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Re: [fukuoka_farming] Gardening, naturally?

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  • Robert Monie
    Hi Jeff, For a brighter marriage of technology and biota, see the Eden Project (http://www.edenproject.com), which brings together the world s biomes under the
    Message 1 of 17 , Dec 7, 2006
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      Hi Jeff,

      For a brighter marriage of technology and biota, see the Eden Project (http://www.edenproject.com), which brings together the world's biomes under the shimmering transluency of "next-generation" geodesic domes and tensegrity structures engineered by Nicholas Grimshaw and Company. The Eden project respects (and openly uses) the Earth and its atmosphere and makes no attempt to transform a barren self-imposed vacuum into a quasi-Earth by terrafarming, as the Biosphere mistakenly did.

      The trouble with Biosphere is that it was (as the old English proverb goes) "neither fish nor fowl." James Loveck and other visionary scientists toyed with the idea of greening Mars and making an Earthly atmosphere there by seeding the planet with the right plants and other life forms, thus giving birth to a viable ecology, an atmosphere, a planetary Gaian system(see Lovelock's book, The Greening of Mars). The biospherians didn't run with this ball; they stumbled, fumbled, and ultimately fouled their way through it--a bad game all around. Instead of trying to terraform a little patch of, say the Moon, the biospherians decided to seal themselves up on the surface of their own planet, Mother Earth, to see if they could reconstruct her benefits with their own derivative (and drastically simplified) design. The plants and animals they set up to make a self-sufficient ecology didn't mesh or produce enough oxygen or food, so they just opened the portal seals to let in Earth's
      own air (did they also sneak in a few Pizzas and and spinach wraps?), rather like boys and girls running away from home but making sure to stuff plently of Mama's pumpkin pie in their knapsacks.

      The Biosphere wasn't much of a farm or much of a "space-ship earth" or much of a simulation of what would happen if you really tried to terrafarm other planets. The windows weren't transparent enough to allow full spectrum light in (compare Eden's which are better) and the overall design style was undistinguished (compare Bucky Fuller's beautiful botanical garden in St. Louis, Grimshaw's Eden, or both the old and the new greenhouses at Kew Gardens). One bright spot was nutritionist Roy Walford, who had done excellent work in planning an optimal diet that would extend human longevity by creative caloric restriction, but the poor man was stricken with a terminal illness (perhaps triggered by his confinement or perhaps not), and most of the other biospherians also experienced various degrees of unwellness during their period of confinement.

      Could other planets be greened? In our solar system, Earth seems to be the right size, has the right orbit and the right density to support life "naturally"; the other planets do not. Since the other planets are so different, even if we found a way to irrigate them, get plankton to grow, and seed them with microbes and plants, would they ever look anything like Earth?
      Would they exude an atmosphere like ours or would something radically different occur (something more "natural" for them?). Biosphere could not have answered any of these questions, nor could it tell us if an orbiting space station could somehow be terraformed into a mini-Earth. Biosphere did reveal some unexpected problems in trying to seal off a habitat on the Earth's surface from the Earth's natural atmosphere and attempting to duplicate that atmosphere within.

      Whether this has much practical application, I do not know. Much would I rather see Earth dwellers downsize their houses to maybe under 800 sq. feet, dig up the rest of the lot and plant on it. Mars might or might not be greenable; cities on Earth without question are.

      Bob Monie
      Zone 8
      Jeff <shultonus@...> wrote:
      HI all,

      I just finished reading a book by Jane Poynter on Biosphere 2.
      Really more of a physchological tale on isolation and group
      dynamics, but I did track down an small paper about limited details
      on the food grown there.

      It caught me as some what of a surprise how in-adequately prepared
      the Biospherians were for weed and pest problems.
      It references double dig /bio-intensive method favored by John
      Jeavons. And scientifically it compares favorably to tropical
      production of food and NASA's hydroponic efforts> (they outproduced
      other sources), however, the diet selection was hardly inspiring
      (mostly rice, peanuts, lablab beans, goat milk, bananas, sweet
      potatoes and paypays, along with various greens). Wheat and sorgum
      also made a small dent, but the sweet potato production is what kept
      them alive. They ate so much they turned orange from all the beta-

      What struck me as odd, is the missing of some rather important
      tropical foods: sugar cane was mentioned as being grown, and a
      processing unit was in the biosphere, but apparently, this source
      never contribuated significantly to their diet. Manioc/taro was 'not
      preferred" but not mentioned further. Also missing was Avacado, a
      great source of nutrition on calories.
      Corn was planted but not mentioned as significant. Barley is usually
      a better choice then wheat for production, unless they were wanting
      bread, which they said the didn't really eat much of (turned hard).
      Radishes and Daikons, a staple of most organic farmers (especially
      with its fast growth) wasn't mentioned as significant. Bananas were
      a staple, but not included was the more starchy plantain, which
      would stick with the biospherians longer. Other things struck me as
      odd: their low production of fish through the rice patties.... Only
      30 fish over two years, and average weight was under a pound. It
      seems to me that a tilapia/azolla systems would produce more than
      this. (6820 ft^2 in rice patties)
      She also mentioned that 3-4 hrs/per day/per person was required to
      maintain this system. NAsas finds 2-3 hours/per day/per person to
      maintain their growth.
      This to me seems excessive. My traditional home garden requires much
      much less work than this per area. And this is where permaculture
      and fukuoka types systems have a chance to shine in reduced work
      Now taking back a step, I read the Greg Williams review and Toby
      Hemenway's response to the Permaculture critic.
      I'll summarize briefly:
      G. WIlliams (show me the money) er Show my examples and yeild data.
      T Hemenways: we don't really have good/or any data,
      T Hemenway: even if we did your missing the point,

      While Toby does desparately want data to be found, or created in the
      future, he acknoewledges that permaculture seeks something beyond
      the scientific realm, Jane and the Biospherians claim much the same
      thing, (that science, in a sense has gotten to far along
      micromanaging everything, and re really don't even hae a language
      that works to comunicate between different scientific fields.)
      Essentially ecology.
      does anyone have numbers for fukuoka production besides the bonfils
      wheat and the fukuoka rice/barley method?

      It seems to me that there needs to be a reductionist study of the
      imputs of these studies to effectively communicate the vastly
      different energy flows in these systsems to traditional scientists.
      Unfortunately , the science of nutrient/energy flow is just begining
      to get a handle on largely mono-culutral simplified systtms, belying
      the need and finances to fund such a project of the semi-functional
      buffer areas..

      Following up this thought, I would like to know which crops everyone
      thinks are the most productive for the amount of labor you put into
      them? the yield per square foot of the staples of the Biospherians
      realy surprised me> ..
      Egg plant topped the list,
      vegetables that also did well, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions
      and green beans.
      With sweet potatoe way behind.
      and rice being one fourth, that of sweet potatoe.
      But of course you really shouldn't live mostly on sweet potatoes,
      but that's another discussion entirely.
      Fruits were measured per plant rather than per area, so not
      comparable to this yeild.

      Any comments?

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • torskel87
      Thanks Bob Your message has been really helpfull for me, I´ve been trying to plant cover crops with tarwi and it has helped a lot to the soil, now I will try
      Message 2 of 17 , Dec 7, 2006
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        Thanks Bob
        Your message has been really helpfull for me, I´ve been trying to
        plant cover crops with tarwi and it has helped a lot to the soil, now
        I will try to look for the other cover crop plants like phalaris
        grass, woolypod vetch....
        Sacha Runa farm

        --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, Robert Monie <bobm20001@...>
        > Hi Miguel,
        > Steve Vanek at Cornell has done important work in testing cover
        crops for the tropical highlands. Try emailing him at siv2@... A quick
        Cornell report on the subject is available at
        > Frijol Chinapopo, Tarwi, Yellow and White Sweet Clovers, Garotilla
        (Bur-Medic), Sanfoin, Woolypod Vetch, and Phalaris Grass have all been
        tried with some degree of success.
        > An aggressive, deep-rooted legume like sweet clover, together with
        a grain like Quinoa, and a grass like Phalaris, would probably be
        ideal for increasing humus. Also, if you can grow Yacon, Sunchoke, and
        Chicory (Cichorium intybus) in the mix, the inulin in the roots
        should, after several rotations, add to the fertility of the soil.
        Generally, grains, grasses, legumes, and the high inulin plants
        (chicory, sunchoke, artichoke, onion, asparagus, sunflower) work
        together to create a "ley" that produces fertile topsoil. If any one
        of these categories of plants is missing in the cover crop (probably
        more accurately the "root crop" mix), you will may fall short of
        acheiving maximum benefits.
        > Bob Monie
        > New Orleans, LA
        > Zone 8
        > torskel87 <torskel87@...> wrote:
        > Hi Everyone
        > This is Miguel from Ecuador, I am very interested in the subject of
        > cover crops because I have been building terraces and once that I
        > build them the remaining soil is really poor because the intensive
        > labor and movement of the topsoil.
        > Maybe is not so natural to build terraces, and I am building them like
        > the Incas used to do,but I´ve seen that if you don´t build them in
        > hilly lands, water absortion and soil fertility are poor, once that I
        > build them the remaining soil is really poor so what I´ve trying is to
        > rebuild it with cover crops, but I am wondering if the cover crops
        > might be able to rebuild top soil once the it´s been completly mooved,
        > somebody have an idea about this...I ve tried two ways of building
        > terraces, one is by slow formation, just building a green wall of
        > grass and leting the soil to be cariied year after year by the rain,
        > and in this case the terraces are narrow, in this kind of terraces
        > I´ve tried with natural farming, the other way is building a tall wall
        > and moove all the soil with a hoe until I get a flat surface, in this
        > case is when I wonder if a cover crop might be able to rebuild the
        > soil????? In this case the terraces are usally broad.
        > Maybe it would more natural to create green contours, but it would
        > take a really long time until I get a flat surface on a slope.If
        > somebody have expeience with farming on hilly lands I would thank any
        > idea or advice.
        > The advantages of terracing are that once builded, fertility remains
        > forever and is not washed by the rain, and water absortion improves a
        > lot.Also the microclamate created in the terrace prtotects the plants
        > from the harsh conditions of the highlands(I am farming over 9200
        > ft)specially wind and frost, I´ve tried natural farming on terraces
        > and it works really good but only once the fertility is back, in some
        > terraces I´´ve been trying to grow vegetables in a natural way and is
        > amaizing to see daikon, lettuce, chard, turnip and clover replanting
        > by themselvs with any work year after year, the only thing that I do
        > in some terraces is spacing because daikon and lettuce seeds are
        > scattered by birds and grow to thick, but once that the spacing is
        > done the only thing that i have to do is harvesting....
        > Soon i would like to post some photos about the terraces and the
        > natural replanting of vegetables and andean tubers, but how do i post
        > the photos in the group???
        > Cheers
        > Miguel
        > --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, Robert Monie <bobm20001@>
        > wrote:
        > >
        > > Hi Ty and Steve,
        > >
        > > Everything Steve said about rocks that far down under the field is
        > exactly right; unless you plan to specialize in growing some
        > fantastically deep underground plant like the Japanese Imo mountain
        > yam (cinnamon vine), you have plenty enough depth in your soil to grow
        > most vegetables, legumes, and fruits. In addition to adding organic
        > matter, you could experiment with various seasonaly rotating cover
        > crops to see which work best for you in your microclimate.
        > >
        > > Some cover crops to try are spelt, ryegrass, red clover, and hairy
        > vetch in fall/winter, buckwheat in summer, and yellow blossom clover
        > or birdsfoot trefoil in spring. Also try agricultural chicory for as
        > long as you can keep it going. Yellow mustard, daikon, and oilseed
        > radish are also good bets.
        > >
        > > Each of these crops has its own special role in creating topsoil,
        > both the humus and the glomular glycoprotein parts that science now
        > tells us are essential for soil fertility. Rye and buckwheat are
        > alleopathic and do most of your weeding for you; buckwheat also takes
        > up and releases phosphorus. Red Clover and yellow sweet clover burrow
        > through the hard soil (though don't expect them to do much with the
        > boulders--at least in the next 100 years) and fix nitrogen from the
        > air; birdsfoot trefoil also fixes nitrogen and is not nearly so
        > finicky about getting started as the clovers are; hairy vetch is a
        > companion plant to rye that flourishes in cool weather; buckwheat will
        > grow in the steaming South; yellow mustard mines nutrients from low
        > levels, sudan grass provides mass for decomposition; chicory adds
        > inulin to the soil to build humus, and so forth. One of the old "ley"
        > mixes might work well for you too (these usually combine chicory or
        > burnet, a bunchgrass or two, a few
        > > kinds of rye, a legume and some herbs for good measure). And don't
        > forget Fukuoka's beloved short and middle-sized white clovers, White
        > Dutch, New Zealand or New Zealand Dutch, or Ladino. In my experience
        > the white clovers work best after a few years of soil build up and
        > preparation. Then, you can really sow some vegetables among the
        > clovers and they just might come up.
        > >
        > > Some places where you can find these cover crops, expecially in
        > high quantity volume: Cooper Seeds http://www.cooperseeds.com for
        > buckwheat, ryegrass, hairy vetch and chicory and some of the clovers.
        > Main Street Seeds ttp://www.mainstreetseedandsupply.com a good
        > alternative.
        > >
        > > Pinetree Seeds http://www.superseeds.com for spelt and bird'sfoot
        > trefoil
        > >
        > > Peaceful Valley Seeds http://www.groworganic.com for mixed
        > (including yellow and white)mustard, oilseed radish (Johnny's Seeds
        > http://www. also has these and Sudan grass as well), an herbal pasture
        > mix (what I call a "ley mix"), and several clovers.
        > >
        > > Bob Monie
        > > Zone 8
        > > USA
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > Steve Gage <sgage@> wrote:
        > > Hey there Ty,
        > >
        > > Sounds exactly like typical New Hampshire conditions, only here we
        > blame
        > > the glacier instead of contractors :-)
        > >
        > > I surely wouldn't worry about what's 15-20 feet down. 15-20 inches is
        > > more like it around here.
        > >
        > > When you say "not very thick" about the topsoil, what do you mean?
        > > it would be useful to let us know where you are. I know you're not in
        > > New Hampshire, because of the palm trees :-)
        > >
        > > In any case, there's probably quite a bit of soil around those big
        > > rocks. And what are you intending to grow? Seems like if the grass
        > > palm trees are happy, you should have something to work with.
        > >
        > > But here's my free all-purpose prescription: Add organic matter :-)
        > >
        > > All best,
        > >
        > > - Steve
        > >
        > > tykei2 wrote:
        > > > Hi All,
        > > >
        > > > I think I may have a problem. I have secured a plot of land for
        > > > farming. But I recently discovered that its made up of several
        > > > that may make it difficult for farming, Im not sure.
        > > >
        > > > Its land that was modified to make the house that is on the property
        > > > stable as it is in a slide zone. In this respect it was a
        success, but
        > > > the way they did it might cause problems for me, Im not sure.
        > > >
        > > > On the very bottom layer there is some clay/soil type of
        element, its
        > > > about 15-20 feet down I estimate.
        > > >
        > > > On top of that the contractors dumped giant boulders, to
        stabalize the
        > > > ground. Id say 10 feet high tops.
        > > >
        > > > Then on top of that they put top soil, not a very thick layer, but
        > > > grass and palm trees are growing in it just fine.
        > > >
        > > > So my question is: will this cause me problems down the line as
        I try
        > > > to grow things?
        > > >
        > > > It seems that the plants would try to grow deep roots, getting
        > > > the top soil only to hit giant rocks with not much soil at all
        at that
        > > > layer.
        > > >
        > > > Does anyone have any experience growing in these conditions?
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > thanks!
        > > >
        > > > -Ty
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Yahoo! Groups Links
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        > >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • garden03048
        ... great photos. Your walls look a lot like those we have here in New England. Your views may be better than ours, though. thanks, anthony NH zone 5
        Message 3 of 17 , Dec 9, 2006
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          --- In fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com, Javier Dávila
          <j_h_davila@...> wrote:
          > this is what i´m doing with the stones.
          > http://www.flickr.com/photos/13735317@N00/sets/72157594401878480/
          > Javier h.

          > >
          > >

          great photos. Your walls look a lot like those we have here in New
          England. Your views may be better than ours, though.


          anthony NH zone 5
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