No-till farming sequesters carbon from atmosphere

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by sweetpea, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

    Joined:
    May 14, 2004
    Messages:
    3,464
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    you need more than my word?

    i have detailed procedure of bale garden, and have pic shots of these new gardens almost identical except with roof metal edges, a lot deeper.

    will look for an early pic but that will only show one of the first gardens done this way you'll have to take our word that we did that al the way through, got 5 beds finished now one to go, then somehow need to work out the expense of a hoop green house cover.

    don't do step by steps anymore can't afford it on the web page, pic's use lots of bandwidth, which does not come free.

    hope that helps my integrity some? that's as good as it gets, no blow by blow, no worship just for us lots of hard work so we never ahve to do it again, topping up is easy.

    len
     
  2. deee

    deee Junior Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2008
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'm with Len and Pak. No surprises, really - it is a permaculture forum. Digging might work on the newer soils of other continents, but our Australian soils are ancient and fragile, and our topsoil is usually shallow. Besides killing off anything previously living in the soil, and drying it out, digging brings the subsoil to the surface. Its also a big waste of energy (mine or a tractor's). Just keeping adding stuff on the top - fast, easy, free if you tap into the waste stream and it works.

    Len the farmers are every bit as bad here - they dig up the cabbages and then plough, preferably on the windiest days possible. In goes the corn, harvest, remove the stalks, plough again, and on it goes. The turf "farmers" are worse. They remove half an inch of topsoil every time they harvest a new lawn for the local Mc Mansions. That industry should be reclassified as mining. Instead they get primary producer status.
    OK, rant over
    D
     
  3. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    Messages:
    782
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Have you seen clover seed harvesters working? Suck up tonnes of the topsoil, sift out the very fine seed and blow all the fine soil out the top like smoke out a chimney.

    Then there is all the stubble burning here .....aghh, now you lot got me started :p
     
  4. NJNative

    NJNative Junior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I understand the perception that it destroys soil, but according to the research, biointensive double digging is said to build soil at a rate far faster than traditional agriculture. This is due to their use of compost, but you could be right that there is either a net loss of soil, or maybe a simply neutral level of carbon use, due to the exposure of roots to the air, whereas if it were left undisturbed in the soil, would not break down nearly as fast.

    The difference between biointensive and say sheet-mulching or hugelkulture, is that biointensive takes the (very carefully planned out and N:C balanced) plant residues and creates compost in a separate location and then adds it to the bed, after working to break up the soil, whereas no-till methods compost in place, using whatever materials happen to be growing, allowing the soil to be broken up by plants and soil organisms in a more random way. You can of course plan for complete soil nutrition I'm still torn on which one will produce more food and sequester more carbon. From the research, biointensive seems to be the biggest producer of food. From a logical perspective, no-till seems to sequester more carbon. I'm not advocating for one over the other, just pontificating whether a synthesis could be developed, where (if needed) soils could be double dug once, and then turned into a hugelkulture/sheet mulch bed, and treated as such from then on. However, the plant spacing, and consideration of what crops to grow (for calories and carbon), would be based on biointensive methods. As I said, I think that this, more than the deep soil preparation, is what allows biointensive methods to produce so much food. I'm not sure about this though, I still have to research it.

    Len, thanks for posting the pictures. I was not questioning your word, I'm just a visual person, and thought your set up was unique and looked quite successful, so I was wondering exactly how you did it. The pictures definitely helped. Thanks for sharing!!
     
  5. deee

    deee Junior Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2008
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    NJ I think you've hit the nail on the head: you've have to compare like with like, and over a decent period of time. With my research boffin hat on, you'd have to set up two beds, side by side, double dig one, sheet mulch the other and then treat them identically from there. This would need to be replicated in a variety of climate zones and soil types. Yes, biointensive growing plants loads more into the beds than is considered normal (I'm a chronic over-planter myself). As for the time frame, I think you'd want to conduct the trial over 10 years. Reports from colonial Australia point to our soils yielding well from 3-7 years after initial clearing and ploughing, then becoming so useless that farmers simply walked away from them (and stuffed up another bit). We are an extreme, though.
    D
     
  6. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    2,984
    Likes Received:
    20
    Trophy Points:
    38

    Double digging is what causes a boost in fertility at first due to oxidation of the lower soil being on top. It kills mycellium hypae, bacterium, protozoans, insects, and things we are only just starting to understand. When you place compost over it, you are not increasing, but rather continuing the soil fertility that you caused by exposing the subsoil first.

    Understand where I am coming from?
     
  7. NJNative

    NJNative Junior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I do understand where you're coming from Pak. I'm just quoting the research. They say they build soil at a much faster rate than nature. I don't know if they've done any research on soil life, vs other systems. From what I understand of it, biointensive almost never leaves the soil bare, which means that even though they disturb the soil life, they allow it bounce back as quickly as possible by not letting the bare soil bake in the sun, but rather by providing plant roots to immediately start interacting with again, and starting the process all over again. I won't argue that there is likely a much lower fungi count, simply due to the tearing action of double digging, but that fungi and other organisms that are killed in double digging (and thus feeding the plants), are immediately replaced with compost. So we're on the same page there.

    My question remains though: Which gives higher yields, and which sequesters more carbon? Let's break it down once more:

    Biointensive sequesters carbon by having plants growing in all beds at all times, and also by composting, which replaces soil organisms that were destroyed by double digging (Here's where the carbon sequestration could be plus or minus...does composting create more organisms than were destroyed? Just enough? Not enough? It's unclear). On top of this, they claim to have the highest yields of any currently known system. Is this due to the soil preparation, or because of their planting bed layouts, companion plantings, carbon/calorie crop planning, etc? Again, no research has been done on this, so no one really knows. For extremely poor, compacted soil, I wouldn't be surprised if it was attributed to the soil preparation. (For example, see https://www.growbiointensive.org/grow_test.html) For more established, fertile soil, I'm not sure the soil prep is really the culprit for increased yield, but rather the plant spacing and bed layout. This is just an assumption though, the research still needs to be done.

    No-till sequesters carbon by not allowing the soil to be exposed to the sun, thus preventing oxidization, and also by encouraging a perpetually flourishing soil community, which in and of itself is a compelling argument. In terms of yield, the results are unclear.

    Put the best of the two together, and perhaps we have a model for extremely high yielding, low (fossil) energy, carbon sequestering agriculture. I'm not necessarily advocating for double digging unless it's extremely poor soil, and once that is remedied, I would personally advocate no-till. In terms of plant spacing and planning, biointensive seems to have it down to a science. I know of no other planting system that can tell you exactly how many plants you can fit per square foot, what that yield will be, how much you need to plant if you want a year long supply of that crop, how much you need to leave if you want to save seed, and how much space to plant for mulch/compost crops if you want to maintain soil fertility. Has anyone combined these two systems and reported the results vs non-biointensive/no-till synthesis systems? Not that I'm aware of.

    See where my curiosity comes from?
     
  8. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2011
    Messages:
    779
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Ecology Action has been researching this for 30 years, so I don't see how you can say "no research has been done on this."

    You can order some of their research papers here: https://www.bountifulgardens.org/products.asp?dept=104
     
  9. NJNative

    NJNative Junior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Indeed, these booklets are on my list of things to buy, and I'm sure that each and every one of these booklets are enlightening and informative. However, what I'm getting at here is that, while they may have done years of research, have they done the specific research we're talking about here? Research is great, especially if you're looking to gain credibility and refine your techniques, but if it doesn't answer the question you're asking, it's not really helpful. It may be insightful, and I do intend on thoroughly studying the system to it's fullest, just to understand it, but I'm still curious of what a synthesis of the biointensive and no-till would look like, and if it could possibly show exactly what works and what doesn't for both systems. Perhaps double digging is complete folly, except in extremely degraded soils. Perhaps no-till methods could obtain just as high (if not higher) yields if done using the biointensive planting methods as a guide. I've seen videos of people using wood chip mulch in their veggie gardens, and getting crazy huge leaves of kale. Would mulching a biointensive bed increase yields? Would using crop wastes as a mulch increase or decrease yields, compared to using these crop wastes as a compost?

    If you can point me to a particular booklet that might shed some light on the issue, I'd be happy to read it, but as far as I can tell, these questions still seem largely unanswered.

    I apologize for belaboring the point, but I feel that there is still work to be done on this subject. Anyone that knows of any research or even personal experiments and experiences in synthesizing biointensive and no-till/hugelkulture/sheet mulching, or simply with tweaking either of these systems, please chime in!!
     
  10. matto

    matto Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2009
    Messages:
    685
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    16
    We know from the work of the Keyline plow that opening the subsoil up to incresed air, water and nutrient filtration, that this builds soil more than what ever thought was possible. Its true the Keyline plow isnt inverting soil or mixing layers but creates perfect conditions over large areas. There is an amount of oxidisation and killing of existing soil life, ie bacteria and mycellium, but this becomes food for other soil life that is present in the soil.
     
  11. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Messages:
    2,215
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Sometimes I feel we all get caught up in 'the big picture'. Don't get me wrong, the big picture is good, we need to take a look at it from time to time, to get our bearings. But. When it comes right down to it we need to develop a relationship with that little piece of land that we are living on. There is no mistake in the earth based cultures of the indigenous folks around the world - the connection with the land is of the utmost importance, it is our belonging.

    I think in all this discussion of how to 'get the best out of land' or how do we 'sequester carbon', we miss the point. It is about interacting with the land, about listening to it, about observing it. What is our role on this piece of land? How do we belong?

    Each piece of land is different - as different as people are different. Sure we can learn from others and get ideas about what might work here or there, but in the end we must understand the land we are on, have a conversation with it, work with it...

    If your intention is good and proper, then the path will appear before you and the decisions you make will bring you closer to the land.

    In my opinion it is this relationship with land that is missing in most of our urbanised lives. It is the thing that contributes most to human disfunction. Once we re-connect, properly reconnect, then the pieces begin to fall in place.

    All that stuff you see or read in the NEWS falls by the wayside, all the science you can absorb becomes surface information. Only when you truly return to the land will the land absorb you. That is when you will know what the land around you requires from you.

    What do you think, you permies, you organic growers out there? Don't you believe if you go out and observe, listen, to that little bit of land, that it tells you what it needs? If you just go out there and listen to it, to what your real thoughts are about it, that the solution reveals itself?

    Am I dreaming? Don't you really already know? Even after one or two goes at something?

    Tell me there are others out there feeling an understanding this.
     
  12. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    Messages:
    782
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Grahame, there is the truth of it. :)

    Maybe because we personally here do not have to make a dollar return from our place, we have never really thought about how to get the most out of our land, even in terms of ANY type of yield. Mostly, we have left it alone for the last 10 years. Our yield has been the enjoyment in seeing the native vegetation regenerate and the wildlife return. :)
    Being in this quiet haven, I really believe then that the path was and is being revealed to us.. Gradually we have felt drawn to implement various things.......chooks, ducks, a large vegetable garden/orchard/food forest, composting and mulching systems etc. These things seemed to come by some sort of osmos...hard to explain....but when the time was right we did what we thought or dreamed up and it works. Largely, although we read quite a bit of info, it is gut instinct and what appears to us as common sense, that directs us in our actions. Perhaps this is our land speaking to us to tell us how to proceed? One has to be quiet and humble enough to listen hey? That is a lesson I learned well this year......not just in the garden. 8)
     
  13. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Messages:
    2,215
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Thanks for that MouseITH.

    For me it is (and for much of my life has been) about patience. Sometimes change seems to me to be like a glacial process, but then when I can manage to narrow my stare I can see what seems to have changed in the last 5 years. I realise there is something happening. Both here on my little patch and out there in the wider community. In the community it has been the proliferation of Farmers markets, the engaged look people give me when I mention permaculture (rather than the glazed look of even 5 years ago), the uptake of home gardening, so many little signs. And then on the home front, trees are beginning to bear fruit, the fork slides into the beds rather than jolting my arms, there are more birds, insects and little animals hanging about. It really is changing! This whole 'Be the change' thing is actually working.

    Can you see it too?
     

Share This Page

-->