• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

What research do permies need?

 
Yona Brod
Posts: 14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm watching myself get more and more interested in research. What sort of grand-scale research needs to be done in the permaculture community?

Maybe a better question would be: How can I find the big questions people are asking right now?

 
Lee Bewicke
Posts: 7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yona Brod wrote:I'm watching myself get more and more interested in research. What sort of grand-scale research needs to be done in the permaculture community?

Maybe a better question would be: How can I find the big questions people are asking right now?


There must be millions of permutations of various plant guilds, it would be nice to see if some combinations consistantly outperform others.
Others might want to see side by side comparisons of direct seeded and transplanted trees.
Perhaps research into carbon sequstration with various systems.
Just my 2cents..
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been giving a lot of thought to the value of keeping ducks, especially in forest gardens. Does the damage they do outweigh their value as gastropod eaters? How does one factor in fencing, housing and supplementary feeding, along with egg production on the other side? Do they compete with wild birds for food? If wild birds spend less time foraging in areas where there are ducks how does this affect pests in the canopy where ducks can't reach?
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for posting that link to the thread I started, Tyler.

Other thoughts:

Biochar vs control experiments might be a good idea.

hugulkultur/buried-wood-beds vs raised beds as control.

Is vapor barrier really needed in housing?





 
Jamie Chevalier
Posts: 58
13
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
plant guilds that actually compete with weeds
carbon sequestration under various regimes
humus gain with cover crops vs mulch vs grass with pulse mowing/grazing
permaculture for Mediterranean climates (It's not how much rain you get its when you get it, and we don't get it in the growing season)
Dehesa-type systems for the American West
 
Dan Grubbs
Posts: 501
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
23
books chicken dog forest garden goat trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Similar to Roberto's comment, I'd love to see more research, heck even informal field trials, using various applications of soil inputs on no-till areas.

- raw milk vs control plot
- biochar vs control plot
- fish emulsion vs control plot
- molasses vs control plot
- compost tea vs control plot
- any combination of the above vs control plots

Measurements would be penetrometer tests, Brix tests, yield, earthworm counts

I've planned some of this on my own place for this year, but not this extensive.
 
Jamie Chevalier
Posts: 58
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd like to see those too, but how do you get the biochar into the soil enough for a side-by-side comparison when it is solid and the others are liquid? I'm not asking to be difficult but because I face this with no-till all the time, and wonder if people have stategies or data.
 
Yona Brod
Posts: 14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:http://www.permies.com/t/53073//truth-Dynamic-Accumulators-Science-needed


Thank you Tyler - that's exactly what I was looking for
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Biochar can be added in a no till system in a layer of compost dressing on top of the soil. Mulch on top of this and let the fungi further inoculate the char. Depending on how advanced your microbial population, it may not matter that the Biochar is not dug in.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There definitely needs to be more research into biochar. I admit to superstitious fear of it because it requires the burning of organic material, which I personally feel is a super bad idea and could go horribly wrong!

Also needed is more research into managed rotational grazing - is it actually beneficial?

 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:There definitely needs to be more research into biochar. I admit to superstitious fear of it because it requires the burning of organic material, which I personally feel is a super bad idea and could go horribly wrong!

Also needed is more research into managed rotational grazing - is it actually beneficial?



There has actually been research done on biochar, in terms of plant growth. The results are ambiguous. About half of the published studies show negative or no effect, and the other half may be a matter of publication bias (it's easier to get a positive result published than a negative one).

The latter problem also applies to managed rotational grazing, along with a host of other issues, but the bottom line is that if it violates basic ecological principles (everything must go somewhere, and there is no such thing as a free lunch) it's probably too good to be true.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In comment to these quotes:

Similar to Roberto's comment, I'd love to see more research, heck even informal field trials, using various applications of soil inputs on no-till areas.

- raw milk vs control plot
- biochar vs control plot
- fish emulsion vs control plot
- molasses vs control plot
- compost tea vs control plot
- any combination of the above vs control plots

Measurements would be penetrometer tests, Brix tests, yield, earthworm counts
I'd like to see those too, but how do you get the biochar into the soil enough for a side-by-side comparison when it is solid and the others are liquid? I'm not asking to be difficult but because I face this with no-till all the time, and wonder if people have stategies or data.
I posted this as a strategy:
Biochar can be added in a no till system in a layer of compost dressing on top of the soil. Mulch on top of this and let the fungi further inoculate the char. Depending on how advanced your microbial population, it may not matter that the Biochar is not dug in.
I just wanted to clarify what train of thought brought me to this conclusion.

I base most of my thinking on many ideas that have infused my brain from reading up on what the secret of the real Terra Preta might be as well as Elaine Ingham's work, and the book Teaming With Microbes, and also my studies of soils and forest ecosystem nutrient cycling.

In the Terra Preta reading that I have done, there was references to it's quality of actually growing, and many of the theories that were being studied were revolving around fungi being the driving force behind this growth property.

My thoughts that connect this to the reality of my garden and the strategy I posted on this is that when I lay down my heavy hay mulch, or any mulch at all that is ready to decompose (actually cleanly biodegradable, not petro products), I notice a fungal interface with the soil surface. From what I understand [and this may be proponents of biochar blowing smoke up my butt!] biochar is readily further inoculated by fungi.

Being biochar, the char has already been inoculated with nutrients prior to being added, and this is then boosted further by being in a layer of compost nutrients, and then a layer of mulch which interfaces a network of fungal mycelia into these layers/surfaces. Fungal growth in an advanced soil microbial system (inherent in a well tended no till system), creates a network, which then feeds the plants. The more advanced your no till system, the more likely that the nutrients are cycling in this manner effectively. If Biochar, does indeed further the microbial/fungal community, as is the dominant theory for promoting this 'product', and soil is fed nutrient (and the nutrients are often sourced by fungi) from the top down (IE: feeder roots in many trees/forest fungal mycilia heaviest in the woody duff/rotting detritus on the soil surface/interface), then I would conclude that the char does not necessarily have to be dug in, but can be added to the surface layers while continuing the process of maintaining the no till system.

It would be great to have some studies done on Biochar in many different ways. This is the way that I thought might be a strategy for incorporating biochar into soil in a no till system. Any other ideas, plots, strategies would be appreciated.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The latter problem also applies to managed rotational grazing, along with a host of other issues, but the bottom line is that if it violates basic ecological principles (everything must go somewhere, and there is no such thing as a free lunch) it's probably too good to be true.
I'm not sure I understand this collection of statements, Neil. Can you give a few details of the host of issues, and the violation of ecological principles that you are inferring to. I understand the concept that everything must go somewhere, and of their being no free lunch; I'm just not sure how to connect those dots to these other statements. Can you clarify, please? I'm definitely missing something here. Perhaps this discussion should be in a different thread that is linked from here?
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Roberto pokachinni wrote:
The latter problem also applies to managed rotational grazing, along with a host of other issues, but the bottom line is that if it violates basic ecological principles (everything must go somewhere, and there is no such thing as a free lunch) it's probably too good to be true.
I'm not sure I understand this collection of statements, Neil. Can you give a few details of the host of issues, and the violation of ecological principles that you are inferring to. I understand the concept that everything must go somewhere, and of their being no free lunch; I'm just not sure how to connect those dots to these other statements. Can you clarify, please? I'm definitely missing something here. Perhaps this discussion should be in a different thread that is linked from here?


Not necessarily, because it's an example of the kind of standards that restorative agriculture sorely needs. The thing is, a lot of ideas are simply passed around as "fact" on the basis that "someone else said so", or that one person reported good results under certain specific conditions that have not been replicated elsewhere (Allan Savory being a case in point). The problem of dynamic accumulators is another case in point, finding its way - without reliable sourcing - into otherwise good books.

Then there is the Youtube echo chamber, with people passing round unsubstantiated opinion, a few pictures and badly conducted studies as evidence. I wasted an hour and a half on this last night.

Let me start with a few basic principles. What we have is a claim that certain pasturing strategies can allow those so inclined to eat meat while drawing enough carbon from the atmosphere to offset emissions.

Let's start with some basics. You can't create or destroy any individual mineral in the soil. You can use what's there, you can move it from one place to another (and much modern agriculture has been about shifting valuable nutrients from soil to city to dumping it in the sea, which is obviously totally insane, but it's what we've been doing) or you can wait for the slow process of converting bedrock to subsoil to topsoil.

We are told that somehow or other stocking loads of animals and then removing hundreds of tonnes of nutrients in the form of those animals somehow adds to topsoil in the long term. This sounds like a free lunch, with all those hundreds of tonnes going somewhere else. Barry Commoner is probably spinning so fast you could power half of the continental US.

The actual studies that have been conducted show ambiguous results in terms of achieving specific objectives in terms of ecology. The proponents claim that this is because the rules were not being followed "properly", but as any permie with any experience will tell you what works in one area may not work just down the road with different soil and under different conditions.

They will also tell you they are mimicking the natural ecology, but what they conveniently forget is that, in the case of, for example, North America, all those millions of bison would die and rot down in situ, and not be hauled off to a slaughterhouse, eaten, shat into a toilet and dumped in the sea or an incinerator (everything must go somewhere).

If you look at Savory's original study he was attempting to restart a functioning ecology on arid land. The way he did this was using substantial supplementary feeding (everything must go, or in this case come from (which means a reduction in available nutrient there) somewhere). The added, biologically available, nutrient might be then available for kickstarting a functioning ecosystem, but that would depend on allowing or encouraging succession to forest, with the animals allowed to die and decompose in place (possibly with accelerated bacterial action also accelerating the conversion of subsoil to topsoil, and slowing the leaching rate - maybe - but these are not the same conditions found, or being desired, elsewhere.

The carbon in the soil is not coming from the animals (animals do not fix carbon) but from the plants and fungi. That's not about livestock, that's about cover cropping and the encouragement of mycorrhizals in a no-till system. Good soil will contain many tonnes of bacteria, invertebrates and fungi keeping those nutrients moving.

Now, there have been studies published in what appear to be reputable journals about improved nutritional value, but the basis for comparison is not entirely clear. Even if so, the question of soil mining still applies: we don't (yet) know the long-term effects, and I think there is reason to believe any effect is a short-term one.

What we then seem to have is a situation where some good results are being overgeneralised as an excuse to continue eating meat, while actually doing more damage while claiming to be doing good. There are two major review articles that say otherwise: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijbd/2014/163431/ and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X13001480

His claims about carbon are just, well, massively off: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/11/cows-carbon-and-the-anthropocene-commentary-on-savory-ted-video/comment-page-4/

In the case of dymanic accumulators what may be going on (maybe, because we just don't have reliable evidence) is that these plants could be more efficient at scavenging certain minerals on poor soils, making them more biologically available (just as manure does), leading to soil mining in the short term at the expense of long-term sustainability. They might also be bringing up nutrients from the E and B horizons (which would be a good thing, at least in the medium term). They might be doing nothing. The problem is that we just don't know.

Let me briefly go back to biochar. There have been a lot of studies, some of them well conducted, on biochar. The results have been ambiguous at best, and the notion of it being used as carbon capture on the kind of scale we need it at has been abandoned. It was another of these things that sounded too good to be true. The reason I wanted a citation is that a few of these studies did show promising results. That could have been down to several things, including sheer, blind luck, which does happen in some studies (medical research is full of it, because they significance mine - they look for so many possible effects that something is likely to turn out statistically significant). The thing is, there is a minority of studies, but a big enough minority to be interesting if there is no publication bias, that indicate there might be an effect under certain circumstances. In other words, you might be on to something and, if so, I want to know what, because it's the kind of thing I might be able to implement.

This is not to say there is nothing in mob stocking (although, as I say, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is) or dynamic accumulators, but we need decent-scale, properly controlled studies to find out. There have been a lot of studies on the former, without good support for its adherents' claims, but not enough on the latter. There may be something in it, and there may be something in biochar under the right conditions. You might just have the right conditions.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Neil Layton wrote:The results have been ambiguous at best, and the notion of it being used as carbon capture on the kind of scale we need it at has been abandoned.


Has it? I hope that is true.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for clarifying your reasoning on all of that, Neil. There is just SO much to understand. It was my understanding that the studies disproving Savory's model were themselves disproved. I appreciate your point of view/reasoning and will try to get to those links.
 
Starr Brainard
Posts: 39
Location: Duluth, MN
books dog urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have personally found there there is a lot of research, informal and formal, about specific strategies in permaculture circles and also beyond in agriculture generally and in academia. I personally believe permacultre as a movement needs more formal research of complete "permaculture" systems not just specific strategies, so it can move into the mainstream. (more of my thoughts here https://starrbrainard.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/a-need-for-research/ ) To try to fill this niche I have a grant to conduct research with the Unvierstiy of Alberta, Canada this growing season. This research is starting with a survey of alternative agriculture systems in Western Canada. If any of you are in my region (AB or BC) I would love to get in touch, and appreciate it greatly if you could complete this online survey and share it with people in your communities! Thank you very much. Please find the link below:

http://goo.gl/forms/xHd3xTqxQL

Thank you!
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Starr. Great that you have a grant! Congratulations. I will check out your links and get back to you. I live in Dunster B.C., about 550km to the West/Northwest of Red Deer.
 
Andrew Mateskon
Posts: 84
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Neil,

I wanted to shed some light on why people argue against at least some of your assertions. I think maybe you've forgotten where energy comes from, in these systems.

Let's start with some basics. You can't create or destroy any individual mineral in the soil. You can use what's there, you can move it from one place to another (and much modern agriculture has been about shifting valuable nutrients from soil to city to dumping it in the sea, which is obviously totally insane, but it's what we've been doing) or you can wait for the slow process of converting bedrock to subsoil to topsoil.


Plants convert chemicals in the atmosphere from air into biomass using basically unlimited solar energy. The amount of energy used by even C4 photosynthesizers is a small percentage of the amount of energy that strikes the plant. The plant takes in carbon dioxide, and uses the energy of the sun to split it into carbon, which it uses for biomass, and oxygen, which it releases. Therefore, plants are constantly taking carbon from the air and putting it into soil through their root systems, which contract or expand with the environmental conditions aboveground. In winter, the root system contracts. In summer, it expands. When the top is lopped off a plant, roots contract. As the plant grows larger up top, roots expand. The contraction process is really a sloughing or dying off process. the outer roots die off, leaving the mineral carbon in the soil. This is how topsoil is built. While root dieback and expansion is seasonal in most undisturbed systems, it is much faster in rotational grazing systems. The plant has both the quicker dieback from being eaten by the cow, and the increased capacity to regenerate from the cow leaving a more-readily-available fertilizer dose of nutrients. This positive feedback loop works, it works very well, until either the rotation becomes too fast, and the plant cannot regenerate, or the plant is too far damaged by the cow, and it regeneration is unsupported by photosynthesis. Finding that balance is difficult, and as you alluded to, is partially the reason some researchers have had difficulty evaluating the claims made by HM proponents. Why? In my opinion, it is poor experimental design. Instead of managing an experiment from a producer's perspective, and rotating when it was appropriate given the weather and forage and stocking rate, many of the earliest experiments imposed a rotation plan based on merely theoretical inputs and outputs. They should not be blamed for it! Scientific inquiry requires standardization.

"Experimental grazing research embodies a fundamental
tradeoff between a robust assessment of ecological processes
and the ability to mimic the responses associated with adaptive
management. Research protocol requires that grazing experiments
be structured in a manner that minimizes both ecological
and managerial variability to effectively test hypotheses that
enhance our understanding of critical ecological processes
operating in grazed ecosystems. These research requirements do
not allow grazing experiments to necessarily mimic management
activities targeting production or conservation goals at
the ranch enterprise (Heady 1970). Grazing treatments are
often applied on a more rigid schedule to ensure experimental
integrity and repeatability compared to commercial systems
that are adaptively managed. Jacobo and others (2006) have
partially documented the importance of adaptive management
to grazing system effectiveness in ranch-scale comparisons of
rotational and continuous grazing in the flooding pampas of
Argentina."


http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/30180000/DernerPDF/37.Briskeetal.2008REMsynthesisarticle.pdf

"Published research and experience from ranchers have indicated that the following management factors
are the keys to achieving desired goals: (1) Planned grazing and financial planning to reduce costs, improve
work efficiency and enhance profitability and environmental goals; (2) Adjusting animal numbers or having
a buffer area available so that animal numbers match forage availability in wet and dry years; (3) Grazing
grasses and forbs moderately and for short periods during the growing season to allow adequate recovery; (4)
Timing grazing to mitigate detrimental effects of defoliation at critical points in the life cycle of preferred
species inter- and intra-annually; (5) Where significant regrowth is likely, grazing the area again before the
forage has matured too much; (6) Using fire to smudge patch-grazing imprints and manage livestock
distribution; and (7) Using multiple livestock species. In all these areas, management is the key to success.
Many researchers have failed to sufficiently account for these management factors, either in their
treatment applications or in the evaluation of their results. To define the potential impact, researchers must
quantify the management strategies for best achieving whole-ranch business and ecosystem results under
different grazing management. Conducting research on ranches that have been successfully managed with
planned multi-paddock grazing for many years, together with systems-level simulation modeling, offer
complementary approaches to traditional small-paddock field research. These methods are particularly
applicable where logistics preclude field experimentation, or when assessing impact over decadal time
frames. This chapter discusses these points, suggests areas of research that may explain differences in
perception among land managers and researchers, and provides information to achieve the full potential of
planned multi-paddock grazing management."


http://circleranchtx.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/TeaguePaper.pdf


Far more accurate experimental results were obtained by tweaking the parameters, and rotating when pasture forage was reduced to various percentages of a fully regenerated state. Researchers found that around 45-60% reduction was a pretty good time to rotate, depending on expected rainfall and time to regenerate. The faster expansion and die-back of roots allowed faster topsoil building, but also deeper. Some of the grasses used in these systems reach roots down meters and meters deep, building soil carbon down deeper than any amendment to the soil will reach, and over time increasing the regeneration potential of the plant even in the absence of fertilizer from cow poop. With each regeneration, more biomass is built by the plant, and more carbon is sequestered by the system. The sun provides virtually free energy, and humans pumping 30 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere from fossil sources yearly provides a huge amount of carbon that plants can sequester.

Now, you are right to say that minerals are being moved around, and that the earth's crust is being converted slowly to subsoil, then to topsoil. I wouldn't advocate for topsoil building practices like HM on bedrock, but then again, what kind of pasture would grow on bedrock, and what kind of farmer would put his animals on the non-existent pasture? None. If we could imagine a shallow bedrock situation, with a few plants growing in subsoil above the bedrock, what would happen is that fungus uses acid to pit and dissolve bedrock, as they have been doing for hundreds of millions of years, and share those minerals with plants. Water freezing and thawing further breaks the bedrock down into small subsoil. The action of fungus is sped up by an increase in moisture, which fungus loves, as well as an increase in plant life, which fungus loves to form mineral-sugar relationships with plants, as well as an increase in biomass, which fungus loves to break down into mineral carbon as well. A rotational grazing system brings increases in all three, making minerals easier to come by for plants as fungus breaks down rock. To another of your points, many farmers have shipped in minerals from elsewhere. The best sea salt is supposedly from a Utah mine. Plants love it, and animals love it, because the trace mineral content is really high compared to the salt content. Sure, attack this practice, but in my estimation it is a small price to pay for the regenerative nature of animals properly rotational grazing land, and the sequestration benefits.

Cover cropping is a great practice, no-till is a great practice, but the fact is that the cow replaces the work of the tractor, or the work of human, in building good soil, and yields a very tasty product, as well. A cover crop system growing corn fed through a cow will never be as efficient as a pasture system because of the transportation and confinement issues of feeding corn to a cow. Finally,

". Grazers can increase forage nutrient concentrations and
aboveground plant production (Frank and McNaughton 2002). Grazers also enhance mineral availability for
soil microbial and rhizospheric processes that ultimately feed back positively to plant nutrition and
photosynthesis (Hamilton and Frank 2001), in addition to increasing nutrient cycling within patches of their
urine and excrement (Holland et al. 1992). Frank and Groffman (199 found that grazer control of carbon
and nitrogen processes was as important as landscape effects of topography, catenal position and different
soils. By increasing resource availability locally, they can also influence diminish the adverse impacts of
secondary compounds in plants (Bryant et al. 1983; Coley et al 1985). However, the positive feedbacks from
grazers on the ecosystem are contingent on suitable climatic conditions. During drought these feedbacks are
diminished (Wallace et al. 1984; Coughenour et al. 1985; Louda et al. 1990). "
 
Herman Franke
Posts: 27
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As I understand it, the mineral content of soils is determined primarily by geological forces such as rainfall amounts and history of glaciation that operate over huge spans of time.

For example, because of the low rainfall amounts, soils in arid climates will generally have plenty of minerals due to the low rate of leeching. It is soils in very rainy climates that tend to run low on minerals, not because people eat the animals (or vegetables) and flush the toilet into the river, but because rainfall (slowly, over immense periods of time) washes the soluble minerals out into the rivers/oceans.

Thus, the challenge in a humid climate is that the absolute mineral levels may be low. In arid climates the mineral content is liable to be high but it is not available for biological uses due to lack of water and biological weathering processes and whatnot.

The main point of the book "Soil Fertility and Animal Health" by Albrecht is that if you look at rainfall amounts in the US moving from East to West (ignoring the Pacific Coast), you get the highest rainfall in the East and then decreasing amounts as you move West. So the soils in the East (especially Southeast which was not glaciated) are poor due to mineral leeching. The soils in the Far West are poor due to aridity. The soils in the Midwest are just right, not too leeched and not too dried out.

(Albrecht seemed to have a Midwest superiority complex. It really gets old reading that book if you don't live there. Like, Midwest soils uber alles, ok ok, give me a break.)

The Allan Savory stuff (and Yeomans too) is not about making minerals appear in arid soils where they don't exist. It is about using animals to maintain the grass and root cover in arid climates, causing water to remain in the soil rather than evaporating, making the minerals that are already there available and useful to biological activity. Of course, a lot of gaseous elements such as carbon to do get moved from the air to the soil, where they weren't before.

Also, from Savory, Yeomans, and Albrecht, (also see Andrew's post above) it seems that the biggest factor in increasing soil fertility is roots growing and dying back, not animals decomposing or pooping/peeing (animals usually don't decompose anyway because they get eaten), nor leaf litter. In theory it is the effect of live animals on the roots that allows the water to be captured and soil to be built underground.

I would love to see Savory's and similar ideas fleshed out in good research. There do seem to be a lot of misunderstandings surrounding them.
 
Richard Gorny
pollinator
Posts: 243
Location: Poland, zone 5
44
books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would like to see a study that goes into details of chop and drop method, especially in a process of establishing food forests with mulching with support species (n-fixers, dynamic accumulators). Some say that when you chop and drop the plant prunes its roots as well, which adds fertility to the soil. Others say that nothing like that happens.
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 624
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
May not be helpful, but I noticed in idle research awhile back that at least one 'ambiguous' study of the effect of biochar didn't even use biochar...it was plain char added to commercial potting soil (I think this is a common confusion.) And in looking for some anti-HM grazing, I checked the sources, and they were very pro vegetarian in their other areas of interest.. checking for biases is often an eye-opener :) And re: vegetarians, Savory has mentioned that the cattle etc. don't need to be eaten by humans...cows can just die naturally and return to the soil, to add to the 'regeneration' goal. Just trying to widen the picture ;) The devil IS often in the details :)
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Herman Franke wrote:
Also, from Savory, Yeomans, and Albrecht, (also see Andrew's post above) it seems that the biggest factor in increasing soil fertility is roots growing and dying back, not animals decomposing or pooping/peeing (animals usually don't decompose anyway because they get eaten), nor leaf litter. In theory it is the effect of live animals on the roots that allows the water to be captured and soil to be built underground.

I would love to see Savory's and similar ideas fleshed out in good research. There do seem to be a lot of misunderstandings surrounding them.


That's what I understood the action to be in the creation of the deep prairies soils. I wonder how if available moisture/rain is an important factor as well, that is, if managed rotational grazing will not be effective in regions where low rainfall prevents large amounts of growth of grass roots. This would be a challenge to test, because you'd have to do "identical" studies in regions which are far from identical. You probably wouldn't be able to limit the study to changing just one variable (in this case, moisture). This is the reason field studies are so much more challenging than laboratory studies, it's just very difficult to control conditions.

 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1012
Location: Northern Italy
23
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think two of the biggest Elephants in the permaculture room are

1. how invisible structures influence everything we do and how to manage them effectively to benefit whatever we are doing.
2. expanding non-farm-, non-land-, non-gardening- based permaculture. We need more lawers and doctors and social workers and office workers "doing permaculture" even if they never have and never will touch soil.

my two centesimi.
William
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
William James wrote:We need more lawers and doctors and social workers and office workers "doing permaculture" even if they never have and never will touch soil.


I'm very interested in this but have not gotten much (any) response when I've tried to discuss it in other threads. Could you start another thread to expand on your ideas? Thanks!

 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have a lot to write this evening and little energy to do it, so I'm going to tackle some general comments and get on with other things.

One criticism of those who have found that Savory's claims are, at best, exaggerated, is that those conducting the research were "pro-vegetarian". The converse applies - many of Savory's believers are pro-meat ranchers looking to legitimise their activities. As I've noted elsewhere, the claims about carbon are off by orders of magnitude. The sums just don't add up. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/11/cows-carbon-and-the-anthropocene-commentary-on-savory-ted-video/ Photosynthesis is an inefficient process, even using the C4 pathway (not found in most rangeland plants anyway, which tend to use the C3 pathway). Carbon dioxide is not the main limiting factor in these habitats.

I suspect wishful thinking (or motivated reasoning), which makes me suspect the whole field (which in many ways relates to permaculture as a whole and the reason we need good research).

The points made above about soils are, broadly, accurate, but there is an important question here, which is that one needs to ask whether this is the result of permanent cover, the establishment of mycorrhizal fungi, or the cattle. The first two make sense, but I'd question the latter (you get soil establishment in forest gardens from the first two in the absence of the third). That's testable.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's another thread about the cows vs no-cows issue: http://www.permies.com/t/52468/cattle/collection-rebuttals-cowspiracy-anti-cattle

 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:That's what I understood the action to be in the creation of the deep prairies soils. I wonder how if available moisture/rain is an important factor as well, that is, if managed rotational grazing will not be effective in regions where low rainfall prevents large amounts of growth of grass roots. This would be a challenge to test, because you'd have to do "identical" studies in regions which are far from identical. You probably wouldn't be able to limit the study to changing just one variable (in this case, moisture). This is the reason field studies are so much more challenging than laboratory studies, it's just very difficult to control conditions.

I'm sure there is a cutoff point where it becomes impossible to grow deep soils via prairie/pasture without concentrating water from a wider area. The question is where that cutoff point is. I know there used to be vibrant prairies in Utah and the arid parts of Texas [and that Barley is dry-farmed in Arizona of all places] though I don't know much about the soils beneath them.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kyrt Ryder wrote: I know there used to be vibrant prairies in Utah and the arid parts of Texas [and that Barley is dry-farmed in Arizona of all places] though I don't know much about the soils beneath them.


My locale used to be prairie, but it isn't arid. Can you direct me to some information about the arid prairies? Thanks.

 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Kyrt Ryder wrote: I know there used to be vibrant prairies in Utah and the arid parts of Texas [and that Barley is dry-farmed in Arizona of all places] though I don't know much about the soils beneath them.


My locale used to be prairie, but it isn't arid. Can you direct me to some information about the arid prairies? Thanks.



This link might be a good place to start.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you! This part leapt out at me as being pertinent to this discussion:

"Soil development is slow in regions with arid and semi-arid climates. Low rates of weathering result in weakly-developed soils that closely resemble the rock from which they were derived. Nutrient turnover in dryland soils is surprisingly rapid, leading to little accumulation of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other plant nutrients (Schlesinger et al. 1990). Many species of arid and semi-arid grassland vegetation rely on symbiotic relationships with soil biota like fungi and bacteria to acquire nutrients and moisture in an environment where both are limited."

This makes me think that these arid grasslands are not analogous to the prairies, where soils do not resemble the rock from which they were derived. Prairie soils are deep and rich, not shallow and infertile. I think the significant factor is moisture, though I may be wrong. Without sufficient moisture to grow large amounts of plant material above and below ground, you can't have the root-pruning action of grazers - or - if grazers aren't a factor, then plant material dying off seasonally on its own to create soil. In either case, it seems to me, with grazers or without grazers, you need to have sufficient rainfall to grow large amounts of plant material in order to create prairie soils.

I could be missing something?


sorry for all the edits...
 
Sarah Joubert
Posts: 58
Location: Eastern Cape,South Africa
2
forest garden hugelkultur solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I must say, it's difficult to formulate a post when one is trying to create a background reference without one of those reference points becoming a bone of contention so please bear in mind that what I mention is for reference only and not a standpoint I wish to defend and certain phrases/terms are used loosely or broadly and not in the true, defined sense ie sustainable, carbon neutral etc. I am not a sciency gal and cannot get into a debate about various processes, facts and figures. I can't quote extensively on research which quite frankly boggles the mind although I admit knowledge is essential in making an informed choice. If I am getting into something that is out of my league and my comment totally irrelevant, please let me down gently and refer me to forums where I can receive and contribute on my level.
I am totally new to "permaculture" but have done "mainstream" farming across various species. Up until Dec'15 we were out of the agricultural sector as farmers but still land based working with horses. The idea was so save enough to go back to agriculture as debt free, self sustaining farmers. I came across permaculture while researching (again a very loose term for what I do!) planting techniques, animal husbandry etc etc. It is my understanding of the situation that people like Mollison, Holmgrene, Holtser, Yeomans, Lawton, Fukuoka-to name but a few of the greats and not counting the many farmers like Sallatin and innovators like Wheaton have done a large amount of practical research and these facilities exist as a testament to a system that works better than what is offered mainstream. My understanding of science is that it must be testable and repeatable and have acceptable known givens. So I understand that the various "research facilities" I mentioned all offer different givens but have been proven to work in those specific parameters. It is not a perfect system-there are humans involved- and we won't change the global opinion or methodology overnight. I think it is unreasonable to expect a world change given the diversity of culture which dictates eating habits (which ultimately drives most commercial enterprise in one shape or another) and I think it is counterproductive to engage one another in debates about which system works best. The fact that we can't accept each other's differences illustrates how hard the battle to convert the rest is going to be. Research should be done on ALL fronts- turn the problem into a solution
As a newbie, I would like to see topics that stay on topic and not have to sift through pages of people trying to prove or substantiate their take on the situation. While I appreciate the passion people have for their chosen standpoint, and there are very valid references made to research data, there are pre existing threads for those discussions and the other interesting opinions of single posters get lost in the dialogue.
Maybe I'm missing the point of the forum altogether?
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One thing that it might be important to understand is that there are trends at play that may have nothing to do with human induced climate change/landscape misuse, and that is the fact that we are living in a post glaciation cycle. I'm no climate change denier; in fact I wholly subscribe to the fact that humans are the major driving force triggering the effects that we see as climate change (particularly in it's modern catch-phrase meaning, but also pertaining to our many multi millennial old practices). What I am saying right now is that if we consider the mile thick sheets of ice that covered a large portion of the Earth's surface, and the fact that much of this ice thawed to form inland freshwater seas, and these seas-over millennia-were turned into marshlands, and these in turn were turned to prairies, and some of these were turned into deserts, that their is a drying trend in our planet that pre-existed and continues, and it was probably going to be a big deal sooner or later without our self destructive and stupid habits. It is certainly being exacerbated by many human patterns; that is clear, and history shows that land use patterns have caused such problems for millennia as well (the Sahara, and many other desert areas show many signs that they were predominantly human induced).

All of that said, In my opinion, it is not unreasonable to conclude, from observing various successes that have occurred in rehabilitating desertified environments with a number of different techniques (Including HM), that we can indeed rebuild ecosystems through proper management of animals, through better land use, and through the deliberate planting of drought tolerant pioneer species. GO PERMIES !! The choice to use one method or the other should be determined by rainfall patterns and other site specific landscape and flora indicators.

The fact that grasslands existed at one time in a place does not necessarily mean that they will exist there forever into the future without our help, particularly at this stage in the state of the planet. Climate change is something that happens all the time; and would continue to happen without humans inducing any action, but we have an opportunity, and many would say an obligation, to try as we might to reverse this drying and erosive trend that we have accelerated. We may have started this somewhat out of control acceleration of many of these desertifying processes, with our use of driving animals with fire (which got out of control), of plowing (and planting unmulched mono-cultures for millennia), of draining and altering water systems (for short term/local gain while ignoring the greater whole) of ranching (and eliminating predation while not ensuring plant recovery), of urbanization (and extracting resources towards the city from outside), of groundwater draining (rather than utilizing rainfall appropriately) and of wide-scale deforestation (as opposed to using the forest in renewable/regenerative ways). But by making better choices, we can make major reversals in these processes that will create regenerative systems in their place. We can inhabit this planet in patterns that regenerate aquifers, forests, and grasslands.

I'm really saddened by the negativity that gets generated by the US verses THEM dichotomy, and the black and white arguments, and the self righteousness that feeds into these things from our egos. We as permies can be extremely passionate about our beliefs, and I am certainly not without my own ego issues and blinders that fail to deal with all of this in a more constructive or well thought out and sensitive to others manner at times. But I would hope to think that I have learned to be much more cautious and at the same time humble with my statements , and that I try as best I can to see what it is that the other person is trying to say, and to read all that they have referred to (considering my own limited time).

Whether we are in a interglacial period, or whether the last glaciation was The Last Glaciation, or whatever is the case, and whatever else I babbled about above, the idea that one group of people is going to be able to influence the other group of people to completely reverse their dietary preferences based on quasi science, or on that based on obvious bias, is ludicrous. That science is needed so that we make better decisions, can not be over-emphasized. Permaculture depends on observable and repeatable facts. But we also desperately need to not only get past our biases for the good of clarity of mind, but also to get on with the idea that the Other is not necessarily to be demonized, and might actually have a valid place in our world.

The proponents claim that this is because the rules were not being followed "properly", but as any permie with any experience will tell you what works in one area may not work just down the road with different soil and under different conditions.
Any true practitioner of Holistic Management would not disagree with your dominant thought here, Neil; they would disagree only on the basis that you are separating HM and focusing on HM specifically as ignoring site specific management; which is not at all the case. In fact it is the opposite of the case. Their seems to be a predominant theme to what you are saying, and that is that the practitioners of Holistic Management are in some kind of conspiracy to tip the apparent observable facts of their projects to their needs of their desired outcome which is to perpetuate the raising of animals for meat. That's not how I see it, or how it works from my understanding of not only reading Savory's material, but talking with HM practitioners, and in some direct correspondence with Savory himself years ago.

Certainly cattle ranchers have a bias, and it's hard for anybody to be objective enough to get passed their bias', but Holistic Managers also have an incentive to follow the proper HM protocols (which are also permaculture protocols, but we call them ethics), and are based primarily on observation, observation, observation, and caring for the Earth first, and without that observation, and acting properly on that observation to care for the Earth, their projects are doomed to failure. This is worth stating again: Without this key principal, and sticking to the program of acting according to the observations, HM will fail. The amount that a given rangeland perennial has been grazed is one key factor that must be observed and overgrazing must be not only be eliminated, regeneration must be the focus. The ability of the perennial to regenerate to full health, and it's ability to build soil organic matter through it's die off can not be compromised. With the obvious consideration of species specific traits, the amount and distribution of rainfall is the prime indicator of how much the plant can be grazed, and it is also the prime factor that enables a plant to regenerate in the rest period. Rain is the determining factor, or the dividing factor, when waiting for the potential regeneration to take place, and thus when animals can be returned to graze. Ignoring these observations (which are extremely site specific) would lead to negative results. It takes a very motivated passionate and determined rancher to have to persistence and patience to go the full HM route (of not taking any action without following the lead of observing the plants and rainfall) in desertified terrain.

I think the significant factor is moisture, though I may be wrong. Without sufficient moisture to grow large amounts of plant material above and below ground, you can't have the root-pruning action of grazers - or - if grazers aren't a factor, then plant material dying off seasonally on its own to create soil. In either case, it seems to me, with grazers or without grazers, you need to have sufficient rainfall to grow large amounts of plant material in order to create prairie soils.
I think you are bang on here, Tyler.

In areas that are predominantly arid, that have extended droughts, et cetera, it is very likely not viable to use any form grazing management to try to rehabilitate land. Swales, and other long term and more passive water catching systems, as well as reforesting with very deep rooted trees in small oasis savanna groves, would be preferable in these circumstances, in my opinion.


There are three other points brought up by Neil Layton that I would like to consider.

1. That regardless of what a human is consuming, be it animal, vegetable, fungal, or likely, globally, a combo, food is being built out of the soil, and those food are largely being exported from the food producing areas (predominantly rural) to the place of consumption (predominantly urban), and the fact that animals are not decomposing in the fields should be balanced by the fact that those vegetables are not decomposing in those fields either. In my opinion, it's a huge issue (and the exportation of virtual water in this form is an often overlooked factor), but can not be pinned on animals alone.

2. The mineral factor as described here:
You can't create or destroy any individual mineral in the soil. You can use what's there, you can move it from one place to another (and much modern agriculture has been about shifting valuable nutrients from soil to city to dumping it in the sea, which is obviously totally insane, but it's what we've been doing) or you can wait for the slow process of converting bedrock to subsoil to topsoil.
This idea is based on the concept that minerals are somehow exhaustible from the soil system, while I can not relate to this idea. Soil (in the aggregate mineral form that Neil seems to be describing) is only lost through erosion. This is more what my own theoretical research has led me to, and confirmed by Elaine Ingham's science:
if the proper sets of organisms are present in the soil, and you are growing plants so that there is food for those organisms, nothing else is needed. The plant puts out the exudates from photosynthesis to feed those bacteria and fungi that specifically make the enzymes to solubilize the needed nutrients from the rocks, pebbles, sand, silt, clay and organic matter… There is an infinity of all plant-required nutrients in any kind of parent material. There is no parent material on the planet that lacks the nutrients needed to grow plants. Until the day you run out of rocks, sand, silt, or clay, there should be no need to apply a mineral fertilizer
The way I see it, the nutrients that are being deposited in the insanity of our waste disposal systems are predominantly derived from a depletion in the humus (or Soil Organic Matter), and not of specific irreplaceable minerals. The fact that the soil aggregate substrates are also being lost due to erosion from our poor land use practices should not be confused with properly managed systems, be they horticultural, agricultural, silvicultural, wild tending, animal husbandry or our other home and infrastructure needs as a species.

3.
Photosynthesis is an inefficient process, even using the C4 pathway (not found in most rangeland plants anyway, which tend to use the C3 pathway). Carbon dioxide is not the main limiting factor in these habitats.
Again, this concept is being used to deride Holistic Management, but can also be used to look at any agricultural or horticultural practice. Carbon is a tricky substance. Does a vegetarian diet, and veganic farming somehow produce more carbon in the soil then Holistic Cattle farming? Not necessarily. It, again depends on holistic management; in this case of plants. The fact that Soil Organic Matter produced by plants and may be accelerated with proper animal management, is exciting to me. Lets find out if it can be true, if done properly, and studied without bias.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1095
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
72
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Sarah Joubert, Welcome to Permies, and to Permaculture! I wanted to address your post, right away after I finished my own diatribe.

If I am getting into something that is out of my league and my comment totally irrelevant, please let me down gently and refer me to forums where I can receive and contribute on my level.
You are by no means out of your league, or irrelevant, and we are all on such different levels that it would be impossible for us to communicate at all if our we went to other forums which supported our 'levels'. Your comments are not at all irrelevant, and in fact I tried to direct the squabble away from debating on this thread, by suggesting this
Perhaps this discussion should be in a different thread that is linked from here?
but that was not taken up. I am personally guilty of not 'letting it go' as the debate 'raged on', and jumped back into the fray (as I tend to do, on occasion, when I can't let something go...).

When I read you saying this,
I think it is unreasonable to expect a world change given the diversity of culture which dictates eating habits (which ultimately drives most commercial enterprise in one shape or another) and I think it is counterproductive to engage one another in debates about which system works best. The fact that we can't accept each other's differences illustrates how hard the battle to convert the rest is going to be. Research should be done on ALL fronts- turn the problem into a solution
This shows me that you have a very clear understanding of what permaculture is, can be, and what it isn't and shouldn't be. Your contribution is extremely valuable, and in my opinion, should be considered so by everyone. I think that I tried to get some similar thoughts across in my last epic post. Thanks for shortening things up and making it clear for us who might appear to be on some higher level to you as a new person here.

As a newbie, I would like to see topics that stay on topic and not have to sift through pages of people trying to prove or substantiate their take on the situation. While I appreciate the passion people have for their chosen standpoint, and there are very valid references made to research data, there are pre existing threads for those discussions and the other interesting opinions of single posters get lost in the dialogue.
Maybe I'm missing the point of the forum altogether?
I sure hope you are not missing the point of this forum. The point is to share ideas, and to help others to understand the things that they want to learn about. Sometimes this gets lost in a debate over "I'm right and your wrong." and that can be very difficult to deal with, as people are naturally defensive and do not like to be called wrong, and feel that they must defend not only themselves but their ideas... sigh. It can, and does, get out of control occasionally in this forum and it is hard to stay on topic when something like this happens.

I'm glad that the OP got what she wanted from this thread.

Again, welcome Sarah, and i hope that this has not really tainted your experience of what you can find on this Site. This site is actually exceptionally well monitored and one of the moderators entered this discussion a while back to wag a finger (the moderator's post was subsequently deleted). There are a lot of great threads that do not get so far off topic. I have learned though, to skim or speed read, over such debates, and glean info that I'm looking for. I'm sorry that you have to do this on occasion in order to get at the right info too, but like you said, we permies are passionate people and some of this is just impossible to avoid. Good luck.
 
Neil Layton
pollinator
Posts: 632
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
106
bee books forest garden fungi hugelkultur solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Roberto pokachinni wrote:

The proponents claim that this is because the rules were not being followed "properly", but as any permie with any experience will tell you what works in one area may not work just down the road with different soil and under different conditions.
Any true practitioner of Holistic Management would not disagree with your dominant thought here, Neil; they would disagree only on the basis that you are separating HM and focusing on HM specifically as ignoring site specific management; which is not at all the case. In fact it is the opposite of the case. Their seems to be a predominant theme to what you are saying, and that is that the practitioners of Holistic Management are in some kind of conspiracy to tip the apparent observable facts of their projects to their needs of their desired outcome which is to perpetuate the raising of animals for meat. That's not how I see it, or how it works from my understanding of not only reading Savory's material, but talking with HM practitioners, and in some direct correspondence with Savory himself years ago.


Actually, that's exactly what I'm at least implying. When you get studies by ranchers you get one set of results. When you get studies by non-ranchers, those not involved in making money out of the process, you get a different set of results. Now, both groups may have an agenda, and both groups may be biasing their research protocols, consciously or otherwise, but something is going on with these studies that has nothing to do with the cattle.



Roberto pokachinni wrote:
I think the significant factor is moisture, though I may be wrong. Without sufficient moisture to grow large amounts of plant material above and below ground, you can't have the root-pruning action of grazers - or - if grazers aren't a factor, then plant material dying off seasonally on its own to create soil. In either case, it seems to me, with grazers or without grazers, you need to have sufficient rainfall to grow large amounts of plant material in order to create prairie soils.
I think you are bang on here, Tyler.


Allan Savory's original study involved a period of unusually high rainfall and supplementary feeding, which presumably stimulated the establishment of a soil food web. The problem is not that this protocol didn't work, but that it's being overgeneralised (to North American prairie habitats, mainly).

Roberto pokachinni wrote:In areas that are predominantly arid, that have extended droughts, et cetera, it is very likely not viable to use any form grazing management to try to rehabilitate land. Swales, and other long term and more passive water catching systems, as well as reforesting with very deep rooted trees in small oasis savanna groves, would be preferable in these circumstances, in my opinion.


I agree, broadly. You'd need drought-tolerant tress, and it would probably be more like a scrub habitat with low entropy, but yes.


Roberto pokachinni wrote:There are three other points brought up by Neil Layton that I would like to consider.

1. That regardless of what a human is consuming, be it animal, vegetable, fungal, or likely, globally, a combo, food is being built out of the soil, and those food are largely being exported from the food producing areas (predominantly rural) to the place of consumption (predominantly urban), and the fact that animals are not decomposing in the fields should be balanced by the fact that those vegetables are not decomposing in those fields either. In my opinion, it's a huge issue (and the exportation of virtual water in this form is an often overlooked factor), but can not be pinned on animals alone.


True, but I'd again point out that, at least in terms of energy, raising animals is simply an inefficient use of photosynthetic energy. We do need to be moving back towards a point where we are spreading human manure on our crop-growing areas. With plants, all you are removing, at least typically, is the bit you eat. With animals, it's the whole animal, after it's respired, belched or farted most of the carbon it ate back into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide and methane.

Roberto pokachinni wrote:2. The mineral factor as described here:
You can't create or destroy any individual mineral in the soil. You can use what's there, you can move it from one place to another (and much modern agriculture has been about shifting valuable nutrients from soil to city to dumping it in the sea, which is obviously totally insane, but it's what we've been doing) or you can wait for the slow process of converting bedrock to subsoil to topsoil.
This idea is based on the concept that minerals are somehow exhaustible from the soil system, while I can not relate to this idea. Soil (in the aggregate mineral form that Neil seems to be describing) is only lost through erosion. This is more what my own theoretical research has led me to, and confirmed by Elaine Ingham's science:
if the proper sets of organisms are present in the soil, and you are growing plants so that there is food for those organisms, nothing else is needed. The plant puts out the exudates from photosynthesis to feed those bacteria and fungi that specifically make the enzymes to solubilize the needed nutrients from the rocks, pebbles, sand, silt, clay and organic matter… There is an infinity of all plant-required nutrients in any kind of parent material. There is no parent material on the planet that lacks the nutrients needed to grow plants. Until the day you run out of rocks, sand, silt, or clay, there should be no need to apply a mineral fertilizer
The way I see it, the nutrients that are being deposited in the insanity of our waste disposal systems are predominantly derived from a depletion in the humus (or Soil Organic Matter), and not of specific irreplaceable minerals. The fact that the soil aggregate substrates are also being lost due to erosion from our poor land use practices should not be confused with properly managed systems, be they horticultural, agricultural, silvicultural, wild tending, animal husbandry or our other home and infrastructure needs as a species.


Okay, there are two separate issues here.

Soil is created in part by weathering of rock. Unless you bring in nutrients by, for example mulching or supplementary feeding, this is where all but four (hydrogen and oxygen from water; carbon and oxygen from carbon dioxide and nitrogen from nitrogen-fixing bacteria) of your soil nutrients are going to come from.

That said, yes, of course minerals are exhaustible from the soil system. If through eating plants or eating the animals that eat them you remove nutrients at a higher rate than they are added through supplementary feeding, mulching and weathering then you will eventually exhaust the nutrients in the soil. This is as much a criticism of mainstream agriculture as it is of grazing, mob or otherwise, and could even be applied to animal-free permaculture systems, but is more likely in animal-based systems simply because you are increasing the rate of entropy in the habitat.

Roberto pokachinni wrote:3.
Photosynthesis is an inefficient process, even using the C4 pathway (not found in most rangeland plants anyway, which tend to use the C3 pathway). Carbon dioxide is not the main limiting factor in these habitats.
Again, this concept is being used to deride Holistic Management, but can also be used to look at any agricultural or horticultural practice. Carbon is a tricky substance. Does a vegetarian diet, and veganic farming somehow produce more carbon in the soil then Holistic Cattle farming? Not necessarily. It, again depends on holistic management; in this case of plants. The fact that Soil Organic Matter produced by plants and may be accelerated with proper animal management, is exciting to me. Lets find out if it can be true, if done properly, and studied without bias.


Animals do not fix carbon. They take carbon from plants and emit it. The carbon going back into the soil comes from plants, not animals. Your "acceleration" is simply an increase in the rate of entropy which accelerates the rate at which nutrients are lost, so unless you can calculate rates or weathering or you give your animals supplementary feed (which solves nothing on a global scale) you are adding to the problem, not solving it.

The only way this could possibly be any different is if the bacteria or fungi in the soil were taking up more carbon, but mycorrhizal fungi exist in symbiosis with plants, so you certainly don't need those fungi which decompose animal wastes, and bacterial soils (i.e. most grassland soils) tend to store less carbon than fungal soils. When you plant a forest garden on of the things you have to do is convert the soil from a bacteria-dominated one to a fungal-dominated one. It's one of the trickiest parts of the process. It holds more water and feeds the perennial plants more effectively. This is settled ecological science. Plants, especially in cooperation with fungi, are the main soil builders. The examples of what appear to be "successful" mob grazing use no-till cover cropping. In this case it's the no-till cover cropping that's most likely building the soils, not the animals.

Everybody is biased. I'm biased. You're biased. Ranchers are particularly biased in this case because their profits depend on getting the right answer. You see the same in climate denial, GM and far too much medical research.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sarah Joubert wrote:
Maybe I'm missing the point of the forum altogether?


Maybe all this debate about grazing and soils needs to be split off into another topic?

 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!