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Can you make rain with permaculture?  RSS feed

 
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We have this terrible drought right now and sheep are dying of starvation. I think they are so desperate that they damage the paddock beyond repair, digging out the roots. Farms are pretty big here but there is only sheep paddock and very little vegetation. Farmers don't even have gardens or some chooks or an orchard. I wonder apart from the better holding of water on properties could you actually make rain by planting more trees? Farmers complain a lot and it is probably very hard for them, but they do not change the practices.
 
pollinator
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A forest of trees has been shown to create rain in at least two ways, through deep root systems that pump water up from the depths and transpire it out through their leaves and through using those leaves as a substrate for rain forming bacteria to reside on.  What's not to love about trees!
 
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Angelika Maier wrote: I wonder apart from the better holding of water on properties could you actually make rain by planting more trees?



Bill Mollisson answers that with a big yes. It's on the Designers' Manual, chapter 6, Trees and Their Energy Transactions. He explains how trees change water cycle, making rain.
What I wonder is what's the size/area is needed for each region to be reforested to make rain.
 
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hau Angelika, as Greg and Sergio answered, yes it is possible but planting a forest for the purpose of creating rain takes some considerations of the terrain and atmospheric conditions of the area.

First there is which size trees and what species of trees does it take for this event to occur.
The trees need to be very tall, in the hundreds of feet tall to be exact, a short 70 foot oak forest isn't going to be able to get the conditions set up for creating rain.
The places where studies have show this to happen (trees creating rain events) are semi tropical or costal semi tropical (keep in mind that in the US this includes Oregon, Washington state and the west coastal area of Canada (BC).
The trees can be conifers or deciduous, Giant Redwoods, Fir, Spruce, are the main ones in North America.
In South America the tall trees of the rain forest are the ones that have been found to be able to create rain in areas that are more temperate.
The same goes for other parts of the globe.

The way this works is the roots suck up deep water and transpire it to the atmosphere, at the same time the trees emit exudates that bind these micro droplets of water together, the more exudate that gets emitted the more bound together droplets there are until the atmosphere can't hold it in suspension any longer.
Some think there is a bacteria that works part of this magic but if the bacteria can't get airborne, it seems to me that the bacteria can only excrete some enzyme that then gets airborne and is part of the binding together mechanism, further study is needed to be able to know for certain.

Size of land area of such a forest, so far, seems to be in the hundred + hectare range, but again more study is needed to know for certain just what the minimum might be.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
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[*Loxley stops planting trees for a moment to post to permies*]

"CONDENSATION FROM TREES:
83% of water coming to the ground is condensed directly from the atmosphere by trees. Trees are gigantic condensing systems. A reasonable broadleaf tree (eg. Eucalypt) would have 20-30 acres of leaf surface. It would stand at densities of 50-60 per acre. Therefore, you're looking at total surface per acre of 1,200 acres per acre of condensation surface if it's got trees on it. Otherwise, you're only looking at an acre. You'll notice when walking towards the coast or walking towards the swamp, that the grass will be wet until just after dawn & it appears as if a heavy rain has fallen (when it in fact has not). On clear sky nights, on on-shore coasts more rain falls out of the trees than falls out of the air. In some places, it rains all night under a tree even though there's no clouds & no rain! Trees are very efficient water condensers & are responsible for getting most of the water out of the air. Rainfall on coasts is a minor factor in water. Maybe instead of asking 'What rainfall is your area? (eg. 30 inches)' we could be asking 'What tree cover are your ridges?'. That's really significant.
In some places, condensation from trees is 100% of the total precipitation! For example, some of the islands off the desert coast of Africa (eg. Madeira & The Canary Islands) have regions where the only precipitation that falls to the ground falls from tree condensation, none falls from rain. The Legend of Hierro has it that everyone lived because of Ocotea foetens (til o tilo en español), the rain tree of the Canary Islands. They were large leafed tree. All the water for people & their crops were caught in cisterns placed below the trees. The cisterns & the trees still exist. But the trees were cut down by the conquistadors if possible to displace the natives." - Bill Mollison, 1983 PDC

"WIND + BACTERIA - HOW TREES CREATE RAIN:
The 40% of the wind that goes over the forest shakes the crowns of the trees. The wind picks up dust, pollen, insects, decaying matter, and most importantly, thousands of colonies of bacteria. So it's shaking off the bacterial colonies whistling them away into the general atmosphere. The most important things that the tree returns to the air, except water, are bacteria. Several of which are rain nuclei: small particles on which water vapor condenses (eg. The most important cloud seeder: Pseudomonas syringae: a rod-shaped bacterium) are made to create ice. With the wind that goes over the crowns of the trees, the crowns create turbulence in the wind, and up go the essential rain nuclei, & most of that now comes from trees. Most of the nuclei in rain is tree generated. Most of it then are part of that bacterial colony." - Bill Mollison, 1995 PDC

"WIND, HUMIDITY, & RAIN GENERATION WITH FORESTS:
The wind comes in at very very different humidities (plus-or-minus 40%) humidity. If the wind goes in as low humidity, the forest will re-humidify. The forest, generally, can add about 15% to the humidity of air. After 5 kilometers, it's back to full humidity! So it takes quite a few miles for you to sop up desert air & put it back into rainfall situation. So if you want to stop deserts, on the desert borders you've got have at least a 5-kilometer wide belt of trees.
But if the air comes in at excess humidity, as it will at night when it's been a rainy day or something, then the tree will remove that humidity. And this is a critically important function of forests. At night, often the tree will be a little cooler than the incoming air & it starts condensing water at about 5 quarts per square meter. It far exceeds the rainfall. In some areas, like Western Tasmania, 83% of our total precipitation is condensation! Only 17% is rainfall. So, condensation from forests is by far the most important source of water on Earth. High forests, fog forests. Go to Maui & walk up into the fog forests & it's just constantly dripping raining on the earth there all day, and all night! Same in Berkeley. Rain comes from clouds; condensation comes from cool surfaces.
This 40% of wind that rises up over the forests, compressed the stream lines in the air for a height of 40 times the height of the tree. So a 40 foot tree high, the effect ends at 1,600 feet – well above the cloud base. Therefore the bump it causes basically creates orographic rain! That component, because of the lift of the air over the trees, is 40% of the rainfall. We get 3 rains, & they're all overturn rains after the edge. All of them are caused by the orographic lift over the tree edges. And that's 40% of all rain. They (the rain bands) occur in bands parallel to the trees about 15 degrees off, each one being more 15 degrees that way, same as a Coriolis Force. So instead of actually falling dead parallel with the trees, they keep altering their angle. So there's 3 bands of rain, each 15 degrees off the direction of the wind. If you put a rock in a stream & the stream flows past & you get a turbulence, whirlpools, offset -each side- those whirlpools are 15 degrees across the stream. Whenever you get turbulence, it will be 15 degrees across the flow it causes. So if you cut the trees down, particularly as you clear your ridges, & you follow your rain gauges, you'll see a 40% drop in rainfall as the ridges are cleared [of trees]. This has been demonstrated with rain gauges studying deforestation in Tasmania. The condensation drips off the trees. All the precipitation in the Canary Island is condensation. They plant a tree called Ocotea foetens, they call it the “rain tree”. Around the tree they have stone cisterns which lead to the village [water] tank. So the village is actually dependent for their life on the existence of the rain trees. The Spanish conquistadors cut down the rain trees to defeat the Guanches. It’s kind of like cutting the water pipes to a city, or killing the buffalo.
There doesn’t seem to be much difference in condensation quantity between conifers and broad leaf trees. Lauraceae family trees (evergreen glossy leaf trees with large spreading crowns eg. bay leaves) are much wetter on the windward side. In fact, it’s typical to find little bogs on the windward side & dry soil on the leeward side. They’re very efficient & they alter the soil moisture in two ways: one is that on the windward side they condense – most of the moisture falls off the crown there & less on the leeward side. And the leeward side too, there’s a slightly lower pressure from the wind, so more is sucked out there too. So across a clump of trees there is a huge soil moisture difference. Around that clump you can find totally different habitat for roots. You can put turmeric on one side -in the bog- & olives on the other." - Bill Mollison, 1995 PDC

...Ok, going off-line for now to plant some more trees.
GARO-Bimbache-El_Garo-_arbol-garoe-de-el-hierro-_grabadoslitografias.com.jpg
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El Garoé - Bimbache Arbre de l'Isle de Fer, arbol garoe de el hierro, grabadoslitografias.com
GARO-Ocotea_foetens-_rain_tree_of_the_Canary_Islands-_by_G.-U._Tolkiehn-_WikiMedia.org.JPG
[Thumbnail for GARO-Ocotea_foetens-_rain_tree_of_the_Canary_Islands-_by_G.-U._Tolkiehn-_WikiMedia.org.JPG]
El Garoé - Ocotea foetens, rain tree of the Canary Islands, by G.-U. Tolkiehn, WikiMedia.org
GARO-Ocotea_foetens-_rain_tree_of_the_Canary_Islands-_Camino_de_las_Vueltas._Anaga-_Tenerife-_by_Javier_Sanchez_Portero-_WikiMedia.org.JPG
[Thumbnail for GARO-Ocotea_foetens-_rain_tree_of_the_Canary_Islands-_Camino_de_las_Vueltas._Anaga-_Tenerife-_by_Javier_Sanchez_Portero-_WikiMedia.org.JPG]
El Garoé - Ocotea foetens, rain tree of the Canary Islands, Camino de las Vueltas. Anaga, Tenerife, by Javier Sanchez Portero, WikiMedia.org
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Thanks for that! Lots of science here. In case for pasture farms planting trees means less pasture and a lot of work and costs fencing them off. I have been out West a couple of months ago and it already looked so dry and sad. It is an empty landscape with not trees, gardens or orchards. And the few trees there are are dying because the lifestock is trampling constantly on their roots (if there would be more there probably would be less pressure on one tree.
Here"s a typical picture (hope it works): webpage
 
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Most of the farmers in the arid parts of Oz have destroyed their land from generations of ignorance e.g. Removal of trees and other plants along gullies, watercourses and boundary lines in the unsupported belief they remove water and take up productive cropping space.

The natural layers of grasses, shrubs and trees disturb wind flows that strip moisture from the surface and carry away topsoil. Trees along drain lines ensure water penetration and aid filtration.

Keeping wide strips of natural vegetation along boundary lines, paddocks, and drain lines keep stock and crops protected from inclement weather - sometimes I'd like to chain a farmer and their family in the hot sun in summer, the rain in winter, and see how they'd go, because they expose livestock to those circumstances.

It took decades for the dopey shits to accept the obvious idea that retaining stubble keeps moisture, carbon and soil flora alive and cropping productive!

With the current series of droughts in the Outback, it's sheer luck we're not experiencing a Dust Bowl event like 1930's America.

If layering plants in a garden creates microclimates, then it's just a matter of upscaling.
 
Loxley Clovis
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Angelika Maier wrote:Thanks for that! Lots of science here. In case for pasture farms planting trees means less pasture and a lot of work and costs fencing them off. I have been out West a couple of months ago and it already looked so dry and sad. It is an empty landscape with not trees, gardens or orchards. And the few trees there are are dying because the lifestock is trampling constantly on their roots (if there would be more there probably would be less pressure on one tree.
Here"s a typical picture (hope it works): webpage


Possible solution for livestock: plant trees & rotate the animals quickly so the trees can get established & mature. Whenever I see a mature tree in a pasture during the daylight hours, I almost always see a bunch of cattle resting crowded underneath it in the cool shade! I'm sure they'd really enjoy having more spots like that. Not to mention all the other benefits that F Agricola brought up in the previous excellent post.

"Silvopasture (Latin, silva forest) or wood pasture, now also known as agroforestry, is the practice of combining woodland (trees) and the grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way. Advantages of a properly managed silvopasture operation are enhanced soil protection and increased long-term income due to the simultaneous production of trees and grazing animals. The trees are managed for high-value sawlogs, brushwood, foliage, fodder and, at the same time, provide shade and shelter for livestock and some forage, reducing stress and sometimes increasing forage production.
Perhaps the oldest agroforestry system used in the temperate regions of the world, silvopastoral systems are characterized by integrating trees with forage and livestock production. Such systems have the potential to increase agricultural production in the long term. The trees have to be repeatedly pollared rather than coppiced so that the trees' re-growths are out of reach of the livestock. After hundreds of years the trees' boles become notably squat but this restriction on size gives the tree a long life." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silvopasture

"A dehesa is a multifunctional, agrosylvopastoral system (a type of agroforestry) and cultural landscape of southern and central Spain and southern Portugal; in Portugal, it is known as a montado. Dehesas may be private or communal property (usually belonging to the municipality). Used primarily for grazing, they produce a variety of products, including non-timber forest products such as wild game, mushrooms, honey, cork, and firewood. They are also used to raise the Spanish fighting bull and the Iberian pig. The main tree component is oaks, usually holm (Quercus ilex) and cork (Quercus suber). Other oaks, including melojo (Quercus pyrenaica) and quejigo (Quercus faginea), may be used to form dehesa, the species depending on geographical location and elevation. Dehesa is an anthropogenic system that provides not only a variety of foods, but also wildlife habitat for endangered species such as the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehesa
Louisa_and_Michael_Kiely-s_regenerative_grazing_(right)_v._conventional_grazing_neighbors_(left)_abc.net.au.jpg
[Thumbnail for Louisa_and_Michael_Kiely-s_regenerative_grazing_(right)_v._conventional_grazing_neighbors_(left)_abc.net.au.jpg]
conventional grazing neighbors (left) v. regenerative grazing (right), abc.net.au
SILVOPASTURE_Pongamia_pinnata_sheep-_Australia_Investancia.com.jpg
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Silvopasture - Pongamia pinnata sheep, Australia, Investancia.com
Dehesa_Pigs_Extremadura_by_comakut_WikiMedia.org.jpg
[Thumbnail for Dehesa_Pigs_Extremadura_by_comakut_WikiMedia.org.jpg]
Dehesa pigs, Extremadura, Spain by comakut, WikiMedia.org NOTE THE GREENER GRASS UNDER THE TREE!
StoryConnective_Maui-_fruit_tree_chickens_by_Loxley_(CC-BY-SA-3.0-US).jpg
[Thumbnail for StoryConnective_Maui-_fruit_tree_chickens_by_Loxley_(CC-BY-SA-3.0-US).jpg]
fruit tree chickens, Maui, by Loxley, StoryConnective.org (CC BY-SA 3.0 US)
 
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F Agricola wrote:Most of the farmers in the arid parts of Oz have destroyed their land from generations of ignorance e.g. Removal of trees and other plants along gullies, watercourses and boundary lines in the unsupported belief they remove water and take up productive cropping space.

The natural layers of grasses, shrubs and trees disturb wind flows that strip moisture from the surface and carry away topsoil. Trees along drain lines ensure water penetration and aid filtration.

Keeping wide strips of natural vegetation along boundary lines, paddocks, and drain lines keep stock and crops protected from inclement weather - sometimes I'd like to chain a farmer and their family in the hot sun in summer, the rain in winter, and see how they'd go, because they expose livestock to those circumstances.

It took decades for the dopey shits to accept the obvious idea that retaining stubble keeps moisture, carbon and soil flora alive and cropping productive!

With the current series of droughts in the Outback, it's sheer luck we're not experiencing a Dust Bowl event like 1930's America.

If layering plants in a garden creates microclimates, then it's just a matter of upscaling.



I live in Iowa in the Midwestern United States. I drive around in the countryside and I'm only 35 but I can drive around and tell you that there used to be farms with huge groves there in many many many places, that I've seen in my lifetime and seen them gone. Now, there's places here that I can go for a drive at and not see a single tree to the horizon. Combine that with the use of roundup and various chemicals that leave the soil a sterile desert you can imagine just how far we are from turning the entire midwest into a gigantic desert. Farmers have been complaining about no rain here for a few years now... but they can't make the connections. They whine about no rain and then go tear out all the trees along the creek banks. Then they complain because they lost their crops to a flood after a 3 month drought. There wouldn't have been a flood if there were trees to absorb all the runoff. There wouldn't have been a drought if there were trees to respire the water from the surface. Drives me absolutley insane to see them destroying everything and thinking that "its my land I can do what ever I want". They never think "It's economical for me to do this. So it's economical for everyone to do this. Is it good for the land... should it be done?"  Don't even get me started on the wisdom of monocropping the entire midwest to corn and beans. They are proud of a yield of 200 bushels an acre for corn. What they don't get is that they could be getting about 3x the yields or more from a diversified farm rather than just 200 bushels of corn. But of course one guy couldn't possibly farm 6,000 acres that way. He'd be farming 80-160.
 
J Anders
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I would also like to add- I had a great uncle who owned 240 acres of ground. He gave it to a christian college here in Iowa because he didn't have any descendants and anyone else would have had to pay inheritance taxes on it... and I'm pretty sure there would have been a fight in the family which wasn't even speaking to each other 30-40 years before he died.

What happened to that ground? Before he died... waterways that were a good 100 feet wide.... two large groves with an old corn crib that was falling in.... out of the 260 acres I would guess 200 was actually being farmed. I'll get some pictures off of Google Earth to show you the difference before and after. He's only been gone I think 3 years now. When the christian college got it they put it on auction to the highest bidder. The land sold for $8350 an acre for all 260 acres
DJ-farm-2009.PNG
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Farm 2009
DJ-Farm-2016.PNG
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Farm 2016
 
pollinator
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I would say that planting trees would lead to more rain.  I think scale matters.    A healthy rain-forest retains almost 100 % of the water produced by the trees.  The rain stays put.  Other types of forests create rain but it doesn't fall in the same spot, it may move down the line.   I think working with the rainwater that does fall may be a method to produce results and retain what little rain falls.   There are quite a few Permaculture Videos on reversing desertification all over the world.   It's being done in the Middle East, Subsaharan Africa and etc.

The Loess Plateau in China is a good example of how human engineering can reclaim the ecology.  They took a space the size of Norway and brought it from desert (area of starvation) to a garden of Eden.  

 
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F Agricola wrote:Most of the farmers in the arid parts of Oz have destroyed their land from generations of ignorance e.g. Removal of trees and other plants along gullies, watercourses and boundary lines in the unsupported belief they remove water and take up productive cropping space.

The natural layers of grasses, shrubs and trees disturb wind flows that strip moisture from the surface and carry away topsoil. Trees along drain lines ensure water penetration and aid filtration.

Keeping wide strips of natural vegetation along boundary lines, paddocks, and drain lines keep stock and crops protected from inclement weather - sometimes I'd like to chain a farmer and their family in the hot sun in summer, the rain in winter, and see how they'd go, because they expose livestock to those circumstances.

It took decades for the dopey shits to accept the obvious idea that retaining stubble keeps moisture, carbon and soil flora alive and cropping productive!

With the current series of droughts in the Outback, it's sheer luck we're not experiencing a Dust Bowl event like 1930's America.

If layering plants in a garden creates microclimates, then it's just a matter of upscaling.




While you are correct in many points, I find these generalizations a bit hard going. Some of the best and most innovative sustainable farmers in the world are in Australia. Sure there are always going to be some people who are slow to improve things, but this might be for a lot of very valid reasons. There may well be some poor blighter out there who has spent the last 5 years planting trees, conserving water courses, practicing sustainable farming only to have all their work undone by this ongoing drought.  I lost 5000 Eucalyptus seedlings I planted last year to drought, and I'm in a 1200mm rainfall area in NZ!  I can well imagine that any innovative agricultural practices implemented in NSW for the last 5 years or so is probably now blowing in the wind.  Maybe there is some desperate blighter out there searching the net for inspiration on sustainable fixes for the current NSW drought only to find one of their own countrymen talking about them  as 'generations of ignorance' 'dopey shits' and wanting to tie their families up in the sun! Mate you had some valid points but it is very hard for this current bunch of farmers to correct 150 years of bad farming and to be honest I think your attitude needs some work.
 
Loxley Clovis
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Thank you Ben for planting trees. Please do keep up the good work. We're allies in this inter-generational afforestation practice together.
I invite folks to peek at the following image, then close their eyes & imagine what Mount Taranaki's surroundings will be like when the forests once again stretch all the way down to the ocean, transitioning this pasture land to silvopasture agroforestry & food forests & the return of the rains that these new trees will bring...
DEFORESTATION-New_Zealand-s_Mt._Taranaki-_Egmont_National_Park_surrounded_by_pasture_by_NASA-_WikiMedia.org.jpg
[Thumbnail for DEFORESTATION-New_Zealand-s_Mt._Taranaki-_Egmont_National_Park_surrounded_by_pasture_by_NASA-_WikiMedia.org.jpg]
New Zealand's Mt. Taranaki, Egmont National Park surrounded by pasture, WikiMedia.org
 
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My first thought was the Timber Culture Act of the US in the 1870s.  The idea was that homesteaders would claim larger plots of land if they would keep it planted with trees.  The program is generally considered a failure; it was cancelled after about 20 years due to abuse of the system.  The final result was that the great plains are still plains and not forests, although clearly it was not carried out as defined. If the homesteaders had abided by the prescribed tree planting requirements, then perhaps there would have been a difference made.  However, the same struggle would remain today, I think.  How do you convince so many individuals to stick to a plan long enough to carry it out?  While the Little House books are fictionalized accounts, The First Four Years describes Laura and Almanzo Wilder's attempt at maintaining one of these tree homesteads, evidently with enthusiasm and vigor.  But that isn't enough to offset misfortune, and a possibly flawed premise.  This article talked about some of outcomes of the Timber Culture Act: http://www.mnopedia.org/thing/timber-culture-act-1873


The reference to the Loess Plateau in China is interesting.  I hadn't heard of that place before and found plenty of articles from about a decade ago talking about the success in the region, but more tempered reactions published more recently, such as http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/10/21/regreening-china-will-take-more-than-trees/ .
A general description of the process and state of affairs as of 2013 https://geog5loessplateau.wordpress.com/about/
Here is the World Bank page on their contribution for restoring the soil, which talks about the cost: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2007/03/15/restoring-chinas-loess-plateau
http://greenleapforward.com/2009/02/24/soils-and-sustainability-tales-from-the-loess-plateau/ has an except from a national geographic feature on this, ca 2009.  And another National Geographic article about afforestation as a solution to desertification https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/china-great-green-wall-gobi-tengger-desertification/

All of this is to say that it seems to be complex, and even once we have settled on what seems to be the best solution, we can expect resistance to putting any plan into action.
 
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Ben,

Very good post! 

Bryan
 
F Agricola
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Ben Waimata wrote: While you are correct in many points, I find these generalizations a bit hard going. Some of the best and most innovative sustainable farmers in the world are in Australia. Sure there are always going to be some people who are slow to improve things, but this might be for a lot of very valid reasons. There may well be some poor blighter out there who has spent the last 5 years planting trees, conserving water courses, practicing sustainable farming only to have all their work undone by this ongoing drought.  I lost 5000 Eucalyptus seedlings I planted last year to drought, and I'm in a 1200mm rainfall area in NZ!  I can well imagine that any innovative agricultural practices implemented in NSW for the last 5 years or so is probably now blowing in the wind.  Maybe there is some desperate blighter out there searching the net for inspiration on sustainable fixes for the current NSW drought only to find one of their own countrymen talking about them  as 'generations of ignorance' 'dopey shits' and wanting to tie their families up in the sun! Mate you had some valid points but it is very hard for this current bunch of farmers to correct 150 years of bad farming and to be honest I think your attitude needs some work.



Hello Ben,

being a coastal farmer in the subtropics, we’re pretty much spoilt in regards to climate and choice of crops though, other than rain events, we generally share one thing in common with our inland colleagues – very impoverished soils.

Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the best dry land farmers in the world, BUT, when I continue to travel extensively throughout the ‘Outback’ (western NSW, Victoria and Queensland) I STILL see massive land clearing, bugger all rehabilitation, lack of stock/watercourse protection, etc, etc. These locations have seen several drought events in the last thirty or more years, but there were typically good seasons, including floods – that’s normal for those regions and not an unusual thing regardless of some conspiracy theorists.

I’ve seen an extremely small number of farmers do meaningful rehab work. Also consider that some farms are owned by corporations (shareholders) who want more output with reduced inputs, make tax concessions from a loss, and only have ‘farm managers’ onsite to conduct programmed works.

The issues I noted have been around for generations, and simple observations and experience should’ve provided them a ‘light bulb moment’ of clarity to realise a need to change practices. Typically, many farming communities tend to be change adverse – if it worked for my Great Great Grand Daddy it’ll work for us and we won’t change. Experienced that first hand and seen how destructive it can be to families and communities.

There is hope – a small minority of the younger generations, who have decided to continue with farming, tend to be computer savvy, more informed and therefore open to new ways. Like the USA, we had specific areas where sheep, cattle, grain, etc were the expected product, if a neighbour decided to do it differently it was, to say the least, quite unpopular. Those kinds of narrow-minded views have gone, and anyone who can make a go of it gets applauded – so they should.

Rehabilitation doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact it’s insurance. The availability of machinery, time, and the ability to grow seedlings in a farm nursery are all within the scope of farmers. We also have Government departments and associate organisations willing to assist in revegetation projects. The farmers who have done it properly have created productive lands with better soils and future-proofed the site from most climate issues – in many instances created something really beautiful. They’re the ones shown on ABC TV programs like Landline who did the maths, searched for expert advice, made a plan, costed it accurately and implemented it in stages to reap the most benefits incrementally over time.

Like any other business, if the owner fails to run it properly, fails to learn in a highly connected world, and is deeply in debt to the banks, then they will obviously go belly-up, and shouldn’t complain and hold out their hand for Government assistance. In the good times, the consumer complains about the price of meat/vegetables, in the bad times the farmer complains about the drought/floods and wants assistance/charity – and so the cycle continues. If farming was easy there'd be more of us! (I don’t complain about farming because there’s a Dairy Farmer down the road – now that’s a 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year total commitment!)

Although it may seem like I’m kicking someone when they’re already down, as you’ve noted about the ‘desperate blighters’ suffering the current drought, there is a habit in this country of putting farmers: ‘the man on the land’ up on a pedestal. But that’s a cultural thing beyond this discussion.

Hopefully, any of those ‘desperate blighters’ who read my comments will see them for what they are – a critique of current farming practises, encouraging change (through some tough love comments), and a few tips to progress in that direction.

A Kiwi growing Eucalypts across the ditch? The next thing you guys will be doing is farming ‘our’ possums!
 
Ben Waimata
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F Agricola wrote:
A Kiwi growing Eucalypts across the ditch? The next thing you guys will be doing is farming ‘our’ possums!




Hi F.,


I apologise if I came across a bit harsh, re-reading that I could have put it better. I guess the problem is we're getting this increase of urban/rural divide and sometimes the anti-farming rhetoric gets totally out of hand. Sorry if I over-reacted to an old frustration from another country. Obviously you understand your NSW situation better than I do. I was involved in farming in NE NSW back in the early 1990's (and having an Aussie wife I have strong family links there), and while I love that Northern Rivers region I admit I found it hard going, rampant weed growth not quite matched by the crops! Also getting stung by hornets seemed to dampen my enthusiasm.

If any of those regenerative farms are still green now I guess the reaction from the rest should be enough to make this discussion redundant 5 years from now.

You can have all the possums back, just come over and collect them. Please. Any time will suit. They were originally imported to be farmed for their fur, but then released and protected until such times they became uncontrollable.  A few years back there was a classic article in one of the NZ farm newspapers, a very indignant letter to the editor from the 1930's  describing the horror experienced when a farmer had the audacity to shoot a possum, and what was wrong with farmers anyway, and when would a prosecution be pursued? Alongside was a contemporary letter to the editor bemoaning the plight of the indigenous forest and why have those farmers been allowed to get away with not controlling the possum population?

Yeah Eucs are great, as long as we're really careful about fire risk. There has been many millions of dollars going into a breeding program called NZDFI over the last few years, aiming at ground durable timbers. My favourite is tallowwood, whihc is the tree I grow the most. A little slower than others but worth the wait I think.
 
F Agricola
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Ben Waimata wrote:I apologise if I came across a bit harsh ...



No problems, no offence taken.

We'd be happy to take all NZ's possums if they take back all the NZ's who are here!😜

Yes, tallowood is a very useful and beautiful honey coloured hardwood. The greasy wood is vermin resistant and makes good furniture, flooring, etc.

The one good thing about Eucalypts is, if a fire did get them, they reshoot via epicormic bud growth, though they do look crap for a while.

With the rich volcanic soils over there, they'd just about grow overnight?

Good luck with them.
 
Angelika Maier
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I think to get it going is hard work and I can imagine being out in the sun all day to build all these fences to protect the tree seedlings..... There's another thing, the weed hysteria of our government. So they declared willow as a weed, but you better have a willow than nothing. They spray all the road verges regularly, maybe for safety concerns, but really, a road which looks narrower slows drivers down. IMO all road verges should be hedgerows at least five meters high. Another thought is to double crop, plant trees which either give you timber or fruit or carob or chestnuts or something else. I know these bloody birds and bats and possums!!!
 
gardener
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I don't think rain is simply caused or not caused by the local trees. There are vast weather patterns. For example, if a region is in a rain shadow, the clouds don't have much moisture, that's just a basic condition, no?
 
Bryan Elliott
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Rebecca,

I think I'd have to agree with you.  In my area there never have been many trees because the rainfall will not support them. 

Planting trees to make rain in the area the Dust Bowl of the 1930's happened reminds me a lot of the idea of that era that "rain follows the plow".  It didn't work out that way.

Bryan
 
Loxley Clovis
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I agree with the premise that trees aren’t always the answer for every single situation, in every single location. As permaculturists, following step 1 of permaculture, we can observe the land (usually for an entire year to watch what happens during each season), then interact. And maybe the land will tell us that interaction does not in fact involve trees for a given situation. It all depends on many, many factors.

As for rain shadows, take the island of Maui for example, since Bill brought it up in the quote I posted. [I’ve attached a rainfall map of the island below.] We can see that the windward side (the side facing the trade winds) gets the most amount of rain. Big Bog averages 404 inches per year! Part of this precipitation, particularly windward, is certainly orographic in nature. The leeward side of the island is in the rain shadow. Auwahi, for example can get as little as 10 inches of rain per year. Now let’s take a closer look at the leeward forest of Auwahi. According to biologists Joseph Rock & Art Medeiros, Auwahi was the most biologically diverse forest on the island, & it’s on the arid leeward side! Art told me “the fossil record shows that before the arrival of humans to Maui, the forests were falling into the ocean from coast-to-coast, windward & leeward.” The Hawaiians sustainably harvested the wood for canoes, houses, tools & surfboards for over a thousand years. Then came the last 2 hundred years of deforestation in 1-2-3 punch succession: 1. the Asian sandalwood industry grab, 2. the use of the forest to fuel the Western-owned sugarcane factory, & 3. finally the Western-introduced cattle industry (which the latter continues to degrade forest ecosystems on the island to this very day). I’ve personally, along with regular volunteer crews, planted hundreds of trees in the rain-shadow-situated Auwahi reforestation project. Every time I go there, the forest is covered in tree-created mist & condensation, as shown on the website photo in the previous link. It hardly ever rains here. It's in a rain shadow, yet the native plant species are thriving & the diversity is increasing due to our efforts. Maybe "tree-created precipitation" would be a better descriptor than "tree-created rain". There do exist micro-climate patterns as well & individuals & communities can make a difference. We see the positive changes here already, after barely 20 years of planting.

As for the Oklahoma Panhandle, you’re right Bryan; that’s a pretty extreme climate & landscape situation. I just read over the history of the people who lived there for quite a while after the ice sheets retreated, such as the Southern Plains villagers, & it looks like life was pretty rugged:

These people cultivated maize and indigenous marsh elder, hunted and caught deer, rabbits, fish, and mussels, and gathered edible wild plants such as Chenopodium (goosefoot or lambs-quarters), amaranth, sunflower, little barley, maygrass, dropseed, and erect knotweed. They added beans and squash to their crops around 1200. As cultivation of maize, beans, and squash, the "Three Sisters" of Native American agriculture, expanded, use of earlier indigenous crops declined. Bison remains are scarce in earlier sites, but bison became more important as a source of food around 1300, indicating that their herds may have become more abundant in the region of the Paoli and Washita settlements.

-Wikipedia, Drass, Richard R., "Corn, Beans, and Bison: Cultivated Plants and Changing Economies of the Late Prehistoric Villagers on the Plains of Oklahoma and Northwest Texas", Plains Anthropologist, Vol. 53, No. 205, pp 9-10. JSTOR.

Where rainfall is sparse in the western regions of the state, shortgrass prairie and shrublands are the most prominent ecosystems, though pinyon pines, junipers, and ponderosa pines grow near rivers and creek beds in the far western reaches of the panhandle.

-Wikipedia, "A Look at Oklahoma: A Student's Guide" (PDF). State of Oklahoma. 2005. Archived from the original (pdf) on December 30, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-14.

The Oklahoma panhandle is pretty darn flat, so it’s doubtful you’d get much orographic effect. I cannot say what you can or can’t plant where you’re at. Only the land can tell you that. Though, depending on the situation & the location some hardy native tree species, like the ones mentioned above, definitely wouldn’t hurt, especially if you’re around to care for them as they get established. But without massive tree-planting support, like federal-scale support, I wouldn't expect tree-created precipitation in your neck of the "woods" any time soon.

As for the dust bowl & the Great Plains, the Great Plains were largely an oak savanna possibly created & maintained as such for thousands of years because of how the Plains Indians hunted the bison. It took barely a single generation to turn a multi-millennia productive human-&-multi-species-livable ecosystem into a Western-man created dust bowl after a series of Western-man-made events: Western diseases, fur trapping of beavers which were doing more to hold the water in the landscape than possibly any other species, Western declared wars against the indigenous land managers, & finally plow monoculture agriculture. Legislatively, this cataclysm was state-sponsored by laws such as the Dawes Act of 1887 which brought the Sooners & the Land Rush of 1889.

The land we're working with can tell us what works & what doesn't work as well as the history of that land.
WATER_Rainfall_Annual_Maui_source-Dick_Mayer.jpg
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Rainfall Annual Maui source Dick Mayer
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Planting Forests, Growing Hope - Art Medeiros (StoryConnective.org)
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[Thumbnail for Dust_bowl_-_buried_farms_equipment_killed_livestock_caused_human_death_and_misery_-Monthly-Weather-Review-_June_1936-_p._196._NOAA.gov.jpg]
Dust bowl buried farm equipment 'Monthly Weather Review' June 1936, p. 196. NOAA.gov
Dust_bowl_-_Farmer_walking_in_dust_storm_Cimarron_County_Oklahoma_April_1936_by_Arthur_Rothstein-_Farm_Security_Administration_WikiMedia.org.jpg
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Farmer walking in dust storm Cimarron County Oklahoma April 1936 by Arthur Rothstein, Farm Security Administration, WikiMedia.org
 
pollinator
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Droughts come and go.

Australia experienced a severe drought in 2008 just when I was reintroducing sheep onto my farm and flooded the USA market. That was a tough pill to swallow for me, so I remember it well.

This year it is back, and it is dry here in Maine too. But this winter we had the 4th heaviest snowfall on record. Still our forests are what they have always been...the most forested state in the nation at 90% trees and 10% field.
 
Loxley Clovis
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Travis Johnson wrote:Droughts come and go.
This year it is back, and it is dry here in Maine too. But this winter we had the 4th heaviest snowfall on record. Still our forests are what they have always been...the most forested state in the nation at 90% trees and 10% field.


Stepping back & taking a macroscopic global view, I see deforestation dramatically out-pacing afforestation on a global scale. The current deforestation pace has massive global climate consequences as there are not enough stoma to inhale the increasing levels of CO2. The continents are getting drier as we speak. I do feel the scale of this reality is currently overpowering much of what we in the afforestation community are trying to do at our respective local levels. The goal, as I see it, is to reach a critical mass of afforestation support, while at the same time drawing down deforestation to get the global climate to a more-or-less, stable-as-we-can, human-livable situation again.
STOMA-Tomato_leaf_stomate_public_domain_WikiMedia.org.jpg
[Thumbnail for STOMA-Tomato_leaf_stomate_public_domain_WikiMedia.org.jpg]
Stoma - tomato leaf stomate, WikiMedia.org
 
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On one of the Bill Mollison's videos he was talking about the moles (or may be meerkats)

As they were damaging the land (so the farmers thought) they have been removed from the pastures.

This event also caused rains to stop.

Bill's explanation was that the nest holes on the ground were pumping positive ions into the air thus attracting rain loaded clouds.

I don't know if this is true, I didn't google enough.

Update: It seems possible http://ccl.northwestern.edu/courses/mam-winter-03/student_projects/alt/nlogo/howitworks.htm
 
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