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Request to add Roland Bunch articles to our list

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  • Robert Monie
    Hello Everybody, Larry, I would like to second Emilia s request that Roland Bunch s Nutrient Quantity or Nutrient Access be added to the Fukuoka Web Page
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 23, 2002
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      Hello Everybody,

      Larry, I would like to second Emilia's request that Roland Bunch's "Nutrient Quantity or Nutrient Access" be added to the Fukuoka Web Page list. There are in addition two other Internet postings by Bunch that we might want to consider.

      I have trouble pulling any of these up by their URL, so let me refer to them through the www.google.com search engine. On google, if you type in "Roland Bunch Nutrient Quantity or Nutrient Access," you can click on the first entry in the list. This should be a 2001 memo from Bunch to the Cornell MOIST project, inviting their members to comment on his paper. The full text of his paper is available by clicking on the "Nutrient Quantity or Nutient Access" header he has provided.

      Note that in the memo Bunch gives his email and geographical addresses: rolando@... COSECHA Valle de Angeles, Honduras.

      This paper contains, pages 15-16, an elaboration of point 5 (Feed the crops primarily through the mulch): "In fact, most, if not all, the crops that grow in the humid tropics will spread the vast majority of their feeder roots immediately under or even up into a mulch layer as long as it remains fairly moist. That is, they will feed much more readily from inside and immediately below the litter layer than from the soil itself."

      At this point, I think we need to have Ruth Stout and Emilia come forward and take a bow for knowing that this must be so.

      Page 9 of Bunch's paper summarizes Ana Primavesi's experiment sustaining plants hydroponically by feeding them every two days with just 1/50 the recommended nutrient concentration. This shows the folly of dumping great quantities of N-K-P fertilizer into the soil. The mulch, the moisture, and just a little mud, along with some sunshine, are enough--forget the chemicals.

      Then, there is a very long consultancy paper that Roland Bunch wrote in 1997 for the Vietnamese-German Technical Cooperation Social Forestry Development Project that, although technical, is entirely readable, even entertaining, to anyone with a serious interest in the subject.

      The concept of "Social Forestry" is warmer and more inviting that the usual term "Agro-Forestry" or even "Forest Gardening," because it puts us people back into the mix explicitly; since we are always meddling with nature anyway, why try to hide?

      Bunch returns again to his "Feed the Plants with Mulch" principle but this time with a startling statement, born of many years' observation and mulling over the subject:

      "Scientific research has now confirmed that food crops can extract nutrients from a liter layer and that they REDESIGN THEIR ENTIRE ROOT SYSTEM in order to do so more efficiently" [My capitalization.]

      Here is an explosion of possibilities. Do generations of plants grown as mulch feeders genetically change into mulch-preferring varieties? Can (should) plant varieities preferring mulch be deliberately bred? This goes back to a question I asked when I first joined this list. Can there be such a thing as "Fukuoka" or "natural farming" seeds (or nursery plants varieties, for that matter)? Will such seeds (plants) invariably work better in natural culture than seeds (plants) grown some other way?

      Any of you plant breeders like to comment on this?

      Larry, please at least look at this Bunch article also. Despite its length, it might be worth putting on our articles link. To find it on google.com, search for "Social Forest Development Project Roland Bunch" and choose the "RETA" file.

      For Bunch's direct comments on Fukuoka, go back to google.com and search for "An Odyssey of Discovery Roland Bunch" or "An Odyssey of Discovery: Principle of Agriculture for the Humid Tropics." There, Bunch recalls that "We had been reading Fukuoka's 'The One-Straw Revolution.' However his [Fukuoka's] recommendations of zero tillage failed to convince us. After all, most of the traditional agriculture in Latin America uses zero tillage yet is far from productive."

      Bunch then tells how a visit to southern Brazil changed his mind. "Valdemar de Freitas showed us that the secret to achieving zero tillage is applying massive amounts of organic matter to the soil. The Brazilians' discovery explained why the zero tillage gm/cc [green manure/crop cover] systems of northern Honduras--and Fukuoka's--produce so well, while many traditional zero tillage systems do not."

      One mile from the Mississippi River, in Southeast Louisiana--Bob Monie


      Emilia, I think I have the Science article on plant guilds that you want. Let me look.

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    • Larry Haftl
      Hi Robert, ... Nutrient ... There ... want ... You want it, you got it. Just posted the following to the Articles section page: Nutrient Quantity or Nutrient
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 23, 2002
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        Hi Robert,

        >Larry, I would like to second Emilia's request that Roland Bunch's
        >Quantity or Nutrient Access" be added to the Fukuoka Web Page list.
        >are in addition two other Internet postings by Bunch that we might
        >to consider.

        You want it, you got it. Just posted the following to the Articles
        section page:

        "Nutrient Quantity or Nutrient Access? A New Understanding of How
        to Maintain Soil Fertility in the Tropics” by Roland Bunch" -- in
        PDF format

        TROPICS" which is the slightly longer version of the article that
        is in Agroforester's The Overstory archives.

        BTW, for those of you who haven't visited the Agroforester Overstory
        archives, they have 100 articles loaded with useful information for
        use in tropics as well as temperate zones and DEFINITELY worth the

        http://agroforester.com (already in the Resources section under

        It's weird how web research works. I found an excerpt of that article
        in a magazine page. There was another name associated with it (which
        I can't recall at the minute). I started tracking the other name
        and found all sorts of interesting stuff and never got back to trace
        Bunch. Just goes to show how valuable it is to have a bunch of people
        nosing around the net instead of just one.

        Thanks for the tip Bob,
        I'll go hunting for the other stuff next.

        It would be hard to get Ruth Stout to take a bow (deceased), but
        I think it might be more appropriate for us to bow in the direction
        of Emilia as thanks to her for sharing all of this incredibly useful

        Larry (you can find Robert Monie's star on the Projects map) Haftl
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