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An Introduction to Land Imprinting  RSS feed

 
nathan luedtke
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One of the many dryland permaculture strategies that I have seen in books and online is Land Imprinting. I did a search on permies.com to see if anyone else was looking in to it, and only saw a few references, so I thought I'd make a home for it in this thread.

Very simply, Land Imprinting is a way to add texture to the landscape at a large scale. A tractor pulls a toothed roller, making a repeating series of divots and leaving no dirt flat. The divots collect windblown silt and seeds, and most importantly collect and infiltrate rainwater. This allows pioneer grasses to get established, reduces erosion, increases groundwater levels, and jumpstarts the process of succession and regreening.

You can also think of it as adding edge to the Air-Earth Interface:


You can maybe compare it to a mechanical version of mob grazing. In fact, Land Imprinting would be a great way to get degraded land prepared for mob grazing!

Here's a quick introduction to Imprinting from Bill Mollison's Global Gardener TV series, where he interviews the developer of the imprinting roller, Bob Dixon.


Bob Dixon is still alive and has a web site, but it seems like there hasn't been a lot of recent development or implementation of this technology. I see Imprinting as something that Steve Heckeroth and his electric tractors might be a good match for. If fact, I could visualize a fleet of GPS-enabled autonomous electric tractor drones making their way across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and other deserts (Sahara?), leaving grasslands in their wake.

Has anyone out there on Permies had any real-world experience with Imprinting? Is anyone else interested in using it? I'm a Southern California native, and I see a lot of potential for rehabilitating large-scale landscapes, restarting hydrological cycles, and healing ecologies with this method. I also see a lot of business opportunity for someone with an imprinting tractor who could purchase a huge tract of land, imprint it, then flip it or rent it to grazers.
 
nathan luedtke
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If you (like me) are hungry for more imprinting information, here are some other resources for imprinting:
  • Story on Permaculture News
  • Agroinnovations Podcast
  • 1986 Christian Science Monitor article
  • 2003 White Paper by Bob Dixon


  • Here are some images from Permaculture News:
    Before




    During



    After
     
    Ichabod Shorthouse
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    There have been quite a few posts about imprinting. I don't know how well the search function works. It is a good idea but I was also wondering about why nothing much has been happening in the field of imprinting.
     
    R Scott
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    I didn't know it by that name, but I knew the concept from growing up on a farm in the early minimum tillage days. The idea there was to leave the ground as rough as possible and the machines still work.

    I have a corner of my land that is imprinted because the previous owner didn't know how to plow. It works. But the texture is so extreme you can't even walk it without throwing an ankle,.
     
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