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Old 09-11-09, 09:21 PM   #10
basjoos
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In traditional farming, you first plow the field to kill all of the existing vegetation, then sow seed and fertilize, then weed out all non-crop plants that come up in the field, then after you harvest the crop you have a bare, easily eroded field. Typically there is lots of exposed soil between the crop plants throughout the growing season, so there is a fair amount of erosion during heavy rains even when the crop is in place and lots of erosion when it isn't. Under typical moist humid southern growing conditions, you also have lots of soil organic matter being oxidized away that isn't replaced by the limited crop biomass being grown. So you eventually end up with low humus and nutrient-poor red clay or sand that you have to add fertilizer to in order to continue growing crops. This is how cotton farming turned our native, rich, greyish-colored soils into our familiar red clay as they mined out all of the nutrients in the soil and then abandoned the land to pine plantations or pasture once it finally played out.

In Fukuoka style farming, you maintain a continuous plant cover, preferably of leguminous plants, to maintain the fertility and organic content of the soil and manage this plant cover to allow your crops to get established and grow in it. As outlined in his book "One Straw Revolution", Fukuoka practices what he calls "natural farming" where he raises crops with no plowing, weeding, or fertilizing by mimicking natural ecosystems. He fertilizes his fields by growing a stand of clover under his crops and seeds each rice or barley crop into the field while the existing crop is still in place so there is never any bare exposed ground in the field. In the vegetable garden, his crops grow among the weeds and are allowed to produce seed so they can re-seed themselves as much as possible without him having to continually sow new seed each year.

In my interpretation of natural farming, I manage a continuous weed/clover/mimosa seedling plant cover as I grow my vegetable crops in it. Since I started this operation, the red soils have gradually been turning back to grey. So far, carrots, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, winter squash, beans, and amaranth have been self-seeding themselves in the garden, reducing my need to sow seed for new crops. Over the years there are enough dormant crop seeds getting built up in the soils to where all I have to do is clear a small area of its weed crop (to remove the soil competition) and the dormant crops seeds already in the soil start popping up on their own. Pest problems are gradually diminishing since the pest have to try to find the crop plants growing in among the non-crops plants and the most hardiest crop plants produce the most seed for each new generation of crops. Its an interesting method of farming since I am essentually managing an continuous ecosystem that happens to include crop plants rather than bludgening an existing ecosystem out of existance and trying to force feed a new one in its place as is happening with traditional farming.
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