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Tree Crops by J. Russell Smith  RSS feed

 
Michael Cox
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Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture
First Published 1929, available free to download as it is out of copyright.
Tree Crops download page - various formats

First of all, I'm writing this without having read the complete text yet, I intend to add more info later.

The book is divided as follows:

Part One: The Philosophy
Part Two: Some facts about some crop trees
Part Three: Economics, Farm Applications and National Implications


The author, writing as he was early last century, was not a permaculturist as we would recognise today, but was a pragmatic observer of agricultural lands who had recognised the degradation to soils caused by the plow, especially on sloping lands. His thesis is that we could stabilise soils and improve yields by identifying, cultivating and exploiting some of the most prolifically cropping trees. Early on he discusses the demand for tree crops and acknowledges that human consumption is always going to be limited - with the best will in the world planting 1000 acres of pecans will totally saturate demand.

Instead he is advocating tree crops primarily as fodder for livestock to supplement grazing. This would probably be recognised today as silvopasture, but with an emphasis on fruit and nut yields either to be gathered and stored as fee or for livestock to collect themselves. Tree crops have many advantages over annuals, especially when livestock harvest for themselves.

Greater drought resistance
reliable yields year to year
season extenders - cropping at times when grasses or other forage are in decline
nitrogen fixing (eg honeylocust)
No-till farming so soil is preserved and perhaps enhanced
Improves yield from steep, marginal or rocky land.

At the end of Part One he is essentially trying to raise the profile of his cause and push for funding to found long term research institutes around the USA to develop and commercialize tree crops as has been done for annuals.
 
Michael Cox
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Part Two

This is essentially whistlestop tour through some of the different tree crops that might be worth of development and breeding, alongside widespread dissemination. I suspect that the author would be disappointed with the pace of development of these crops, but unsurprised. That said progress has been made and I hope to condense some of the details for each tree crop and the current state of development and cultivation in a series of threads linked from here.

One of the key points he makes is that, unlike annual crops, trees are propagated vegetatively. That is, a single exceptionally yielding tree that is properly identified might be all that is needed to take the development of these trees as commercial crops far beyond their wild counterparts. A key demand he makes of us is vigilance. If a tree on your land is exceptional, particularly sweet honeylocust, heavy pods, drought resistant etc... then sharing your material and information could be vital. The trees we need probably already exist in the wild if we can but notice them!

The will focus primarily on their cultivation as fodder crops to supplement pasture, rather than for human cultivation, as the author intended. I will link to the threads as they go up.

  • The Keawe or Hawaiian Algaroba
  • The carob
  • The honeylocust
  • The Mesquites
  • The Mulberry
  • The Persimmon
  • The Chestnut
  • Oak as Forage
  • Oak as human food
  • Persian Walnut
  • Black Walnut
  • The other Walnuts
  • The Pecan
  • Other Hickories



  • Some Suggested lines of work...
  • A peak at the tropics
  •  
    Michael Cox
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    Link to Honeylocust thread included

    Michael Cox wrote:

  • The Keawe or Hawaiian Algaroba
  • The carob
  • Honeylocust
  • The Mesquites
  • The Mulberry
  • The Persimmon
  • The Chestnut
  • Oak as Forage
  • Oak as human food
  • Persian Walnut
  • Black Walnut
  • The other Walnuts
  • The Pecan
  • Other Hickories



  • Some Suggested lines of work...
  • A peak at the tropics
  •  
    Cj Sloane
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    I was a little surprised Hazelnuts weren't in there, but they are under the chapter "SOME SUGGESTED LINES OF WORK-THE UNEXPLORED REALM."

    Anyone interested in this should check out the 2 part Permaculture Voices podcast Woody Agriculture. Breeding Trees, Restoring a Piece of America’s Past and Establishing a Piece of Our Agricultural Future with Phil Rutter.

    Phil Rutter has basically explored the unexplored realm of Hazelnuts. He started a breeding program 30 years ago to basically turn hazelnuts into a commodity crops to replace corn & soy that could be harvested by machine.

    Here's a great video by Phil Rutter called Introduction to Woody Agriculture (2011 Woody Ag Short Course)
     
    Cj Sloane
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    How about starting the first week in January, like we did with the PDM? Michael, can you wait that long?

    One chapter per week with a sub-thread per chapter for questions, comments, and links.

    In the meantime, the Forward had directions on:
    HOW TO READ THIS BOOK

    This book can be read in three ways--depending on your hurry or your interest.

    First, look at the pictures and the legends and you have the essence of it.

    Second, read the first three short chapters and you have the idea. This might be followed by chapters 24 and 26 to get a similar general statement of the applications.

    Third, if you are still interested, the table of contents or the index will guide you into the main body of supporting data.
     
    Michael Cox
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    Cj Verde wrote:How about starting the first week in January, like we did with the PDM? Michael, can you wait that long?


    Well personally, I'm already 80% of the way through, having just found it a couple of days ago. I demolish books, so will crack on rather than wait, but I'd happily join in again on a second time around as and when people want it. Why wait til Jan though? 1st September is the new school year here.
     
    Cj Sloane
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    I've read the whole thing at least twice. It's true that September is the start of the school year, and for me the start of the Jewish new year, it's also a very busy time of year for anything farm related: harvesting and storing crops & animals.

    You can start any time you like, I just think there will be more participation when it's cold and gloomy and less farm activities going on, more time to read in front of the wood stove. OTOH, people could start whenever they'd like and just post comments in the appropriate chapter. It'd just be an asynchronous book club!

    Starting in April, I've been bombarded with invitations to participate in Webinars & I can't figure out why they don't have them during the winter when farmers have more down time.
     
    Rick Howd
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    November 1st isn't bad around here, we only harvest late veggies for the house.
     
    Lorenzo Costa
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    thanks Micheal for having shared this book, it's one we often hear or read about and I guess it will be interesting, i'll follow this thread if we start a public reading
     
    no wonder he is so sad, he hasn't seen this tiny ad:
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