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Re: Miscanthus

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  • Richard Morris
    Other uses of Miscanthus sinensis from http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Miscanthus+sinensis ... Edible Uses Edible Parts: Stem. Immature flowering
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 8, 2005
      Other uses of Miscanthus sinensis
      from http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Miscanthus+sinensis
      Edible Uses

      Edible Parts: Stem.

      Immature flowering spike[105, 177]. No further details are given.

      Medicinal Uses

      Anticoagulant; Diuretic; Febrifuge.

      The juice of young stems is used to disperse poisons, dissolve blood
      clots, dissipate extravasated blood and remove inflammation[218]. The
      plant is diuretic and refrigerant[147, 218].
      Other Uses

      Biomass; Ground cover.

      Being increasingly grown as a source of biomass, trials are currently
      (1992) taking place on its potential in Britain[K]. Plants form
      impenetrably dense clumps and when planted close together in drifts make
      an excellent ground cover[200].
      In the UK you can now get grants from DEFRA for growing Miscanthus as an
      enery crop so its not really breaking news. You can also get grants for
      growwing willow as as Short rotation coppice as an energy crop.

      I've been told that both of these are typically rather 'inductrial'
      expect a monoculture growing system and a lot a machinary. Don't expect
      much bio-diversity in a Miscanthus plantation.

      For my personal energy solution, I'm considering getting a boiler which
      can be fed by wood chippings and chipping up the goat willow and goarse
      which are naturally growing on our land.

      Toby wrote:
      > I think Miscanthus's classification as invasive is based on
      > the usual xenophobic viewpoint of the invasion biologists and
      > crowd. (You know, the ones who eat oats and wheat for breakfast before
      > spraying blackberries with Garlon-A in my local wetland . . . Don't
      get me
      > started.) That billboard is a damn sight more invasive than the
      lovely grass
      > is.

      There does seem to be a growing movement away from the native-only view
      point. Theres been some good discussions on the issue here an
      interesting post from the permaculture-UK list on the subject.

      I've also put together a page on wild lands on the pfaf site


      > Sustainable agriculture is a much bandied-about phrase, no less than
      by Jules Pretty, a significant advocate of emerging people and
      community-based agricultural systems around the world. So I wonder why
      he felt it necessary to take a pop at wilderness in his latest book (see
      Agri-culture: Reconnecting People, Land and Nature, 2002)? Is the planet
      only for people? Where is the balance between the needs of one dominant
      species and the needs of all the others?
      > Pretty's disdain for wilderness is a continuation of an especially
      frustrating argument in wilderness debate that tends to diminish the
      North American experience (and perhaps by implication, all others)
      because the state of nature on which it is based was not the pristine,
      untouched wildland that it was first perceived to be by early European
      settlers. William Cronon is most well-known for this view, and he would
      suggest that the landscapes that these settlers saw were an
      all-too-human cultural and historical construct, based on millennia of
      human land management, and thus the "creation of very particular human
      cultures at very particular moments in human history" (see The Trouble
      with Wilderness, or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature, William Cronon,
      > For those early European settlers in north America, the landscapes
      they would have seen would have been the result of shaping for at least
      two millennia by native north Americans (perversely labelled red
      Indians). The native ways of living varied across the Americas, with
      populations and landscape impact mirroring the greater urban
      civilisations in (what is now) Mexico, the Amazon floodplain, and in the
      highland areas of the southern Americas. In the immense forests,
      grasslands and mountains of the northern Americas, population was sparse
      and landscape impacts were ephemeral, being less obvious due to their
      lighter patterns of land use and to the apparent unchanging nature of
      the landscape.
      > Many native north Americans lived in villages that were moved
      seasonally between the interior, river valleys and the coast (the native
      Americans of the Pueblo lands of the SW were probably more rooted).
      Property was vested in the village (tribe) and not with individuals.
      Trees were cleared to create space for villages, for opportunist
      agriculture and to provide fuelwood. Some of this clearance may have
      been through the use of fire, but it was probably only an occasional
      measure since it wouldn't make much sense to meaninglessly destroy
      resources in fuelwood and other woodland products. Land away from the
      village would have been lightly used as hunting grounds. Overall, the
      pattern of land use allowed for renewal and regeneration with the
      substantially extant natural vegetation providing a necessary wildlife
      refuge and seedbank.
      > Contrast this with the contemporary land use pattern that the
      Europeans (particulalrly the English) would have been familiar with:
      static settlement; extensive historical land clearance; feudal and
      individual property rights fixed by boundaries; concentrated use of
      livestock; and intensive cultivation. They would not have been prepared
      for what they saw in north America - landscapes that supported so much
      more wildlife and climax vegetation cover, and were naturally
      regenerating. It would have been an easy assumption that much of the
      landscape was untouched by humans.
      > And for a few hundred years after those first settlers, the apparent
      wildness of the landscapes would only have increased since diseases from
      the old world (and perhaps conflict as well) are thought to have
      accounted for a 90% reduction in the native north American population.
      Thus the wholesale abandonment of native settlements and their fields,
      allowed a regeneration of forests and a retreat of savannahs, even
      before the impact of European agricultural methods could take widespread
      hold. It is likely therefore that there was much more forest of a
      primeval nature in 1850 than in 1650. (John Muir, in his memoir The
      Story of my Boyhood and Youth, talks of a 10-mile journey through
      Wisconsin woodland in the mid 1800s to reach the open, sunny woods next
      to a lake where they cleared the land to make their farm.)
      > The chroniclers of north American wilderness that burgeoned from the
      eighteenth century onwards could thus easily construct a pristine
      inheritance for the landscapes, so giving rise to the accusation of a
      romanticised concept of wild land, and a continuing sore over the
      driving out of native peoples when a human-free, protectionist approach
      to wilderness areas developed in the second half of the nineteenth century.
      > I believe this argument about whether landscapes in north America
      represent true wilderness is missing the point. What we should be
      considering is the lessons from the patterns and relative intensity of
      land use that was represented by the native American way of life, and
      contrasting it with the dominating approach of European human land use.
      In Britain, this approach to land use has all but eradicated vestiges of
      wild land and thus the ability of the land to regenerate that wild land
      to any great extent. It is perhaps fortunate that the importation of the
      European approach was not successful in doing the same in north America,
      and that the settlers of that continent were eventually able to
      recognise that danger, even if their protectionist approach to their
      wilderness is evidence of a reaction to their own proclivities to
      over-exploit nature rather than what would be the lighter touch of the
      native American way of life.
      > Depressingly, the colonisation of Australia can be seen in parallel
      > to
      north American settlement, but with a nasty twist. If the settlers in
      north America were originally mistaken in not recognising the influence
      of native Americans on the landscape, then the colonisers of Australia
      do not even have that excuse since, shortly after arriving, they
      declared the whole continent empty - terra nullius. In a contempt for
      any indigenous inhabitants, they did not explore this land to any great
      extent, or discover the relationship that the aboriginal population had
      with it. Instead they set about to exploit its resources, and to modify
      the landscape to have a likeness to the pastoral scenes of England that
      they were familiar with. An erasure of aboriginal land use (and
      aboriginal culture) and a substitution of a land use unsuited to the
      soils and climate (see, for instance, White Fella Jump up, Germaine
      Greer, 2004).
      > There is evidence that many thousands of years ago, a part of England
      had a similar approach to settlement and land use to that of the native
      north Americans. Richard Mabey, in his memoir of a life-changing move to
      East Anglia (see Nature Cure, 2005) says that the natural woodland of
      the thin, chalky sand of the Brecklands was easily cleared by early
      farmers in a form of slash and burn. The flush of fertility, aided by
      the ash enrichment of the soil, supported crop growing for a few
      seasons, and then the farmers would have moved on, leaving the area to
      go back to a naturally wooded landscape for 20 years before they
      returned to do it all again. (Breck is a term for land 'broken-up' for
      cultivation. Hence the name of Breckland for this region of East Anglia).
      > The exploitation of landscapes through slash and burn has negative
      connotations for many. However, it is a logical application of a
      workable, seasonal approach to settlement and agriculture, and has
      significant adherents amongst modern-day peoples in the forested
      highlands of the Amazon Basin, Congo Basin, Papua New Guinea, and
      Indonesia. Called shifting cultivation, this forest-based land use is
      estimated to currently support between 300-500 million people worldwide.
      The fallow period between croppings of the same area of land is at least
      20 years or longer, allowing the forest to regenerate and the fertility
      of the land to be restored. The nutrient content of both vegetation and
      soils is replenished, and the regeneration protects the soil from
      erosion and controls the spread of weeds and pests.
      > Shifting cultivation is unpopular with foresters. They see only the
      poor practices of the inexperienced (or selfish) who leave no or a very
      short period of fallow rotation, and whose aim is the production of cash
      crops rather than subsistence needs. But research studies on shifting
      cultivation that uses traditional knowledge of long fallow periods and
      for which production is subsistence, show the strength and resilience of
      many of these systems; the significant yields for the labour involved;
      and, importantly, the species enrichment and retention of biodiversity
      they allow. It has been noted that in areas with the longer fallow
      periods, there is no change over time in overall forest cover. (For a
      description of the forest farming continuum between long rotation, short
      rotation, and no rotation, read Shifting Cultivation and Deforestation
      in Indonesia: Steps Toward Overcoming Confusion in the Debate, by
      William D. Sunderlin, from the Rural Development Forestry Network,
      Network Paper 21b Summer 1997.)
      > A trend is emerging amongst some shifting cultivators whereby the
      fallow is enriched and its period is extended, so that the land can be
      used in complex multistrata agroforests (e.g damar and rubber
      agroforests of Indonesia). Although variations on forest gardening have
      existed throughout history, this emerging and constantly evolving land
      use system is proving to be both productive for smallholder farmers and
      biodiverse. The enriched fallow can either become a permanent perennial
      crop system, or have a lengthened duration, in which commercially
      important tree species provide an income, as well as other social and
      environmental benefits.
      > Even I would have to admit that it is probably too late for England
      > to
      go back to a shifting cultivation of slash and burn - too many people to
      support, a landscape denuded of trees, and land rights vested in the
      individual and not the community. But we can make more use of what is
      the natural vegetation cover of our landscapes, the broadleaved
      woodlands that used to cover our island. Agroforestry, forest gardening,
      forest forage - all can provide a much needed balance to our landscapes
      in contrast to the endless grassland of broadscale agriculture.
      > As a Permaculturist, I have put forward a view of our countryside as
      > a
      continuum of decreasing intensity of use until wild land is reached, and
      in which we as a significant species interact with dynamic climactic
      landscapes in that continuum, reserving the wildlands for our
      observation and education only, and as our gift to wild nature (see
      Trees in the Landscape, 2005). As I have hoped to have shown here, that
      wildland is important to our use of landscapes since it acts as a
      reservoir of biodiversity and knowledge from which our landscapes can
      renew and regenerate. In very welcome support of this view, the Forestry
      Commission has recently launched Keepers of Time, a document that puts
      the attributes and importance of ancient and native woodland at the
      centre of its policy for England, and which seeks to create new native
      woodland to extend, link or complement existing woodland and other habitats.
      > Mark Fisher, 25 July 2005
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