Yield of permaculture systems compared to organic gardens

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by craigembleton, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. craigembleton

    craigembleton Junior Member

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    Hi All
    I'm currently researching and essay (for a Masters Degree) about the environmental gains from transforming UK suburban gardens into permaculture systems. I'm trying to quantify the produce yield (actual weight of crop) per unit area and wondered if anyone out there knew of any permaculture studies. It's not that difficult to get hold of data related to the weight of vegetables that can be grown on an alloment for example, or the weight of sweet chestnuts (or other forest crops) that can be produced per unit area. However, one of the great advantages of permaculture, as you all know, is the production of crops on different layers. Has anyone out there measured their yields over a season and would be prepared to share their information with me? Temperate climate data would be ideal, but any would be helpful.
    Many thanks
    Craig
     
  2. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Craig

    Welcome to the PRI Forum.

    It seem that this is a common topic among research themes.

    Have you tried using the search function to see if you can 'yield' any responses from earlier questions asked on here?

    I don't know of any direct studies relating to your question, but sooner out later I too am going to have to find data, or do the primary work myself for my own ongoing research program.

    What I do know is that we might struggle to find data. This is because most permaculture systems are complex, and the people (including myself) who build them likewise tend to be complex beings, and often leave little time for collecting empirical data.

    This is not to say someone out there hasn't done it.

    Oh, I presume you have completed a thorough literature review on the subject?

    Good luck with your search, Markus.
     
  3. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

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    g'day craig,

    to me mate that is like asking how long is a piece of string, i don't see that using permaculture practises and growing organically as opposing each other pemaculture people will naturally be growing organically when into permaculture but and organic gardener may not be using permaculture principals.

    then there are so many other variables ie.,. the season, aspect of the gardening area, the gardeners knowledge, rainfall, how well the medium is fed so nutrient levels (will always be different from garden to garden or even farm to farm) realy can't see you getting anything like a diffinitive answer where you can catagorically say this happens in organic and that happens in permaculture, both of which go hand in glove.

    for us it is not about best of crop or highest yield or even the neatest garden, it is about getting good food with little effort and no chemical applications whatsoever.

    check our site for how we do our growing we do well enough no doubt like all others there could be things we might do diffrently but for now what we do works for us. we where organic growers first up and then came to using permaculture principals our yields are pretty much similar though we have had better gardens in other places just how it is, we do the best with what we have.

    len
     
  4. SueUSA

    SueUSA Junior Member

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    I'm going to agree with Len. The big advantage to permaculture is the ability to adapt to very localized conditions, and those varied conditions aren't very compatible with multiple case studies. What works for me may be totally different for someone who has different soil, different slope, different exposure, different crops, different interests, different research results.

    And you couldn't even compare tropical, subtropical and temperate areas. With the strong sunlight in the tropical areas, I suspect those lucky Aussies can plant their edges more closely than we in the Pacific Northwest (USA) and Britain can do.

    And don't forget, permaculture IS organic!

    Sue
     
  5. thepoolroom

    thepoolroom Junior Member

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    I would guess that permaculture would yield less for a given area than intensive organic. Permaculture tends to try to provide as much as possible on-site, whereas intensive organic gardens often bring in mulch, compostable materials, etc from off-property. Also, as others have alluded to above, permaculture favours minimising human effort by working with the natural cycles, so there'd be a yield trade-off.

    In short, intensive organic maximises the output of a given unit of land area, whereas permaculture would tend to maximise the output for a given unit of human effort.

    By the way, most permaculture properties I've seen or read about seem to have an organic vegie patch incorporated into them.
     
  6. craigembleton

    craigembleton Junior Member

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    Hi Markus

    Thanks for the reply. I have completed a literature review on the subject mainly using sciencedirect.com and google scholar - and the range of permaculture books that I have. Not a lot of luck. I guess it's still an open field for research.

    I did find an interesting paper called can Britain feed itself (transitionculture.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/CanBritain.pdf) that argues that we can and most efficiently using permaculture - either vegan or meat eating - both systems better than organic and both leaving wild areas of land on our crowded island. to quote the author "I mean permaculture on the macro-scale, involving increased integration of lifestyle with natural and renewable cycles, rather than mulching, intercropping and herb spirals." But very broad brush figures. But it's a start. Thanks again. Cheers, Craig
     
  7. craigembleton

    craigembleton Junior Member

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    Thanks Len, Sue and the thepoolroom(?) too. I thought the old 'piece of string' might come up ;-)
    I'll check out John Jevon's research about biointensive growing and see if it does involve bringing a lot of material on to the plot. BTW I thought that was common practice in permaculture anyway - or maybe just setting up a system? I did my PDC in Jordan with Geoff and Nadia last October and the sites their certainly brought in a lot of material from the surrounding area for composting. Cheers, Craig
     
  8. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Craig

    Concerning your literature review:

    Google Scholar has its limitations, as does Science Direct.

    I have just run a meta-search using the La Trobe University database across all electronic journal titles that the uni subscribes to (over 2,000) for the phrases 'alternative agriculture', 'organic agriculture' and 'sustainable agriculture', and the following is what come back:

    1 Agriculture and environment [electronic resource]. :
    2 Agriculture and human values (Online) :
    3 Agriculture, ecosystems & environment [electronic resource]. : ;
    4 Embase [electronic resource]. : ;
    5 American-Eurasian Journal of Sustainable Agriculture [electronic resource]. : ;
    6 LEISA ILEIA newsletter for low-external-input and sustainab [electronic resource] : : ; 1997-
    7 GreenFILE [electronic resource]. : 2008
    8 International journal of agricultural sustainability (Onlin :
    9 Irrigation and drainage (International Commission on Irriga : ; c2001-
    10 Journal of SAT agricultural research [electronic resource] : ; 2005
    11 American journal of alternative agriculture [electronic resource]. : c2003
    12 Australian journal of experimental agriculture and animal h [electronic resource]. : ;
    13 Australian journal of experimental agriculture (Online) :
    14 California agriculture [electronic resource]. :
    15 Culture & agriculture (Online) : ; 1977-
    16 Energy in agriculture [electronic resource]. : c1987
    17 Experimental agriculture [electronic resource]. :
    18 Frontiers of agriculture in China [electronic resource]. :
    19 International journal of sociology of agriculture and food : ;
    20 Journal of the science of food and agriculture (Online) : ;
    21 Journal of Central European agriculture [electronic resource]. : ; 2000-
    22 Journal of Science and Technology of Agriculture and Natura [electronic resource]. : ;
    23 Journal of sustainable agriculture (Online) : ;
    24 Journal of tropical agriculture [electronic resource]. :
    25 The Kiplinger agriculture letter [electronic resource]. : c1986-
    26 The open agriculture journal [electronic resource]. : ; 2007
    27 PennState agriculture [electronic resource]. : ; 1984-
    28 Precision agriculture (Online) :
    29 Renewable agriculture and food systems (Online) : 2004-
    30 Research journal of agriculture and biological sciences [electronic resource]. : 2005-
    31 Turkish journal of agriculture & forestry Türk tar{184 [electronic resource] = : ; 1994-
    32 AgExporter (Online) : 2004
    33 AGRICOLA welcome to the National Agriculture Library's (NAL [electronic resource] : : ; 1970
    34 Annual report [electronic resource] / Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestr : ;

    I reckon you might get lucky if you drill down into a few (all?) of the above journals, and do a phrase search on 'permaculture yield'.

    Concerning yields:

    The advice that you have been given thus far is quite sound. In order to undertake a quantitative analysis between the two elements, you are going to have to look at the energy input/output equation.

    For example: I yield x amount (mass) of potatoes from x amount (area) of land using 'organic' methods. I do the same using 'permaculture' methods. I then compare the two sets of data. It appears that 'organic' yields more than 'permaculture'. But how do I know the true 'benefit' if I have not measured the true 'cost'? My organic test sample plot may use seed imported from China, mulch imported from Bulgaria, water imported from Holland, growing medium imported from Kurdistan... yet my permaculture test sample plot may use seed from last year's harvest, mulch from onsite sources, water from onsite catchment and storage facilities, soil (growing medium) from onsite compost facility... Further, how do I harvest my yield? For that method too must be accounted for in the final tally. Did I use a tractor? Where did I source the fuel from? What is the total amount of embodied energy inherent in both methods? Etc., etc., etc...

    Have a look through the above journals and see if someone else has done the work for you (us). That way you (we) may get away with a secondary data analysis.

    I too had a quick browse on Google Scholar using the phrase 'permaculture yield', got a few hits back, but do not have the time to analyse.

    Good luck with your research. Please return and let us know how you get on. You may even wish to publish your completed thesis via this forum.

    Cheerio, Markus.
     
  9. craigembleton

    craigembleton Junior Member

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    Thanks for your help.

    Hi Markus

    Thanks for your continued help. I've checked out some of the journals, but my institution doesn't have access them all. The piece of work I'm doing is one of eight essays that are limited to 2000 words, as opposed to the thesis which I have not yet started (this is going to look at soil building in drylands). As far as this essay is concerned I have had to reign in my original ideas, and I've concentrated on forest gardening and biointensive kitchen gardening. This mimics the UK ecosystem of forest and glade quite well - the kitchen garden being part of the glade/forest edge. To do a permaculture yield study justice will require a long term practical study. It may take over ten years for the top layer in a forest garden to start producing at full yield. This is something that I'd love to do and will do in the future. It will take discipline to measure everything the system produces. Every berry will have to be weighed before it's eaten. Best wishes, Craig

     
  10. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    I would have to weigh my wife and daughter every time they left the house and then again upon returning from the garden. The chances of a strawberry or a raspberry making it to a set of scales are almost non-existent.

    I think you would have to include the animals in any product weight, which would start making things more complex. The scraps also go back into the system
     
  11. wenshidi

    wenshidi Junior Member

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    permaculture yields

    Good luck with the research. This kind of information is desperately needed if we are going to convince corporate interests to make large scale investments in permaculture and food forests. References to pieces of string are not going to cut it with accountants and executives who want to know exactly what their ROI will be. I therefore hope that you will share your research here, so that the rest of us can persuade big investors to sponsor our ongoing efforts.
    I too am doing similar research, and so here are a few links that you might also find useful

    https://www.gardensofeden.org/04 Crop Yield Verification.htm

    https://deepgreenpermaculture.wordpress.com/my-garden/7-analysis-yields-how-does-it-all-add-up/

    https://www.midwestpermaculture.com/GreenhouseProfitPotential.php

    I hope that this little bit helps.
     
  12. Tropical food forest

    Tropical food forest Junior Member

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    To get a better ideaof permaculture impacts youd have to research multiple things, none of which will have permaculture in the name

    youd have to assess Zone 0 based on architecture and energy efficiency

    for zone 1 youll have to research the social and economic value of
    home gardens, Homestead gardens, pekarangan, Gewatta, Chagga home gardens , allotments, etc

    dont just look at food
    follow the environmnetal services track

    permaculture forest gardens like most forests tend not to create a lot of carbs or protein
    but they do make lots of goods of higher economic value , medicines, vitamin rich foods etc
    they also recycle a lot of waste and waste water

    they arent going to supply all needs. no human society occupies only 1 habitat
    but on the home front they are doing a great job

    key authors inlcude Christanty, abdoellah, Soemarwoto and others
    follow the citations
     
  13. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Len, you mean I'm busting my ass to plant according to Permaculture principles, and mix up my biodiversity a la Sepp Holzer, moving hundreds of perennials all over the place, and it's as vague as how long is a piece of string? Hang around the Organic Gardening magazine forums, and you'll cry about how they define ":eek:rganic" It's so very sad. It's become what is convenient, or what is in a package at the nursery, as long as 90% of the other things are "organic" which they want to include Starbucks coffee grounds, which come from Central America and are grown with chemicals they don't even allow in the US! Okay, I know I'm ranting.

    Permaculture is the foundation to the house, and organic gardening is the green siding, in MHO *s*
     
  14. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    Just an idea.. we have a nice little spiral bound book, in which we keep a little diary.
    Every time produce makes it into the house, we weigh it and note it down, also planting times and inputs like dolomite.
    If we all did this then in only a couple of years, we could have a great record of productivity. I think it takes some courage to admit if we fall short of all the things we'd like to grow, but of course, we don't all have unlimited time etc etc but I think measuring it would help us all to identify the things we can do better!
    I plan to post mine on this forum when I get the time to tabulate it.
     
  15. charlesinnaloo

    charlesinnaloo Junior Member

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    Not a particularly helpful point but permaculture is a system a diverse replication of nature, and ecosystem, we do not endevour generally to utilise the soil to maximise the output of any one crop, we are producing enough, not more and more, and if we have enough time or space striving for more diversity and ecosystem improvement often at the cost of overall food output.
    In my mind there is no question, short term yeild based production organic is going to will, but is it a self reliant ecosystem based food production method no..... organic farming aims to produce crops and food in a earth friendly manner rather than synthetic destructive way. Feeding and improving the soil etc to maximise its nutrient and productive capabilities, good gardening practices like crop rotation and green manure are used to reduce issue with pest/bugs/plant stress etc, but its not about the same aim as permaculture.

    Just my opinion, sorry if I appear to be poo pooing your area of research. I guess to simplify I see your question, similar to "what makes a heavier/larger bread loaf, wheat flour or a gluten free bread mix" (including buckwheat, quinoa, arraroot, chai seed, flax seed, and 10 other ingredients so the loaf is edible). Might not make sense to others but that's the only analogy that sprang to mind.
     
  16. Noz

    Noz Junior Member

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    Go to the Australian Diggers resources on 'mini-plots'.
     
  17. Noz

    Noz Junior Member

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    The hilarious thing about this method is that it would actually work! ha!
     
  18. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Yield of permaculture systems compared to organic gardens
    Difficult question.
    define "yield" for example.
    have a look at a couple of the threads here on forest gardening the three sisters gardening ( Which "yields" all the amino acids we need for life.) and other traditional ways of producing useful stuff, like food and medicine.

    Some great tragedies have happened in the pursuit of bigger numbers (one way of looking at 'yield"). For example the UN/USAs misguided attempt to abolish traditional terraced gardens in S. America and replace them with broad acre tractor-tilled farms.
    Above all else sustainability and long term protection of the environment and soil should be a part of the equation that defines "yield".

    As a PG student i am surprised that your institutional library does not have a service where they can get/borrow the articles you want from other universities who do subscribe to the journals you want. this is what happens in Australia, where costs preclude libraries subscribing to all known journals.

    Let us know how you fare.
     
  19. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Good point. Is it only what most people would define as edibles that would count in the yield? Or the green manure and mulch-ables that you grow that mean you don't need to replace them with bought in stuff. Is it the edible weeds? And the edible but not usually considered as edible parts of plants (like pumpkin or sweet potato leaves). Is it the eggs from your chooks? And the chook poo that means you don't need to buy Dynamic Lifter?
     
  20. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    Currently reading:

    Mullins, P. & Kynaston, C. (2000) 'The Household Production of Subsistence Goods: The Urban Peasant Thesis Reassessed', in Troy, P. (ed) A History of European Housing in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 142-63.

    In the above, Mullins & Kynaston compare 'household production' (code name for permaculture yields) from Australian and NZ households across the later half of the C20.

    Google Books have pp. 144-6 available here.

    I can't find a full (free) copy online, but maybe your local library can help you? Either way, it (the entire book) is an informative and enjoyable read.
     

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