Why permaculture?

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by Ludi, Apr 7, 2012.

  1. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    If plough agriculture can be practiced sustainably for thousands of years as in China, why practice permaculture?
     
  2. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Do you mean with their rice padi's?
    There is a constant inflow of nutrients coming into the system with padi culture and its the reason why it is the most long served form of agriculture on the planet.
     
  3. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I just used China as an example showing that plough agriculture has been practiced for thousands of years so why is permaculture better? I'm looking for an argument of why we should practice permaculture instead of plough agriculture.
     
  4. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Because every other agriculture has failed... Look at what used to be the Fertile Crescent in the Middle east, where agriculture was born. The Mayan dynasty went the same way. All of the major civilisations have failed after a few hundred years besides padi culture, and now we have a globalculture walking down the same path. The indigenous know that polyculture is the best defense against uncertainty, and this is why Holmgren, et al, lend a lot of their ideas from traditional agriculture.

    Check out https://www.permaculture.org.au/files/farmers_of_forty_centuries.pdf
     
  5. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thank you. I posted this because someone at another forum was arguing that plough agriculture is sustainable because it has lasted thousands of years in some locations such as China. I'm interested to see permaculturists' response to this argument, and may link to this thread if that discussion continues.
     
  6. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Wow, thank you for the reading material!
     
  7. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I have a couple of thoughts. One is, what is meant by 'plough agriculture'? We would need some very specific examples, with detail, of the situations in China where this has been in operation for thousands of years. What the Chinese in those areas practice might not be what people on other parts of the world think of as 'plough agriculture'.

    Secondly, permaculture is the application of appropriate technology within a design whose purpose was sustainability (amongst other things). Just because most use of ploughs is unsustainable, doesn't mean it's not possible to have a pc design that includes plough use (i.e. if the Chinese do have a sustainable plough culture, they may be practicing that within a form of permaculture). Again, we would need to know the specifics. Pc isn't a list of do this, don't do that. It's about the relationship between all the things and whether those relationships are sustainable.
     
  8. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Agriculture in the Middle East was also an example of plough agriculture having been practiced a long time. Pointing out that it seemed unsustainable was called "nit picking."
     
  9. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    I recently got the book 'Farmers of forty centuries', because I had heard that Chinas' methods had been sustainable.
    One thing that staggered me was the sheer volume of compost that was made, looked after and put on the fields and how they used humanure for fert as well.

    According to Fukuoaka, ploughing isnt neccessary and he had managed t get very good results without it.


    One thing that really saddened me was that through being efficient without completely understanding the effects was where the book said that when trees were cut down for firewood, every bit of it was used-every branch,trunk,leaf and ROOT, so as to not be wasteful of anything.

    In effect destroying the eco system they got the trees from.
    We now know about coppicing so hopefully this will never happen again.
     
  10. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Did they not think the effects of salt build up after irrigation to be unsustainable? Also the rise and fall of populations over time has more to do with how they were abusing the soil rather than being conquered by the Sumerians or the Romans... and where are they today?
     
  11. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Sorry Ludi, but I don't understand what you are saying here. If you think that there has been sustainable plough agriculture in either China or the Middle East, that has lasted thousands of years, please give some specific examples. 'China' and 'Middle East' are such ridiculously large land masses with variable climates and geographies, and have completely different connotations 3 or 4 thousand years ago, that I have no idea what you are meaning.

    Mishchief, does Farmers of Forty Centuries talk about ploughing?
     
  12. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I don't think there has been sustainable plough agriculture, as I said, this was a claim someone else made. Their argument that it is sustainable is that people are still practicing plough agriculture in those places thousands of years later. I can't say I understand their argument given the visible destruction of the soil, I just wanted to get the perspectives of people here.
     
  13. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    i suspect the chinese have controll of their shit

    and wee
    have they really had inversion ploughs for thousands of years>??8)
     
  14. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I don't think the Chinese are currently practicing any form of sustainable agriculture as a society. They seem intent on emulating the worst the West has demonstrated as far as pollution and destruction of their ecosystems.... :(
     
  15. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I suspect ploughing may have been a different beast a few hundred years ago... A hand pulled wooden plough is a different ball game to a big tractor with an air-conditioned cab and hardened steel prongs in the ground. Tilling is also climate specific - Bill Mollison in the designers manual says that some tilling is OK in temperate regions, but no other climates will let you get away with it in the long term.
     
  16. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    "Some tilling" I think is the significant idea. I remember the video "Farm for the Future" in which the filmmaker recalled her father ploughing the land and all kinds of birds coming to eat the worms and things exposed, but years later, still ploughing, no birds.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xShCEKL-mQ8
     
  17. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    I am going to put up a sign on my farm that says "This is a NO-TILLING zone, Shhhhh, enjoy."

    Bill Mollison in the Global Gardener shows a man who became a multi-millionaire by taking care of his soil with worms, not tilling.

    That is my encouragement along with the work of Fukuoka.
     
  18. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Oh, right. That wasn't clear. Still, the first thing I would be asking them would be specific examples. China is a big place, and it makes no sense to use it (or the Middle East) as an example without detail. Once they give a specific example, it's pretty easy to demonstrate whether it is sustainable or not.

    AFAIK there ARE still traditional land use practices in parts of China that have been in use for thousands of years. I have no idea if they use ploughs or not though. Google terraquaculture +China.
     
  19. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Hi Pebble,
    yes it did with picts of wooden ploughs.
    Farmers of forty centuries was originally published in 1911 and republished in 2004.
    It covers China,Japan and Korea.

    Their climate is definitely different to ours with rain throughout their summer.

    One thing I just thought was that I havent heard or read of how the Chinese etc... farmed before Europeans arrived.
    Did they plough before then.
    One pic that made me wonder was of Windsor broad beans being intercropped with something else...I thought Broad beans were a European/mediterranean plant, so if that had been introduced, had ploughing?
    The pic of the plough looks to me like one you would see in Old English farm pics.

    As I said before, I was more impressed by the emphasis that was placed on composting, we're talking 10 feet by ten feet by six feet high and buildings made to make and store compost-the diagram on this(may be just for that particular building and not wide spread-cant really tell).
    Anyway the dimensions for this compost house that served 2 1/2 acres was 12 feet by 18 feet with a capacity of 16 to 20 tons.
    the compost was made on one side of the house and left to sit for 5-7 weeks when it was then forked over to the opposite side.
    Just for 2 1/2 acres.
    There are other examples of the making and using of compost which is why I feel that this aspect probably contributed more to the fertility of the land than the plough did.
    The book also mentions a different way of hoeing the soil to weed it too, but I couldnt find that bit to write this.
    One last thing that struck me as important was that they had alot of canals and drainage ditches which were cleared with baskets etc... and the mud put back on the land or used in the composts which would collect the nutrients washed out of the farm land by the rain.
    I have read this twice already and feel the need to do so again.
     
  20. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    CJ Verde at the other messageboard posted a passage from "Tree Crops" written in 1929, which I think deserves to be here too:


     

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