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how is organic related to permaculture?

 
jeanne Smith
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How is organic related to permaculture? Is it a supporting concept/practice or a concurrent interest?
 
paul wheaton
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I like to think that permaculture is beyond organic. It's a form of sustainable organic horticulture.
 
                                
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organic deals with ways to grow things.
permaculture is way to plant things more of a design course.
permaculture involves organics.

Here are the definitions from my website
Organic - Means foods or crops produced without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Naturally grown foods or crops. Before World War II all farms and crops were organic. But the use of pesticides like Agent Orange found their way into the Agriculture uses on farms after the war.

Certified Organic - The same as Organic only you are certified by a certifying organization that makes sure you meet all of the USDA rules and regulations. Becoming a Certified Organic Farm means your farm and your practices on your farm meet strict regulations. It also allows you to use the words Certified Organic in your advertising. A uncertified farm is not allowed by law to use Organic or Certified Organic in their advertising under the USDA law. Because of the cost of becoming certified and the strict rules and regulations that have to be adhered to Certified Organic Foods often sell for higher prices.

Permaculture - Originally started in Australia, its a term that means much like being self sustainable and organic and green wise all in one Permaculture can best be described as a moral and ethical design system applicable to food production and land use, as well as community building. It seeks the creation of productive and sustainable ways of living by integrating ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture, and agro-forestry.

Self Sustainable -  means you or your farm are able to sustain itself without outside needs. Being able to grow your own crops and produce on your farm and sell them to make enough money to pay for themselves would help you be more self sustainable. Saving seed, having animals that create manure for fertilizer, growing enough for yourself and enough to feed your animals. These would also be ways of being self sustainable.

 
paul wheaton
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Organic crops might be grown in rows.  Permaculture crops tend to be grown with a mix of lots of things.
 
                              
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It is possible to have an organic farm that is not sustainable, they might still use lots of fuel for their equipment and use and waste lots of water from the aquifers.  They can also still use natural fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that though they are natural, can still consume resources/fuel to make and transport.  Also, just because something is natural, does not mean it isn't a poision and isn't bad to have on your food, though one would hope the organic farmers would try and avoid using the the nastier organic stuff when they can.  But my point is, since the term "organic" has become a major advertizing sell word, there are farms out there that have not really changed, the only difference now is they buy the "organic" choices of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides so they can be certified.

That is not to say that all organic has lost it's "sole" but there are many out there who follow the spirit of growing Organic even if they can't get the certification.  (FYI human Urine and Humanure are not acceptable for Certified Organic growing but many of us into this stuff like permaculture think it's great!)

So, Organic practices might well be a part of Permaculture, that does not mean that all permaculrure plantings are going to be certified Organic and just because a farm is Organic does not mean it is a permaculture farm.  Permaculture is more than just farming or gardening and I don't believe it is as definable as a particular type or model of farm.

As noted, it's kinda a way to think about and design ones surroundings to work with nature and support the survival of all involved.  It can be as small as a balcony garden in a big city or as big as a village with the surrounding forest.  Maximize yield while minimizing work while using minimal resources without depleting the natural supply, indeed while growing/improving the resources.
 
Leah Sattler
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organic is related to permaculture in that the long term feasability of non organic solutions is questionable. the negative consequences of herbicides and pesticides can jeopardize the future in many ways. 
 
Brenda Groth
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i believe they go hand in hand..i knew about organic  before i knew about permaculture..but permaculter also envelops a lot of other "garden types"...such as things like french intensive and raised bed gardening..which I also learned about before i read about permaculture.

it was like i was taking a step through the evolution of permaculture..i believe these were some of the steps that were learned by the original development of permaculture.

you realize you need to be organic..you need to be intensive and you can do better with well formed raised beds..etc..combine all the great ideas and you come up with permaculture
 
                          
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Brenda's last post is correct,but permaculture also covers water preservation, energy use/production conservation, waste reduction/recycling and basicaly earth improvement in all areas of life not just soil husbandry

organics is mainly concerned with gardening,- food, ornamental, crops, forests, and overall health of soil
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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An important thing to note is that the idea of organics is rooted in the philosophy of vitalism.

Vitalism posits that the chemistry done by living things is completely separate from the chemistry done by non-living things. This has a kernel of truth to it, but within the context of mainstream chemistry it's regarded as entirely untrue: pure ammonia made in a chemical company's high-pressure catalyst beds out of natural gas and thin air, has the same effect on plants as pure ammonia distilled from a compost heap.

Permaculture, as I understand it, tries to be agnostic on any particular philosophy, but to take a larger view of systems. With that larger perspective, we might realize better how the difference shows itself: there may be nothing essential to the ammonia that survives distillation and benefits or harms the plant based on whether it comes from an organic or inorganic process, but the systems we rely on to feed nitrogen to plants have all sorts of other consecquences: they can build humus or deplete it, and can foster economic and political systems that are strictly hierarchical or more egalitarian.
 
                                          
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Organic gardening vs. Permaculture?

The primary difference is that organic gardening is still agriculture and that means you are still depleating the land, fighting weeds, killing pests, and all sorts of other nasty anti-life business.

Permaculture is a vast science and philosophy that should, done well, build up the soil and promote life in all it's various forms while still being useful for human beings to eat or create from.

Not to say that organic gardens aren't good, especially on your property, but organic farming is still destroying the land and decreasing the vitaility of the enviorment as a whole.
 
                              
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shamanmonkey wrote:
Organic gardening vs. Permaculture?

The primary difference is that organic gardening is still agriculture and that means you are still depleating the land, fighting weeds, killing pests, and all sorts of other nasty anti-life business.


I don't know that organic gardening "has" to do that.  But you can still get organic certification by simply using the organic alternatives for all those things.

As to the organic gardening still depleting the land.  Not necessarily, many organic gardeners work hard to build the soil.  Organic gardening is only going to deplete if it is run the way much of the "traditional/chemical" farming has been run for the past half century or so.

I suppose an organic gardener who is building soil for the long term and gardening in a sustainable way, is doing some amount of permaculture and perhaps not even knowing it.  In the old days before heavy use of chemical additives, most gardeners were careful not to deplete their soils.  It is sad how much our society seems to have forgotten about growing food and working with instead of against nature.
 
paul wheaton
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An organic garden can be sustainable.  Or not.

A permaculture has to be sustainable, or it isn't (IMOO) permaculture.

Another difference, that might be a bit more obvious.  I read organic magazines, or eco ag magazines and I usually skip the articles where the picture is of somebody in an open field.  That might be organic, but it definitely isn't permaculture.  Permaculture is always loaded with trees.

 
rose macaskie
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JOel hollingsworth you posit that amonia is the same if it comes from a manure heap or a lab . The leader of organic alfred howard posits that plants don't only eat the big three nitrogen and potasium and fosforo but also organic nchemical fertilisers are none organic compounds and it seems he is right, modern scientists posit that they also take up amino acids and i have bought fertilisers that boast containing amino acid, which is to say organic nitrogen, not inorganic nitrogen. Ha, read about sir albert howard and then posit again.
    This sound  agressive but i like your scientific posts i am only eating you up on this one.
      He also said htat the uptake of food was complicated and that just applying the right chemicals does not fill all the bill the plants need the chemicals to be in soluble form and things that are made possible, in part, by other life forms in the earth that stop being there if there are no dead leaves for them to eat because you no longer need to put organica matter in the soil because you are applying chemical fertilisers and have forgotten htat organic fertilisers also increase the soils power to absorb moisture stop it from passing to rapidleley from cold to hot and such.
I can't find the articl on sir alfred howard maybe because i am not on my lap top and this is set to find things in Spanish. agri rose macaskie.
   
 
rose macaskie
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Shamana monkey says that organics depletes the soil, sir alfred howard its founder, put foward the theory of return that is not its right name maybe it is, he postulated that we have to put everything we take out back, compost, humanure, principly humanure. So i don't think you can come on very hard about organics depleting the soil. agri rose macaskie.
 
                              
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Using humanure or even just urine might well work along the lines of being a good permaculture practice but I don't believe human manure or urine is allowable in certified organic practices.
 
rose macaskie
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we'll have to ask th eorganics certifiers but tha was the law of their founder of organics ideology, the law of return ,everything has to get returned and obviously as we are the major consumers, humanure is a big part of the everything we take off the land.
  My brother who buys shares in things says you can buy shares in humanure and the farmers do humanure spread and that the ordinary farmers but i suppose they keep pretty quiet about it. I suppose that it has been properly processed, he was talking aobut england, his comment  might not apply to America.
      I don't like the idea myself still i quiet enjoy the subject . the earth i buy at the one dollar store smells a bit like pig manure which makes one suspect as the two smells are meant to be similar it is however sold as earth. Just think i end up cooking it to kill mites or i did once or twice till my childern put a stop to that. plants lead you to break a lot of taboos. agri rose macaskie.
 
                    
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Agreed with what everyone else has said, pretty much.  Yeah, you can't be certified and use human waste in your fertilizer.  Many people in the states are totally freaked out by the possibility of human waste being used to grow their food.  And I'm frustrated about the paranoia of using humanure in organic agriculture.  Do people really think that possibly pathogenic microbes that enjoy living in our salty warm intestines are going to survive out in the compost and dirt and then somehow be magically sucked up into a root and after all that make someone sick again?  Really?  The cases of food poisoning I've heard about have been linked to confined animal feeding runnoff or the like getting on the surface of finished food.  Humanure compost incorporated into the soil is so so far from that senario. 

Organic agriculture can still be motivated by the quest for maximum profit more than a desire to enrich the soil.  It's true that it depletes soil less quickly than chemical farming, but it doesn't necessarily add to it.  Industrial farming corporations section off a corner of their land for organic practices, just to get their finger in the market, but they certainly aren't doing it without making a lot of money at it. 

One of my main gripes with "organics" is the replacement of chemicals with tedious human labor, specifically, constant tilling to prevent small weeds.  The wheel hoe might be the greatest destroyer of soil I've seen.  I've watched clouds of soil drift from an organically grown field of baby fruit trees for a nursery, all the rows faithfully wheel hoed to prevent any other plants from growing between them.  The man that grew them in that system crowed that by the time the really hot weather comes, the top layer of soil had been turned into a dry dust that didn't support any life.  Great.  Sounds not too dissimilar from the condition of herbicided soils, to me. 
 
Jennifer Smith
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Wow, I am neither organic not permaculture...but close
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Rose:

I understand that there is a chemical difference between compost and synthetic fertilizers, of course.

If, in a century or two, agronomy were advanced enough to formulate a synthetic fertilizer with all the chemicals in the best organic compost, for half the price, I don't think organic growers would use it. Because synthetic isn't the same.

And my post was intended to express my opinion that the difference is historical, system-wide, and contingent on context, rather than being essential to the substances themselves. I think this opinion places me outside the organic group, but is an OK opinion to hold within permaculture.

There really have been greenhouses that relied on ammonia vapors from hot compost piles for a significant part of their fertilizer. I think the plants in that greenhouse would have done about as well had the compost piles been replaced with a little natural gas burner, maybe a vaporiser, and a tank of anhydrous ammonia all under electronic control. The system, though, would've been much less healthy, more expensive, less good other ways.

If some ammonia were being drained from the coils of a heat pump near plants they manage, an organic grower would look for a way to dispose of that ammonia, but a permaculturist might look for a way to use it.
 
            
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I have found this an interesting thread. I work in a therapeutic garden for children that is certified organic. My whole purpose in the garden is to bring about a more permie approach to the garden while still making it accessible to the people that use it.
What I have found with the organic standards is there is nothing that stops us from putting permaculture practices into place, in fact it is encouraged. You are right they do not allow for humanure, but I believe in the future that will change.
If you look on the attra sight there is much information on how to create a healthier, mono-culture, tree filled, hedge rowed plant rich, encouraging wild-life, ecosystem, for our 'gardens' than one would think. You just have to look. 
It is a great site that actually discourages plowing, trashing the soil, and tries to teach healthier methods.
It is a struggle. Do I agree with everything on the site, no. But when you are working with people that 'think' they have loved the land, and really do love the land, it takes time, patience and understanding. The attra site has been very helpful to me in introducing many topics that never would have been looked at  had it not been under  their designation.
I have and am learning to work patiently towards the day I can introduce more permie ideas, with the understanding it will be under the guise of saving them money and time. That is okay by me if it teaches what needs to happen.

Anna
 
Kirk Hutchison
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In permaculture, we basically assume that you are going organic. Permaculture just makes that a non-issue - pest and weed control is not needed.
 
Emerson White
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USDA organic? Or Organic?

USDA organic means that the chemical fertilizers that are dumped on crops were refined from an organism or biproduct there of, and that the _____icides used come from an organism. USDA organic also means no GMO's. These are not characteristics of sustainability but rather characteristics of convenience.

Permculture may in the end have none of these characteristics (exclusively). On the small scale organic gardening is closer to a true permaculture. Fertilizing with manure and using technologies like BT and weeding with a hoe instead of roundup.

On a large scale a perminent and sustainable agriculture need not stick rigidly to USDA rules. I'm sure that there will be room for Haber process nitrogen capture and certainly for GMO crops that can produce food with less water or higher salt content. And really there is no reason to assume that no chemical insecticide will ever be safer or better for the environment than one that grows naturally. However, all of that is beyond the scope of the home gardener.
 
            
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USDA Certified Organic, does not sanction the use of chemicals. It does allow it, which makes it a choice and one I and others that are Organic and permie, teach not to use and why it is better not to. The attra site does teach what to do instead of using chemicals; no till, hedge rows, Biodynamic gardening, companinion planting, soil first, tolerance when it comes to weeds, mono-culture, etc. and so on. It teaches common every day practices all can understand and is not beyond the home gardener. People on this forum are intelligent, and I think can differentiate between wise practices, and insane ones such as the use of pesticides (which includes herb, and any other cide). Remember Organic in itself just means the molecule has a carbon at it center. What we do with the 'Organic' moniker is what makes the difference.
GMO crops.... the jury is still out on that in my opinion. Just more testing needed. I would rather see people develop critical thinking skills to do the research and make decisions based on a wide range of knowledge.  I would hope they do more research, which takes a long period of time... and unfortunately that means cost is involved. Thus the 'characteristics of convenience' come into it. Money is the grease in the wheel. Sad but true. There is money is GMO's and they are not altruistic in the development. Sustainability is not the first purpose, at least in food production GMO's. Good post Opcn.
 
Emerson White
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I'm afraid I don't follow, perhaps a look at a specific fertilizer.

Well look at urea (a chemical fertilizer), The large scale USDA certified organic producers all use urea purified from various Manures, non-organic producers use urea too, urea that is synthesized using natural gas and the Haber process. Chemically those two forms of Urea are identical (both (NH[sub]2[/sub])[sub]2[/sub]CO, the fossil fuels that go into purifying the urea from the animal waste are comparable to those used in manufacturing urea. In the garden being an organic gardener would typically mean using the actual manure (composted) on your crop, not chemically purifying out one substance within it that you want. While there aren't sanctions against urea they do control where it comes from. That is the kinda of thing that makes up the nearly useless (from a permaculture standpoint) term USDA organic.

I would also like to point out that not all GMO's are made by monsanto. While money does grease the wheels. I actually made a GMO, and comparing it;s performance to standard we calculated that we could reduce the land and feed needed to produce beef by 15-25% with out reducing yields (all while lowering fat content). However there was no money to test it (this was in my undergrad) so not it sits at the bottom of a -40 freezer helping no one :/ . Also because of the unique way in which it works It would either require being more evil than monsanto when it came to turning a profit, or giving it away, which means there never will be the money for testing. I won't discuss how it worked because It isn't patented, but I am very proud of having made it, and if I ever make millions of dollars I'll pay to have it tested myself and give it away.
 
            
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I think we have to remember that it is a choice for the large scale USDA certified organic producer to use the urea purified from various manures...there is nothing in the USDA organic rules that states they cannot use the actual manure, if it is done within a certain time 120 or 90 days respectively.  Choice, that is point. To say the USDA organic is useless is an opinion, from a permaculture standpoint, but not everyones. I respect that it is yours.

You are right not all GMO's are made by monsanto. There is wonderful work in the medical field being done with GMO's and I am amazed and grateful for the diversity that is being brought forth. Do I believe they are all altruistic, no, if you are that is wonderful. It was not a personal slam, it was an observation similiar to your comment on the USDA organic standards. Working within those standards now, I can say it is not against what I do with permaculture; it is a choice to educate oneself to all that is available on the site and to implement what is best for the land. This includes many of the practices of permaculture.
 
Emerson White
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Ah, yes now I see where you were coming from, no they are not required to, they do nearly universally choose to use chemicals like urea for economic and comfort reasons (the big ones who produce 90% of the organic grain and veggies). My point was not that the organic standards were harmful or helpful, but rather that they are somewhat orthogonal to true permaculture.
 
            
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I really enjoy the use of the word orthogonal in this conversation, such a dual meaning . I think we have beat a dead horse. Valid points all the way around on both parts. Thank you for explaining your view points.
 
Josiah Maughan
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Kirk Hutchison wrote:
In permaculture, we basically assume that you are going organic. Permaculture just makes that a non-issue - pest and weed control is not needed.



it is a non issue, not because it's not needed, but because the control of pests, and weeds, is solved in the idea and practice of permaculture.  i mean.... one has to control pests and weeds, albeit with different "weeds" etc.... yes no?
 
paul wheaton
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Maybe that's a good way to discern between organic and permaculture.  In permaculture, you don't have to control pests/weeds.
 
Emerson White
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Very few pest/weed problems if you slash and burn a few acres of rain forest every year and grow your food there.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Opcn wrote:
Very few pest/weed problems if you slash and burn a few acres of rain forest every year and grow your food there.


If each burn is smothered before it finishes, and is sufficiently small and spaced appropriately both in time and space, I might call that plan a potential basis for permanent agriculture. 
 
                              
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organic is a method and permaculture is a "how should we live in the land" encompassing question.

I've always done my garden organic, but did not see vital healthy robust results till I started using the forest gardening method/"worldview".

Anymore a lot of "organic" is to get the label to work the marketing to make the buck. A life change isn't happening. People eat organic(if they afford it) so they aren't "eating poison", out of fear.  Not neccessarily better taste or nutrition even("nutrition" compared to regular grown food is "invisble" to the consumer, they have to take your word for it that it's in there, to what better degree who knows). Taste comes from the properly chosen varieties grown where's it happy and allowed to ripen as it should and picked at perfection. Sorry, but really I can't taste a difference between the poison produce and organic produce in the store, but I CAN tell the difference with my grown stuff or locally purchased farmer's market stuff.

Anyways. I dig the wholistic thinking thing of permaculture. Thinking about one's relationship and footprint on the land, growing things appropriately for the indivudual site. THere's still a lot of organic farmers who say "I'll grow what I want to when I want to dangit" and yeah, have all that exposed soil between rows etc, tilling, irrigation. Same ol same ol, just different bag of chemicals applied.

ALso like the Red Green aspect of permaculture.
 
Emerson White
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I've never seen any research that even suggests USDA organic to be any more nutritious than standard produce. It is certainly marketed that way, but I don't need to go off on marketers here.
 
                              
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food grown and prepared with good luvvin tastes better too
 
Brenda Groth
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good luvin.....luv it.

couldn't agree more.

even organic uses organic pest and weed killers..and now those are even being brought into question for maybe doing in the bee population and possibly other critters..like people??

i know the more natural and sustainable we can go the better..that is why i'm always wanting to learn more.

i'm far from perfect..but i'm getting better all the time
 
Scott Reil
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paul wheaton wrote:
Maybe that's a good way to discern between organic and permaculture.  In permaculture, you don't have to control pests/weeds.



Paul, there isn't a difference; if you take permaculture to mean permanent agriculture then organics is an inherent part of that. Permaculture adds certain paradigms and technique on top of the framework of organics, but the permanence of soil is entirely reliant on the sequestration of carbon (lost in the chemical model which is obsessively focused on nitrogen). Ammonium nitrate is a salt, and you cannot permanently sustain a soil while you are dumping salts on it.

I will go so far as to say if you are using chemical fertilizers, you are not doing permaculture...

S
 
Emerson White
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Ammonium Nitrate is a salt, but the question of salts is subtle and nuanced. It is no more correct to say that applying any salts will always be bad and never be sustainable than it is to say that you can maintain a field on commercial 13-13-13 alone. If you use fish water on a garden there are NH[sub]4[/sub][sup]+[/sup] and NO[sub]3[/sub][sup]-[/sup] ions in that water, I'll guarantee it. If both of those ions are in the solution than you have Ammonium Nitrate dissolved in that solution. In natural fish water those two ions can vary independently of anything else (well, not H[sup]+[/sup] and OH[sup]-[/sup], but I digress) so, if you took some relatively low nitrogen fish water and added a few miligrams per gallon of NH[sub]4[/sub]NO[sub]3[/sub]you would come out with something just like high nitrogen fish water.

It's all about Salt concentrations, Not the fact that you are adding salt at all. The Amonium Nitrate will be taken us completely by the plants and that nitrogen will be covalently bound to carbon, and will not be a salt for long. The problem is the spikes in salt concentration killing off everything, not that there are any salts used. Additionally some salts do stay in the system until they are rinsed out. If you used Ammonium Chloride and Sodium Nitrate it would be far worse for the soil than using Ammonium Nitrate.
 
Scott Reil
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But Emerson, the result in the long run is the same, death of the majority of soil biologies from the salts, leading to lack of carbon, and decreased Cartion Exchange Capacities from that, leading to dessication, compaction of the soil, no weak acid etching of potassium and trace elements (leading to excesses of those...)

Chemical fertilizers cannot address long term fertility as they destroy that as they kill biology. You can get bacterial blooms from high nitrogen fertilizers, but as it kills most of the higher level predators that would have predated the bacteria, you are sending soil backwards down the soil succession trail. All soils are moving towards a more fungal state left to natural progression. Your decreased CEC (the protozoa and fungi you wiped out have a C:N ratio of thirty to one, and carbon is our biggest nutrient sink) can get so bacterial you bgin to lock up nitrogen (bacteria have a C:N of 5:1, the most nitrogen intense lifeform).

Increasing the bacterial ratio thus decreases fertility leading to thin weedy soils (requiring more fertilizer and more pesticides, etc). All soil wants to grow up to be old growth forest (the most fungal and carbon intense), and it is natural disaster or the stupid things we do to soil that interupts that... More fungal is more better, up to the point that your chosen crop is happy (our veggies and row crops seem to like an even 1:1 F/B ratio, where those old growth conifers want 1000:1! Pick your place to stop, but know that treatment with amonium nitrate will be extremely damaging to you F/B ratio...

The old NPK thinking is broken; it does not account for the biggest part of the puzzle. We are not nitrogen based life forms, we are carbon based lifeforms, and so are the rest of the life forms... who just happen to be our best nutrient sink in soil...

S
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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No, I disagree. The result in the long run is more biomass. Ammonium Nitrate will not ever build up in the soil over a decade, it will be washed out, however I'm talking about applying it in doses small enough to not even be washed out. The organic matter in the soil will lock up these chemical species and then the microbes and roots will unlock them when they are needed, and covalently bond them in amino acids and alykloids and Porphyrin rings. The plants actually use this stuff. The problem comes when farmers try to game the NPK system and try to jam in more than the microecosystem can handle. Moderation in all things.  You are arguing against a straw man here, I'm not arguing for applications high enough to deplete soil carbon, or to reduce cation exchange rates, I'm just saying that there is a dose response curve, and that the beneficial dose curve happens before the detrimental dose curve, if it didn't then nothing would live with or with out our help.

Some of the plants that we grow to eat like the bacterial nitrogen rich soils. You seem to be focused on turning everything into fungal haven forrests but that isn't very natural. Nitrogen Salt wont address the total needs of all soils, or even any soils, but the fact that it is an inorganic salt doesn't necessarily mean that it will always be harmful all the time either. You have to actually look at what happens.

The big mistake that the chemical soil scientists made was that they discounted too much out of hand, I think that it is perilously dangerous to fight the ignorance fire with more ignorance. Is 1 pound per Acre of Ammonium Nitrate going to endanger the microfauna in a field of annual vegtables? No. Might it help add biomass which can then be turned into biochar or used as fodder? Yes. At some point before they start hurting these chemical species are going to help, natural sources of these chemical species help before they hurt too. With out the natural chemical sources/sinks for these chemical species the ecosystem would be radically different, and by radically different I mean almost non-existent.

We may be carbon based life forms, but nitrogen matters. NPK is woefully incomplete, reducing everything to chemical balance in the soil and ignoring the nutrient sinks, but you can't just ignore the faucet either. We cannot dismiss chemistry as an important part of the puzzle just because it isn't the whole story, that kind of binary view of the world is anything but holistic.
 
                        
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I always liked this definition of permaculture:

http://www.spiralseed.co.uk/permaculture/index7.htm

'Work with nature not against"  To me permaculture implies that you are trying to understand and replicate a natural system in some fundamental way so that it takes off on its own -- replicating the original design in years down the road.  Organic doesn't have that conotation.

Religious overtones:  Probably most like Zen Buddhism.  Its not athiestic because you have to believe in what you are doing.  You trust that a future state follows from the initial input.  (If athiesm means you don't believe in much of anything).
 
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