Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
Without getting too far off on a tangent regarding Permaculture I wanted to take just a few moments and list some of the reasons why I believe the subject of Permaculture is not a new idea. Although Bill Mollison developed the primary ethics and principles of Permaculture in the not too distant past along with work from David Holmgren and others, the truth is that many civilizations have practiced Permaculture type techniques throughout history.
There is evidence that Permaculture type techniques such as forest farming having been used in many parts of the ancient world such as in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and European regions before people concentrated in cities. But the one location that strikes me as the most significant is Brazil and other areas of South America where a type of man-made soil termed “Terra Preta” was discovered and has been extensively studied in recent years. Please see this PDF article from 2007 in AcresUSA Magazine.
The name Terra Preta means ”black earth” in Portuguese and is a type of very dark, fertile soil found in the Amazon Basin. Terra Preta owes its name to its very high charcoal content, and was made by adding a mixture of charcoal, bone, and manure to the otherwise relatively infertile Amazonian soil. What has been found is that the soil shows the presence of low-temperature charcoal in high concentrations, high quantities of pieces of pottery, organic matter such as plant residues, animal feces, fish and animal bones and other materials. It is packed with nutrients as well and has been found to be 2′-6′ feet deep. Even after several hundreds of years and in some locations nearly 2000 years, the soil is still fertile and productive. The Charcoal content in the soil brought into to the soil by a man-made product known as Biochar, which is the result of creating charcoal in an oxygen free environment
There is a lot of controversy about Terra Preta, of course. Due to its ability to draw high levels of CO2 and other green house gases some promote it as the solution for the problems caused by Global warming. Others question its value and warn of potential dangers with the high production of charcoal to create the soil. Those who have seen its effects on soil and food production have realized that once the Biochar is in the soil, it has an amazing ability to retain nutrients and moisture due to its unbelievably porous structure (a single gram can have twice the surface area of a tennis court). This enables it to dramatically boost crop yields and reduces the need for industrial fertilizers. Thus, according to its advocates, Biochar has the potential to simultaneously ensure our future food supply and wean crop lands off of the poisons in which they must be doused in order for today’s mineral-depleted soils to sustain production. Another advantage of Biochar is that it can be made from virtually any organic material (from manure to wood to switchgrass), meaning that there would be no shortage of suitable feedstocks, and biochar production could double as a waste recycling scheme.
It sounds very interesting and I will be looking into to it more as I have time. There are several YouTube videos on its production on a small-scale that you may want to look at, we have recommended a couple of them on our YouTube Channel. I have also added a link to a book entitled “The Biochar Solution” on our Books page if you are interested in further reading.
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