Eric Toensmeier

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since Oct 14, 2011
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Recent posts by Eric Toensmeier

Hi everyone, great discussion.

Homegardens are typically less designed on paper than the modern cold climate food forest. I think this reflects the thousands of years of tradition. Nonetheless one sees the same issues at play - spacing, shade impacts, polycultures, diverse yields, livestock integration. They are not perfect but extremely interesting. I think we should be studying them intensively. I like describing the cold climate food forest as a temperate homegarden. It gives credit to the true developers of the notion, and points to us in cold climates as the very very new kids on the block. For terminology, I'm partial these days to calling food forests just another type of multistrata agroforestry (Chapter , towards the more intensive small-scale end of that category.

Also interesting about the distinction between the food forest vs. productive management of wild ecosystems (covered in Chapter 9). There is no precise line between these. Books like Tending the Wild (California) and The Biggest Estate on Earth (Australia) provide a look at traditional land management, which is on a continuum with multistrata agroforestry systems like homegardens. These days I am very interested in the 1000 different points that live between "farming" and "nature" that incorporate a perennial element and some human management. My own highly planned food forest is now directing much of its own evolution, as polyculture partners find each other and fruits like persimmon, currant, grape, hazel, and pawpaw germinate spontaneously.

2 years ago
Hello everyone, great discussion so far. I'm hard at work doing further carbon farming research, but very happy to answer questions once people have read through a section. I can be reached at toensmeier [AT] gmail, and I'll come chime in. Just let me know what you need me to weigh in on. Thus far I can say that most of the questions and concerns that people have put forward are answered in the pages to come - including those related to Savory's claims, methane and livestock (juicy controversy!), the unsustainability of offsets, and the avoidance of silver bullet thinking. And I agree - "solution" is not a perfect title but it was the best out of about 50 titles we thought about. Eric
2 years ago
Well thanks everyone it's been really fun. I was telling Lorenzo the other day that I have been very impressed by the high caliber of everyone's questions and comments. I hope those of you that want a book enjoy it, and that the rest of you get a chance to read it whether you buy your own, borrow from a friend, or get it from the library. Climate change gives us a motivation to take what we've been learning and spread it and scale it up. And the science I've investigated in the book also challenges us on a few of our dearly–held beliefs, though mostly it reinforces what we've been saying all along.

I've been in terrible health and won't be on the road teaching much at all. I do plan to do some long form a webinar classes this year to offer people a chance to get some of what they might get in a five day course, from the comfort of their own home. By doing so we get a far better carbon footprint anyway And don't forget to check out all the free resources at carbonfarmingsolution.com.

Thanks again to everyone at permies for organizing this event and for your support and sponsorship of the three years it took me to write it.
2 years ago
In tillage agriculture humus burns up, both conventional and organic. Cover crops, crop rotations, and compost application can keep levels pretty decent though. No-till systems including mulching are far better in terms of carbon though difficult to operate organically at a mechanized scale.
2 years ago
Hi Neil, I do touch on this in the book. Albedo impacts are much stronger at higher latitudes and minimized in the tropics. As you get to higher latitudes (like Northern Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia, perhaps Tierra del Fuego) planting evergreen trees has a net warming impact because their albedo outweighs the carbon they sequester. This is because a dark green tree is so much darker than a white snowy field. In mid-latitudes, like temperate North America, evergreen trees lose something like 10 to 40% of their impact due to albedo. these impacts are much less for deciduous trees. Fortunately we have very few evergreen crop trees for temperate and boreal climates, pine nuts are really the only ones I can think of. But deciduous trees are still worse than grassland or annual cropland in these climates. Perennial grains, when developed, will be a really valuable strategy for high – latitude climates. This is true both in terms of their albedo and their cold hardiness. I think this is an area to think quite a bit more about, we're really lacking a lot of the data we would need in order to. Really understand and develop a platform for albedo – friendly agriculture at high latitudes. Nice to see you thinking about this though!
2 years ago
The general rule is: anything perennial. Bonus points for woody perennial. Extra bonus points for dense, diverse plantings of long – lived woody perennials.
2 years ago
We have to look at the full lifecycle analysis of a practice, which includes in this case the energy required to chip the wood and transport the material. With that said, mulching is a great practice in the early years of rehabilitating a degraded sites. In the long term however we want to produce our own mulch materials right on-site. The best place I've ever seen doing this is Las Canadas in Mexico, where they grow giant biomass grasses and woody legumes to produce compost in their bio intensive areas, and for chop and drop in their food forest. Last fall I planted out a bunch of giant miscanthus grass in my garden to provide mulch for my annual beds. My perennial beds most themselves now that they are more mature, and if you annual crops like grains produce enough of their own mulch from their crop residues, the most annual crops require some mulch from somewhere else.
2 years ago
100% yes annuals have a place in carbon farming. There are a number of practices for annual crops alone that have a modest sequestration impact. These include organic practices, crop rotation, cover cropping, reduced tillage, system of rice intensification, and more. There are also many, many practices that incorporate annuals with perennials to provide a somewhat more substantial sequestration impact. These include multiple agroforestry practices as well as others that involve, for example, strips of perennial grasses on contour. Pasture cropping also fits into this category.
2 years ago
just to be clear: there are ways to raise livestock that have a net sequestration and net mitigation impact. AND most of us in the wealthy countries need to eat much less meat in order to have a better climate impact. My personal proposal is as follows. Stop feeding the annual grains to livestock (one third of all annual cropland goes to feed livestock and annual cropland is a huge part of the problem); produce livestock on the land not suited to annual agriculture (too steep, too rocky, too remote); convert pasture to silvopasture wherever there is sufficient water to allow this; manage the remaining grasslands with holistic raising and other managed grazing practices. Note that scientists do not yet remotely agree on whether or how this sort of manage grazing is possible and whether it is appropriate on all kinds of grasslands.
2 years ago
Probably the biggest thing we can do is get involved in the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground. In terms of our personal lifestyle, my afraid I'm not the right person to ask. And most of the sites and resources that help you analyze your carbon footprint look at your admissions but not at your sequestration. One of the big things we can do in the wealthier countries is greatly reduce our levels of consumption, which I suspect most members of this site are already well on their way towards. Likewise reducing energy use, increasing energy efficiency, and so on. Some afraid I don't have a great answer for that but it is a question I get a lot and I' ll need to get a better response
2 years ago