Syntropic Agriculture Comes To Australia in 2017
By Scott Boy
With the collaboration of some friends with Brazilian Background we are building a syntropic farm in Australia.
I will divide this post into two categories, the first will be how this relates to my permaculture background and how permaculture design supports this farming methods so well. The second will describe what I know about syntropic agriculture and how we are doing it.
The systems design and broad approach of permaculture is lending itself well to all aspects of our implementation of syntropic ag. Firstly, before the first tool hit the ground we observed broad landscape patterns, availability of water, the energy required to get it to the plants, how it would be delivered and how rainfall would be best harvested and kept in the most appropriate place for the longest duration. This resulted in us having to pump from the creek into a high holding tank which then delivers to the paddock via gravity. With appropriate energy use always in mind, we identified the use of fossil fuels to push water uphill against the natural flow of energy as a weak link. With this and other compromises noted, plans are made for the elimination of consumptive energy use, most notably the installation of a high dam when funds and resources allow.
We also made sure to make the rows sympathetic to contour, but in order to keep them parallel, deviations ensued. Where this occurred we were mindful that water traveled towards the ridge part of the site. We made sure all of our access roads were to have the lowest effect where giving energy to moving water was concerned. With these and other considerations in mind we felt that we could have the best chance of making the feedbacks and consequences of our actions positive.
The syntropic agriculture plot itself has a spatial layout of alley cropping, and as we worked on making this we keep learning more and more. I never stop marveling at the magnitude of what that amazing man in Brazil – Ernst Gosht, who has worked tirelessly for decades, has created as a gift to humans on this planet – it is analog agroforestry refined to the point of being closest to natural function. It amazes me all of the time – the beauty of plant harmonies expressing around me keeps me constantly buoyed and inspired. I look around me into the forest all of the time and see that there is vigour everywhere, and I note that nobody is maintaining it. The only exception is where parts of the forest are becoming senescent as succession waits for disturbance in the form of a falling tree or something like. This is usually from combined attacks upon plants from forest organisms of all kinds as these plants find themselves no longer being a functional part of the surrounding order.
I believe that Ernst’s method of mimicking this process brings in a new paradigm in agriculture as the effects of diminishing returns, topsoil loss and poor nutrition start to dominate our food system.
Syntropic agriculture is by and large a farming system. Although this model can be effectively used in urban and backyard situations, and indeed should be – this model is designed to underpin baseload calorie supply to humanity while rebuilding complex, stable natural systems. As a plug in to permaculture design, I believe it is perfect.
I will now go on to describe the installation of our system here in the Northern Rivers area of Australia, using photos and notes.
Here is a new cropping alley being built. The spatial layout consists of 5 rows, with the two outside rows being the tree rows which drive succession and underpins the system. Only four rows here can be seen being built, as the other tree row already exists as a part of the existing plot. This tree row is carrying so much corn and other crop plants that none of the young trees can be seen. The timber is an essential part of the start up phase, playing host to microbes, water and everything else. Down the track this will be replenished by pruning.
Here is the plot finished, covered with organic matter and ready to host a succession of crops for many years.
An old bush turkeys nest was used as a microbial innoculant.
Some young systems in place, already producing the first round of annual crops.
Here is a system at three months where the three middle rows are carrying some nice tamarillo trees, amongst many other things.
A beautiful summer consortium of corn, leaf amaranth, radish, basil, and lettuce.
Well, I never thought I would be managing eucalypt species in a forest gardening system. It just goes to show how when we think we know things we are often wrong. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain – “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just aint so”.
A young Eucalyptus Grandis. One can see in the photo some milkweed and wild tobacco, this is part of the selective weeding method of Ernst’s.
Here can be seen tree species that have germinated from seed according to the order of succession.
The seeds of succession. Here can be seen the seeds of tree species planted next to the eucalypt so they can germinate when succession moves into the phase that suits each species. Seeds are from low succession early secondary ranging right out to primary forest species that will live 200 years or more.
It is still obviously very early days for us and we are only starting to scratch the surface, but fortunately we have the support of Namaste Messerschmitt and Patricia Vaz, two of Ernst’s most prominent colleagues. We feel humbled and honoured to host a visit from them this April where they will be holding several courses and share this amazing type of agriculture formally into Australia.
April 2017 Syntropic Farms Co brings to Australia 4 courses of Syntropic Agriculture where the instructors Patricia Vaz and Namaste Messerschimidt will teach the principles of Syntropic Agriculture.
For more info about the Courses please check the website:
Video Life in Syntropy By Agenda Gotsch