Terra Lingua Farm, located in the desert (8-14 inches of rain a year) in Kimberly, Oregon will demonstrate how to use methods that have worked for thousands of years in India,as well as in forests around the world.
The goal is to take degraded agriculture lands or wastelands and regenerate them without irrigation or fertilizing (chemical or organic). The regeneration is accomplished by inoculating the soil with bacteria and mycorhizzals and cover crops.
SEE SPECIFIC PRACTICES OF WHAT WE ARE DOING AT THE END.
Goals of this project include:
1) Regenerating the soil by inoculating with microbes and mycorhizzals which holds the water in the soil 10% organic matter means 250,000 gallons of water per acre can be stored in the soil..
2) We can also re charge the ground water by doing earth works (making swales, ponds, check dams) to harvest rainwater as well as growing deep rooted legumes to hold the water. on our farm we used a chisel plow and contour plowing in our first year.
3) Diverse plantings of fruit and nut trees: we might choose one nut or fruit crop as a major variety in each acre, still putting in many other fruit and nut crops in between this major crop as well as medicinal trees, borewell trees, timber trees.
4) Bore well trees such as (ash, black locust, honey locust, walnut, (tropical version neem, tamarind, amla and jamon) will also be planted. These trees help bring water down into the lower depths of the soil and then pump the water from the lower soil depths assisting capillary action to bring the water to the level where the plants can use it. The microbes in the soil share that water among the various plants.
5) Medicinal herbs,
6) cover crops
7) Sequestering a considerable amount of carbon, and
8) Giving farmers a liveable income. with little input and better than average outputs, and a lot less work, the farmer earns a good income.
(9) last but certainlty not least is the cooling of the planet, mitigation of droughts, floods and rising sea levels.
This is agroecology. These systems have worked with as little as 100 ml of water per year (although there is a narrow band of plants which will do well in these very low water systems). There are indications that when 20 acres or more are grown, these techniques will actually increase the rainfall in the area. In fact the government of India wants people to plant trees as a way to bring back the rainfall.
A diversity of plants along with a diversity of microbes can feed themselves. It is the natural function of the plants to feed the soil microbes and in turn the microbes feed the plants.the microbes are the rumen or intestines of the plants and necessary for the plants to resist insects and get their proper nutrition which then gives all the beings that eat them their proper nutrition.
When plants are combined with their microbe partners and when the microbes in the soil are protected from the sun and compaction there is no need for any fertilizer application, year in and out and no need for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides. Anyone who doubts this need only look at forests. Most times when 20 plants are combined 40-50% of them nitrogen fixing we can create this sustainable and even regenerative plant combination.
The closest farm that we know of that accomplishes this is Narsanna Koppula’s Aranya farm. http://permacultureindia.org/permaculture-farms. This previously poor, very rocky land, with no irrigation demonstrates these agroecology practices will work to regenerate the land. Mr. Koppula did not use microbe or mycorhizzal inoculations on his farm. instead he used a lot of brown mulch from a nearby forest. This mulch then fosters the microbes. As the traditional Indian farmers knew, it is the microbial activity that allows healthy and abundant food production. This food forest or Mr. Koppula has produced good crops year in and year out for 17 years without adding outside fertilizers or irrigation.
SPECIFICS OF WHAT WE ARE DOING AT OUR FARM
I have been seeing articles and videos lately of high tech solutions to save work. I do not want a desk job, so I am not saying that doing a farm the way we are doing it will be as little work as a desk job. i think human bodies need to work to stay healthy. certain types of bodies need to work hard to balance their energy, or they have to dull themselves with alcohol or drugs. i have worked as a carpenter and a mechanic and this is less work than those pursuits.
I would like to describe how i am doing 25 acres here at Terra Lingua Farm with no till, no irrigation and no fertilizer which i am doing pretty much alone. it would be more fun to work with other people and i am actively looking for people who want to learrn as there will be a lot of people who want training in this methods after this year when we have success… I am 72 years old and unfortunately not in very good shape physically, mainly complications from my time in India. I am comparing myself to before i left for india where i could work 10 hours and get more done than the 20 year olds who were helping me. I cannot do repetitive bending. even though Ihave hip and knee pain i can walk for an hour plus at a time. I can work for 5 hours a day if i spread it out with a break after every hour. I did just pay someone to do an electric fence for me, not that the work was hard, but i did not have enough time. Building a regular fence would be a challenge. Putting fence posts in the ground is hard work, although much easier when the ground is wet as now. Lots of armers use a tractor for digging their post. this is labor that farmers sometimes farm out.
SOME METHODS WE ARE USING TO ACCOMPLISH A LOT OF WORK WITH LITTLE EFFORT. Last year we chisel plowed our fields except an additional 5 acres we ended up adding this year because it was the easiest way to fence it. we found that 70% of the cover crops and weeds that grew, came up in the furrow created by the chisel plow. We did not make swales as i could see no run off from water.
We are in zone 6, last year i thought it was zone 7, but with this past winter, I am lowering it. first of all we are broadcasting seed by hand. We can do this because here (and everywhere I have worked) in the spring there is a time when the ground is very sparsely covered. (As Gabe Brown says we are using winter. Later in the spring it will be filled with weeds and grasses but not now. We are using a cyclone seeder which is a simple device buy-able at any feed store for around 20 dollars. We can seed more than an acre in an hour using this method,18 hours for seeding 25 acres. If you walk fast you can do twice as much. Once you get a rhythm going these jobs can be done easily over several days. For the smaller seeds we need to add sand so we do not over broadcast. There are sandy areas here on the farm where we find the sand. we broadcast the seeds for herbs, and the ground cover.
We are planting trees with seeds. in our situation where we do not have the means to water easily, this is the best way to plant trees. almost all nurseries force plants with a lot of water, the plants get accustomed to a lot of water. this will not work for us out here where we have very little water. we choose the rows where we want trees and plant seeds in these rows approximately 5 feet apart. the easiest way to do this is to throw the seed down where there is empty ground and then put the digging stick next to it and punch a hole, then flip the seed into the whole. carol deppe taught me how to carry a tube and let the seed run down the tube once i have dug the whole, but then i have to carry the tube. We only use the tube when there is a lot of wind. (I am looking for someone to make me an apron so i can attach my implements.) We look for hoof prints or the furrows from the chisel plow to put in the seed, or gopher soil. We plant our chop and drop trees in the same areas, mainly black locust and elaeagnus crops, sea buckthorn and siberian peas. Besides these crop and drop tree wastes all our mulch will be green mulch from the 20 different cover crops about 1/2 of which are legumes.
The stone fruits are said to seed true, so our main problem here is getting the seed for great stone fruit. we found some apricot seed locally where the fruits are as large as some peaches, are tasty and the blossoms did not freeze in the spring, so they must blossom late. We got cherry seed the same way. so getting seed for great stone fruit is happening. If a lot of people start doing this method, then a lot of us will have seeds to share. For pears and apples we are looking for seeds from good pear and apples and as I read about it 75% of them will be highly edible fruit. The ones that do not work for cider or eating, we will graft. We are planting all these fruit seeds with autumn olive which we heard will help the trees to fruit a lot earlier. We will see about this and report back. We are also planting a lot of nut seeds. We harvested elderberrty, aronia berry and rosa ragosa seeds locally last year which we are planting now.
Kitchen waste we are burying in our nursery beds. We are not making compost and moving it, no time. We are growing especially very small berry seeds in our nursery. we will then plant these in October out in the field.
If i had the person power i would take off the canadian thistle and star thistle plants at the ground, leaving in their roots per Elaine Ingham. This is probably not necessary. Where I have worked with microbes in the past, I see that the noxious weeds go away.
Other jobs will include cutting down weeds where our trees and herbs are growing. Where we want some shade, the plants need sunlight. we will do this with a machete or other appropriate technologies. any ideas would be appreciated. also my cover crops are tall and we will have to swath in to get to the herbs and trees. Jason Padvorac came up with some very low growing cover crops for his vegetable beds that would mean no competition for light from the cover crops this is a great innovation and i will follow through with this in the future. See http://jasonpadvorac.com/2017/02/permanent-ground-covers-for-vegetable-beds/.