Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
In some ways, this is an even more radical approach than Fukuoka's. For one thing, it
aims at having many different grain-producing species growing at once as in a natural prair-
ie. For another, it turns away from the species we have traditionally grown for grain, which
are all annuals, and looks for perennials which could do the job for us.
Many problems remain to be sorted out before this idea can become a viable working
system, not least the problem of getting all the different plants to ripen at the same time so
that they can be harvested with reasonable efficiency. But one thing is for certain: it will
have the lowest inputs and the least harmful outputs of any grain growing system, and will
come closer to the permacultural ideal of an edible ecosystem than any other method of
growing grain.
Water on Farms
The most neglected resource on our farms is certainly water. A body of water can produce
ten times the amount of protein, in the form of fish, as the same area of grazing land can in
the form of sheep or cattle.
A carefully chosen selection of different kinds of fish, each making use of a different
kind of food, can make full use of the diverse natural food supplies available in the pond:
plant and animal plankton, vegetation, small animals such as snails, even the rich detritus
at the bottom of the pond. Trees planted on the water's edge can provide much of this food
in the form of falling leaves and animal life, such as the caterpillars, which can rain down
on the water from alder trees at certain times of the year.
Productivity can be increased by adding animal manures to the water. The most efficient
way of doing this is to build pigsties or chicken houses over the pond so the droppings just
fall in. This is already done in many tropical countries. It is really just the same as manuring
a field, but there is less work involved and the potential return from that manure is much
greater than if it was spread on the land.
The most productive ecosystems on Earth are on the edges of water. In our climate that
means reedbeds, which produce more biomass than any other ecosystem and far more than
any agricultural system. This edge effect c an be seen in many different ecosystems, but it is
most marked where water and land meet. The plants have the advantages of both mediums:
the water means they never suffer from drought stress, and the soil gives them a place to
root and grow that is close to the air. In order to maximise the edge effect, ponds should
have a wavy shoreline, full of bays and promontories, and a shelving shore rather than a
quick drop from dry land to deep water.
Many of these plants are edible and they can out-yield land plants just as fish outyield
land animals. Usually the edible parts are starchy roots or tubers which are a good comple-
ment to the protein of fish. Most of them are native species, which of course makes them
easier to grow and better for the local ecology. Common reed, bulrush, reedmaces and wa-
ter lilies all have edible parts. As well as being harvested for human food, they can be used
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