Thanks for introducing this book to us. I take it that you can recommend
it. It isn't altogether clear what is your own comment and what is from the
book. Hence, before getting a copy myself it would be good to know if it is
primarily theoretical or if there are practical implications that can be of use
in gardening or farming?
I didn't know that temperature is that important. But I guess there are other
factors. When we get the first rain after the dry season, the soil is completely
dry and it is almost as if it had water repellent properties. It takes some time
for the water to sink in. I think that is not entirely due to temperature. It is
obvious that it takes longer to sink in on bare soil than into grass sod for
example. As to the movement of water in the soil, there is not just the "hard
rock", there are many different layers of soil and rocks at different angles,
some carry water some don't. Bringing up the ground water level isn't that
easy either. Portugal has a lot of forests, still ground water levels are very
low in many places.
I understand you have a preference for perennials. I agree that we should
introduce more landscaping trees into agriculture, but perennials are unlikely
to ever replace annuals in agriculture completely. I think there is a need
One of the features of the Alentejo region here in the South of Portugal
are the cork oaks. They are often used on grazing land. When grown, the
trees often have a sparse crown that lets through a lot of sunlight. Thus,
the trees shade the soil in the scorching sun but still let through enough
sunlight for annuals to grow under the trees to allow grazing by sheep,
goats or pigs.
Bernhard Heuvel <bernhardundee@...
as Bill Mollison said: The soil is the biggest water storage system
available. There is no other system that can hold more water on your
property than soil does.
A very interesting read is the book "Das Wesen des Wassers" by the
author Viktor Schauberger*. *ISBN-10: 3038002720 ISBN-13:
978-3038002727. Being published just recently it is not yet available in
English, but it would be worth translating it. What I extracted from
this book is, that _temperature_ is the most importing issue to be
considered when handling with water. And that temperature is the most
important thing when it comes to health of a certain eco-system.
Rainwater has a temperature as well as the soil has. If the rainwater is
warmer than the soil, the soil sucks in the water very easily. If the
rainwater is actually cooler than the soil the water doesn't go into the
soil. It is flushing across the surface, ripping away fertility.
The same with the water table / groundwater level. The level is not (!)
depending on the hard rock where water can't go through. The water table
lies in between the soil, not on a rock pan. So why does the water stopp
running further down into the soil? It is temperature!
The rainwater fells onto the soil, if it is warmer than the soil it gets
sucked in, sinking into the earth. It sinks until it reaches the
temperature of 4°C (39.2°F) - this is because of the attributes of water
in the state of 4°C. Of course, when it reaches hard rock first it'll
flow away on that rock. But with no rock it'll sink until 4°C / 39.2°F.
Between the surface and the water table there is a constant exchange.
The water in the water table releases gases while "ripening" thus
transporting minerals and such to the surface. Water that sips down from
the surface takes stuff down. This way there is a constant circling of
matter in the soil. _It could be compared to constant tilling!_
If the water that runs through the soil cools down very quick the water
table / groundwater level lies just below the surface. Being close to
the surface the exchange of matter is done regularily and easily.
If the water needs more time to cool, because soil itself is warm, the
groundwater level is deeper in the soil. Thus the exchange of minerals
and such is slowed down or stopped at all.
So temperature of soil and water can be looked at as essential for
Modern farming with tilling produces a bare soil. Thus the sun heats up
the soil very easily. Being heated up, the rainwater can't suck into the
soil and flushes along the surface producing erosion. Because the soil
is that warm, the water table is going deeper and deeper. The
consequence is a de-mineralized soil, which makes the use of fertilizers
In Natural Farming no fertilizers or manure are needed at all, because
the soil itself carries a lot of minerals and nutrition in itself. It is
not just humus which produces fertility! What we have to realize is,
that the temperature of soil has to be lowered, the soil has to be shaded.
If the soil gets shaded, the rainwater always goes into the soil instead
of running off. This way one can make use even of very little rainfall.
Storing it into the biggest reservoir one can imagine. By shading the
soil the groundwater level is close to the surface which guarantees a
lively exchange of gases, matter and minerals between the surface and
deep ground. Thus making tilling unnecessary at all. There is a lot of
fertility in any soil, one have to activate the exchange circle to make
use of it. about
In organic farming the use of mulch partly does the same shading
purposes, covering the ground and protecting it a bit. But often tilling
and / or irrigation is considered to be necessary. If the mulch is
exposed to the sun, it heats up and doesn't prevent the soil below from
doing so as well. With mulch alone one can't prevent erosion, compacting
of soil and demineralization.
What about covering with plants instead of mulch. Well, this is what
nature does. First there are the pioneer herbs and weeds. Then the first
crubs appear, after them the trees come. The trees fell and the spiral
is starting over again. Nature's succession.
Industrial farming works on bare soil. Well, it is no real wonder that
they do have the most problems with weeds, for this is the part where
weeds are thrown in by nature. By heating up the soil and lowering the
water table they create the need for fertilizer as well.
Organic farming is the next state in succession. Still weeds are a
problem, as well as the need for manure.
Natural Farming with a living cover is the next state. Weeds are a
problem only when the soil is poorly covered and shaded, thus heated up
So, what is the next step?
Looking at the text above one can easily see where the path goes. Most
annual plants need bare soil, for they are pioneer weeds themselves.
Biennial plants could be good with mulching. Perennials could be
integrated more easily in Natural Farming than annuals. The last step
would be to bring the trees in. The trees shade the soil most
sufficiently and keeping it in the healthiest state possible.
For me (that means this is not the general rule or law) it is apparent,
that the most natural farming would be the farming with succession in
very small niches. I'd go for perennials rather than annuals. The big
bulk should be perennials. This includes trees of all sorts, nuts and
fruits. This includes scrubs like berries and fruit hedges. Don't forget
the climbers and twiner plants. Perennials do allow well chosen animals
to live within them. Animals make a good addition to human nutrition and
surely are the best pest controller available. The soil is shaded and
thus health is established without much work.
Annuals and biennals have to be kept in small niches only. Any approach
to farm annuals on a bigger patch means work, use of irrigation,
tilling, fertilizing and such. This is because of the soils'
temperature. But farming them in small niches in between perennials, it
could be done without much effort. The natural farmer can create a small
spot with the right micro-climate. The soil in that micro-climate
benefits from the surrounding shaded soil thus making a good natural
farming with "do nothing".
It is all about temperature.
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