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Permaculture - Biological Farming In A Closed System

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In recent years, more and more mini-farms and individual landowners supply the market with environmentally friendly and healthy products grown without the use of fertilizers, herbicides, toxic chemicals and other drugs that have a negative impact on human health and his surroundings. With the appearance of the opportunity to have their own plot of land (dacha, house on the land, cottage in the countryside, etc.), amateur gardeners, gardeners also began to intensively introduce in their small farms ways of farming, excluding partially or completely the use of chemicals in order to preserve and raise soil fertility and obtain healthy products. Farming has divided into two lines of farming:

  • classical or industrial,
  • traditional (which appeared from the foundation of agriculture) or organic farming.
Permaculture - biological farming in a closed system
The garden in permaculture. © Wen Rolland

Industrial agriculture

The classical direction is agricultural production, which uses all the achievements of science and practice, ensuring the preservation and improvement of soil fertility, and obtaining high yields of good quality. It is suitable for agricultural production on large areas. Provides the possibility of high mechanization of labor with obtaining sufficient yields, but, with this type of farming it is possible to lose the entire fertile layer of soil, which is formed by natural soil processes at a rate of 1 cm per 100 years in a year.

Humus reserves produced in the fertile layer, recover (according to studies) in 0.5 cm layer in about 250 years and depends directly on regional climatic conditions. The complex destruction of the vegetation cover (plowing, drainage, pollution of natural water bodies and soil with chemicals, etc.) leads, by and large, to the degradation of ecosystems. The application of new agricultural production technologies, causing a temporary outbreak of increased soil fertility, and hence crop yields, does not lead to an increase in natural soil fertility - this is a phantom welfare.

The systematic application of fertilizers does not decompose organic matter, which forms humus, the basis of plant nutrition. On the contrary, humus decomposes and the released salts are used by plants to provide a temporary burst of crop yields. With this method of farming hundreds of thousands of hectares of fertile land are lost annually.

Organic (biological) agriculture

The second direction, officially called traditional or organic farming, is more suitable for small areas. It is associated with high labor costs, the use of manual labor. Yields of crops grown with organic or biological technology is lower than the classical farming, but the resulting products do not contain substances that reduce the quality of life.

This direction is associated with the use of different ways of growing agricultural products without the use of inherent soil substances, up to mineral fertilizers. Pieces of knowledge, collected together, have allowed to develop technology for the natural recovery of soil fertility, its treatment and "revitalization". Many methods were suggested and developed for preservation and multiplication of natural microculture of fertile soil layer (useful fungi, bacteria, earthworms, etc.), its treatment with minimal damage.

For example, according to research results it was concluded that the southern soil needs deep treatment (25-27 cm) with turnover of the layer. Warm autumn period contributes to strong growth of weeds and their insemination, preservation of pests in the upper layer, which in spring actively attack the cultivated plants. Protracted rains cause the development of fungal diseases. On the contrary, in soils with small humus stock (chestnut, brown) it is impossible to disturb the order of soil horizons, turning out the lower and moving down the top fertile layer.

The developed technologies recommended annual application of organic and some part of mineral fertilizers, but without the use of herbicides and toxic chemicals, the use of crop rotations on large areas and crop rotations on small dacha plots, which had a positive effect on the soil, relieved soil fatigue, slowed the destructive physical and chemical processes. Developed technologies of organic agriculture usually affect only the work "on the ground", not involving the rest of rural life in a single system.

As time passed, supporters of agricultural production by permaculture system began to appear and are gaining in number.

Permaculture - biological farming in a closed system
The garden in permaculture. © Caroline Aitke

What is permaculture?

At the background of the above two ways of agricultural production, a third direction has emerged, called permaculture by its founders. In English it means permanent agriculture. Permaculture combined and uses the methods of traditional farming and modern technologies, non-violent interference with natural processes, in a single system.

The main principle of permaculture type farming is to create a system of biological farming involving all types of farming in a single cycle. It is a type of agricultural production, where all elements surrounding a person (his family) are components of a single system: house, garden, fence, outbuildings, domestic animals, irrigation system, natural fertilizers, etc.

The main objective of permaculture is a non-violent return to the created system of all consumed energy losses. Thus, according to permaculture concepts, the application of mineral fertilizers, pesticides, is violence against the natural ecosystem. The use of animal and poultry waste, human waste (manure, chicken droppings, compost, other domestic waste) is a return to a single cycle of substances that have escaped from farming.

For example: kitchen waste is processed into compost, which is applied to the soil as fertilizer. Decomposing microorganisms, it in the form of humus turns into available food for vegetable, garden and other crops, which will go to feed animals and poultry, and they serve as food for humans, etc. Sanitary waste after treatment with effective microorganisms (EM crops), will become suitable for irrigation and application to the soil. Natural mothballs will be transformed into ponds with charming rest corners and water supply for irrigation after the improvement.

Permaculture - biological farming in a closed system
The garden in permaculture. © Chrystel Vultier

Main differences between permaculture and other farming methods

1. No classic crop rotation. Plants grow under natural conditions on the basis of good neighborhood (potatoes with beans, strawberries with garlic, peppers and eggplants in the same field, etc.) with herbaceous plants, shrubs, fruit trees.

2. Design solution of the entire plot with the most convenient placement of crops, helping to minimize labor costs for planting, care, harvesting, etc. For example: from a source of water, crops that need frequent watering, diverge in a star-shaped pattern, like daisy petals (cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and other water-loving crops), which reduces the time and labor to deliver water and conduct irrigation.

3. The provision of the site with moisture without using artesian wells, wells, wells. Moisture is accumulated in reservoirs built by changing the surface of the plot (natural pool, pond, elevation, from which water will be supplied to the field by gravity). When constructing such reservoirs it is allowed to use heavy machinery, but without the use of concrete and plastic in the design of the banks (only natural fencing).

4. Construction of dwellings and other outbuildings only from natural materials.

5. Use of established varieties of plants and animals with provision for their symbiotic interaction.

6. The farm should have a diversity of plants, animals in order to obtain a wide range of products and the necessary nutrition for the plants.

Permaculture - biological farming in a closed system
The garden in permaculture. © Marianne Mercier

Practical use of permaculture technology

Permaculture is the use of natural "fertilizers" to increase natural soil fertility and provide plants with nutrients. For this purpose, it is necessary to provide in such an eco-farm:

  • Location for the redistribution of manure, compost, cleaning sanitary waste (bio-toilet, water after taking a shower, bath, laundry, washing dishes).
  • Building a chicken coop (getting bird manure for fertilizer and meat for food ration). In a large farm it is maintenance of cattle, horses (manure, milk, meat, riding power).
  • Independent production of biofertilizer with dung or red Californian worm - vermicompost.

Two types of worms participate in creating biofertilizer and its distribution: creators of humus and its eaters-distributors. Representatives of the first group live under the top layer of soil. They use as food all organic waste and some part of the soil (respectively in parts of 9:1). As a result, vermicompost is formed, from which humus is formed with the help of useful fungal and bacterial microorganisms.

The second group of worms lives in the lower layers of soil. These are called humusoids. They make a large number of passages in the soil, thus increasing its aeration. Using recycled organics, they mix biohumus with the soil, deepening the layer of fertile soil. Ready biohumus is brought in under horticultural crops as top dressing or the basic fertilizer.

  • Protection from illnesses and pests by means of extracts from plants with fungicide and insecticide properties. The developers of the permaculture system deny the possibility of using artificially produced preparations. I believe that the use of biological preparations can still be allowed to be used at least at the beginning of the launch of such an ecosystem.
Permaculture - biological farming in a closed system
The garden in permaculture.

To protect plants from diseases and pests it is more reliable and safer to use biofungicides and bioinsecticides, based on useful microorganisms (fungi and bacteria). Biofungicides include Phytosporin, Barrier, Zaslon, Fitop, Integral, Bactophyt, Agat, Planzir, Trichodermin, Gamair-P. Gliocladin and others.

Biotoxybacillin, Boverin, Aktofit (Akarin), Fitoverm, Lepidocide, Metarizin, Nematophagin, Dachnik, Verticillin are the most popular bio-insecticides. Some biopreparations can be used to treat plants until harvest.

Of course, their use would violate permaculture requirements to some extent. But, since they are biologicals, their use would not conflict with subsistence farming. The use of permaculture recommended decoctions, infusions, extracts from herbs, roots, leaves of wild and cultivated plants, does not always bring the expected effect. For example: orange peels, onion peels, garlic heads, tobacco dust, calendula flowers and others are powerless against plants during epiphytotic years.

Remember! Toasts and decoctions of some herbs have strong poisonous properties. Be careful and cautious when using hemlock, aconite, birchweed, black calamus. It is enough to eat unwashed fruit or vegetable after spraying such natural decoction to get the strongest poisoning.

Permaculture - biological farming in a closed system
Parsley in permaculture. © beyondvitality

In conclusion, I want to warn the reader that the farming of a closed system of permaculture, not every owner under force. It requires knowledge, skill, the habit of working in the agricultural field and, of course, permanent residence in the created closed sustainable system, able to provide its own needs and recycle its waste. Coming to the cottage 1-2 times a week or only on Sundays will not give the desired result.

The choice is yours, the reader. Of the proposed three systems you are free to choose any, but if permaculture caught your attention, you can start with a particular technique in the farm and gradually extend to the entire system (for example: from the vegetable garden, fertilizers and fertilizer, plant protection, etc.).