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Research or Case Studies that demonstrates the effectiveness of permaculture techniques  RSS feed

 
Tom OHern
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We've all heard the retort, "But how will we feed our growing population if we don't use pesticides/mono-crops/mechanized agriculture/chemical fertilizers/etc?"

It works most of the time to just tell people that using polyculture/companion planting/no-till/green manures/etc will fix it. Most people will accept those answers at face value. But then there are the skeptics; The types that want proof. It is easy enough to just ignore those people since almost no amount of civil discussion will satisfy them, but they often go back out and continue to spread the idea we need pesticides and GMOs and mechanized agriculture to survive.

What I am looking to do its put together a list of Research and Case Studies that can shut down the arguments of the skeptics. Specifically, is there documentation that shows that pesticides can be eliminated through the use of permaculture techniques without reducing yields? Has it been demonstrated that green manures can provide better plant nutrition than chemical fertilizers?

What Research or Case Studies do you have bookmarked that you can use to back up the claims of permaculture?
 
Miles Flansburg
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He proved it .

http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/One_Straw_Revolution/One-Straw_Revolution.html

Also Sepp makes a pretty good case.

I know you are looking for something else. There is a large thread around here someplace that discussed the same question. Might take some digging to find it.

You have to remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of folks who make their living working for and with the folks who are big ag. They will not be convinced because they will loose their jobs and income if big ag goes away. I do not think you will change their minds with studies and proof. You will only change their minds when they see that they will be able to make a living through permaculture.
 
R Scott
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Miles Flansburg wrote: You will only change their minds when they see that they will be able to make a living through permaculture.


This^^^ It is the consumerism debt slavery cycle raised an order of magnitude. Farmer are in debt and see no way out, floating a 6, 7, or even 8 digit operating loan just to get from planting to harvest. Even the ones that know they need to do something different are scared and can't see how to get there without going broke first.

Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard made it, but they lived well below the poverty level for a long time to do it. Shepard's motivation was to find the answer for getting from A to B without starving--but he didn't start exactly at A.

The stupid high cost of diesel and chemical fertilizer is making many come around to cover crops and no-till, some even doing an ag-scale version of Fukuoka with clover under corn or wheat. A few are alley-cropping, but more are tearing out the trees to through-plant corn and beans because they are so expensive now. When your machines are running 60 feet wide across the field, you can plant a LOT more ground if you don't have to stop to turn around.
 
Adam Klaus
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It's been said a hundred times in as many different topics here, but 'research' means University tested. Universities are funded by the biggest corporations in the world. So 'research' focuses on the things that the corporations would like to see validated. Guess where this leaves topics like permaculture, biodynamics, etc? They only get researched to 'prove' their inferiority. Go figure. Money rules the world, and money runs our university research programs.

If you want humble, 'anecdotal' research, lots of people have done that silly stuff. Like Fukuoka, like Pfeifer, like Solomon. But that stuff won't count when you go to the university. Academia defines their own universe; and if they dont bless your data, it doesnt count.

See how this works? The doubters and the haters always can say we have no proof that our systems work. We can point to our fields and our farms, and they say it needs quantification. It goes round and round, but nothing counts as scientific knowledge without the indirect blessing of the corporate boss.

Find your own truth. Believe it.
 
Tom OHern
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Unfortunately, This doesn't prove it. It is a good hypothesis, but to prove something it must be repeatable. And, as far as I have been able to find, those who have follow Fukuoka's techniques have not had his successes.

There is a large thread around here someplace that discussed the same question. Might take some digging to find it.


I've been digging around all morning and I can't find anything. Any help would be appreciated.

You have to remember that there are hundreds if not thousands of folks who make their living working for and with the folks who are big ag. They will not be convinced because they will loose their jobs and income if big ag goes away. I do not think you will change their minds with studies and proof. You will only change their minds when they see that they will be able to make a living through permaculture.


Those are the case studies I am looking for. Who is doing this? Can we show that people are making more money per acre using permaculture than those suing conventional ag? Can we show that yields are higher? Please point me to case studies that show this.
 
Tom OHern
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Adam Klaus wrote:It's been said a hundred times in as many different topics here, but 'research' means University tested. Universities are funded by the biggest corporations in the world. So 'research' focuses on the things that the corporations would like to see validated. Guess where this leaves topics like permaculture, biodynamics, etc? They only get researched to 'prove' their inferiority. Go figure. Money rules the world, and money runs our university research programs.


I think this is an excuse, and a poor one at best. I did case study research in college and I did not require massive funding to do it. A student requires no funding to go out and write their graduate thesis. So why are those being done? Or are they and we just don't know about them?

If you want humble, 'anecdotal' research, lots of people have done that silly stuff. Like Fukuoka, like Pfeifer, like Solomon. But that stuff won't count when you go to the university. Academia defines their own universe; and if they dont bless your data, it doesnt count.


Well I am not making this case in Academia. So please, point me to the case studies of Fukuoka, Pfeifer, and Solomon. In fact, I don't know who those last two are so please let me know so I can look them up. This is the info I am looking for. Even if it is non-acedemic research, I want to know about it. Are there commercial farmers out there that have made the switch to permaculture and then documented increased yields or increased profits?

See how this works? The doubters and the haters always can say we have no proof that our systems work. We can point to our fields and our farms, and they say it needs quantification. It goes round and round, but nothing counts as scientific knowledge without the indirect blessing of the corporate boss.


What fields? What farms? Where are these farmers that are doing this and I can point to? I need someone to say: "I switched to a polyculture, stopped using pesticides and I increased my yields without any extra costs." I keep hearing people around here say that this sort of thing is being done, so why don't I see it documented anywhere? Blog posts, magazine articles, etc. Some farmer, somewhere, has a spreadsheet where they show their results with conventional agriculture and their after results when they switched to permaculture. Where are those?
 
Adam Klaus
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This poor dead horse of I need research! I need numbers! How many re-hashes of this same poor topic?

A big point here is that petroluem, and all its derivitaves are massively subsidized. So no, as long as the playing field is so grossly slanted, we cannot expect that somebody retires the tractor and uses draft horses as a means of increasing production. The playing field is crooked. If money is the metric, and when you talk about yields that is money, then conventional farming has a leveraged advantage. You cant buy compost that is not subsidized in a competitive way as compared to ammonuim nitrate that is subsidized.

Steve Solomon, the author I referenced, makes the case that nutrient is the number that matters, not yield. He is also prety thorough in his explaination of how agribusiness doesnt play that game. The book is called "The Intelligent Gardiner".

Ehrenfried Pfeifer, the father of American Biodynamics, was a scientist, and documents a lot of his work in a book called "Soil Fertility". Again, his interest is quality over quantity, which seems like a different metric than you are looking for. But his book is required reading for someone with your questions.

Students may need no funding to do their research, but they sure need a professors support to get a degree for it. Think professors dont nix certain research projects that dont concur with their biases? For sure. You get to research within the framework of what your department and professor deem acceptable. That is the beauty of academic censorship. Sure you can research whatever you like as a student, but if you want your degree, you gotta pass the gatekeeper. It's worked brilliantly for decades.

Where are you making this case, if not in academia? Do you farm? You went to college, we know that much. Tip your hand, mate. What do you want from this? Want to convince the world that permaculture is the way, then be the change you envision. Doing is way more valid than proving. Truth.

I am gonna give you a big carrot. "I swiched to polyculture, and increased my yields without any extra costs". Ha! See what I did there? Its true, my pasture based dairy operation is a living example of this. I raise more pounds of bovine on my farm than previously, through shifts in managements. Did I keep numbers to prove this point to the doubters and the haters, NO. I run a farm, not a research institute. But truth is truth, and I can be living proof of the above quote. Proudly. There's a case study for you, just probably not adequate for your needs.

I am pretty sure this forum is for people to share their experience with others. Thats what we do. Being an amateur skeptic isnt so much the game here. Feel free to share your experience too!

Good luck man! Good luck...
 
John Polk
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A student requires no funding to go out and write their graduate thesis. So why are those being done?


The dozens I worked with needed no money because they were doing their field work with a professor who did have a government grant. Without that grant, none of them would have been there.

We dealt with one professor who was highly sought after by several universities. Not because he was a brilliant scientist, but because he knew how to write grant proposals that would get funded. He had teams of undergrads working in camps all over the globe. Meanwhile, the university sat back and collected the checks, dishing out only a fraction of it for expenses.

Academic science isn't the rosiest picture, but it sure beats the corporate side of the equation.
The academic side is seeking knowledge, while the other is seeking profits.

 
Craig Dobbson
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There are a lot of ideas that haven't been given their time in the sun yet. Permaculture is one of those things. It's hard for anyone to wrap their head around it all so they break it up into pieces that are digestible. That's why we are all here on permies right? Unfortunately when you break "Permaculture" into it's "constituent parts" it doesn't work as well and it becomes difficult to test. The great names mentioned above have had time and energy to develop these intricate designs that are ONE OF A KIND. You couldn't recreate their projects if you wanted to. Even if you started with the exact same land, the weather patterns and pure chance will dictate that the results would be different. They stand alone. That is not to say that permaculture isn't testable, it's just that it's Way More complex than we can reasonably test at this point in time.

In the scientific "study" world you have to control for all factors and only change one variable so that you can see how that one variable effects the outcome. Consider the number of interactions and variables that we develop through permaculture designs and then try to isolate one factor and compare it to conventional agriculture. It's near impossible because by eliminating all the other factors that make Permaculture awesome, you destroy your chances of having good results.

Example: You can grow better corn cheaper with permaculture.

Think of all the things that would have to change from the typical modern agricultural perspective to make that statement true. No GMO, chemical sprays, mono-cropping, large scale industrial machines, fuels, fertilizers irrigation.... the list goes on. You'd also have to introduce cover cropping, natural soil building, companion planting, non GMO seed... that list goes on and on too. It's virtually impossible to do a "controlled study" when the two things you're comparing work on fundamentally different principals.

Modern Ag works because money and petroleum make it possible. Our whole world is built on that right now. When those two things are in limited supply(more limited than they are now), permaculture has a better chance of getting a foot hold.

Just for thought: How many people are learning permaculture because they have have an overwhelming amount of money and/or energy? For me, and I suspect many others here, a lack of money and or energy(fuel) are what got you turned onto permaculture in the first place. So permaculture and modern Ag are coming at the issue from totally different places right now.
It would be great to have a ton of raw data on this but it's just not quantifiable at this point.
We'll get there. But until then, let's not blame "science" for the current problem. Science works. After all, science put the "computer" at your fingertips and made this conversation possible. Don't blame it for the things it cannot control for.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Someone mentioned "the stupid high cost of diesel and chemical fertilizers".

I agree with Adam, that these things are too cheap. Plenty of good case studies have already been provided. YouTube grows new ones every day, so I won't add to the list today.
 
R Scott
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Someone mentioned "the stupid high cost of diesel and chemical fertilizers".

I agree with Adam, that these things are too cheap.


I was referring to how fast they grew as a percentage of input costs to a farmer.

I am not going to debate the price of energy. Actually I can't debate the price of anything as our whole system of money is so screwed up.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Well, I certainly wouldn't want to steer us down that slippery slope. I agree that those input costs take a big chunk out of chemical farmers. I'd be glad to see them spend an even larger slice until any hope of turning a profit is dashed.
 
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