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and to be clear, many of you have brought up great points and examples of better/more essential chop n drops, thanks for posting the ideas. I hope some of you can run some tests. I'd suggest something like what's been suggested, and+ maybe like chop n drop plants around a few long living perennials/trees ect.. And otherwise identical zones where you let the chop n drop plants grow 100% of their veg and drop on there own scedual.. Try to go all native too(;
 
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My property is on the edge of an oak forest, and I'm slowly working to incorporate more varieties of species into the edge. I let some areas grow completely wild and drop their own leaves, and I chop and drop other areas. We've had a good deal of rain this year,  and all areas look lush and green. You're right, the wild areas have plenty of mulch without my involvement.

The edge follows a general cycle of blackberries > Japanese privets > oak trees. Honeysuckle has really taken over this year, too, and there's a few elder, persimmon trees, and greenbrier vines. The wild areas are tightly woven masses of greenery and prickly old canes that are left for the deer and birds.

In the chop and drop areas, I have some choice in what grows and how big they'll get. That's the only benefit that I see, but it's a huge benefit since I can get in there to harvest/forage things.
 
Josh Golden
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Cool. Staring a food forest here. In USA Michigan..
 
Josh Golden
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id like to only use mulch to suppress what I don't want to grow and boost what I do want around it..
 
Trace Oswald
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Josh Golden wrote: I hope some of you can run some tests.  



Maybe you can run some tests and let us know how they turn out?
 
Josh Golden
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Yeah I will try, it won't be very scientific for a while though..
 
Josh Golden
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Anyone find any data about it
 
Josh Golden
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Why would someone thumbs down that? Bots....
 
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