Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Crop-livestock agroforestry systems (#journal)

Integrated crop–livestock systems with agroforestry to improve organic animal farming

The livestock sector has to satisfy the growing demand for animal products while reducing its environmental impact, in face of great climatic and market changes. For this reason, there is a necessity to redesign livestock production systems in order to make them more sustainable and adaptable. IFS (crop-livestock-trees) could be a viable option to achieve the above mentioned global goals. Moreover, the implementation of conservation agriculture practices proved to improve crop-livestock beneficial effects. This review paper aims at highlighting the scientific knowledge existing regarding the advantages and limitations of crop-livestock systems including agroforestry and conservation agriculture practices. This shows that integration can be a positive approach to achieve farm’s sustainability.

Polycultures store more soil carbon (journal)

Microbial spatial footprint as a driver of soil carbon stabilization
Increasing the potential of soil to store carbon (C) is an acknowledged strategy for capturing atmospheric CO2. Yet experimental evidence often fails to support anticipated C gains. Here, authors demonstrate for the first time that plant-stimulated soil pore formation appears to be a major, hitherto unrecognized, determinant of whether new C inputs are stored or lost. Unlike monocultures, diverse plant communities favor the development of 30–150 µm pores. Such pores are the micro-environments associated with higher enzyme activities, and greater abundance of such pores translates into a greater spatial footprint that microorganisms make on the soil and consequently soil C storage capacity.

The potential of forest gardens (#journal)

Exploring the potential of edible forest gardens: experiences from a participatory action research project in Sweden

To meet the environmental challenges that are presently confronting society, the narrow focus on agricultural production needs to be altered to one that places equal value on the generation of crucial ecosystem services. Current research shows that perennial intercropping systems such as agroforestry may be a feasible alternative. Based on studies during the establishment of edible forest gardens in 12 participating farms in Sweden, this paper explores the potential of utilizing multi-strata designs for food production in temperate, high-income countries. Design and species composition of such gardens, types of food they provide, and how they would best fit into the present landscape are discussed. Large knowledge gaps concerning potential production, social and economic benefits, and agronomic issues were identified. 


US agriculture is destroying insect life (online)

New study: U.S. agriculture 48 times more toxic to insects than 25 years ago

A new peer-reviewed study shows an explosion in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture for insects over the past 25 years since neonicotinoid pesticides were introduced. The study found that U.S. agriculture is 48 times more toxic to insect life, and that neonicotinoids account for 92 percent of the increase in toxicity.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, An assessment of acute insecticide toxicity loading of chemical pesticides used on agricultural land in the United States, is the first study to quantify how hazardous our agricultural lands have become for insect life by providing a way to compare changes in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture year-to-year. The increase in toxic load measured by the study is consistent with recent reports of dramatic declines in beneficial insects and bird populations. The study comes on the heels of the first meta-analysis of global insect decline, which found that 40 percent of insect species face extinction in coming decades, leading the authors to warn of “catastrophic ecosystem collapse” if we don’t change the way we farm.

AgroecologyNow! (online)


AgroecologyNow! is an initiative convened by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience in the United Kingdom working with partners including social movements, civil society, governments and research institutions to promote a transformative agroecology for food sovereignty and social justice. It is based on the commitment to co-producing and mobilising knowledge with civil society organisations, intergovernmental bodies, policy-makers, researchers and food producers to advance societal transformations for agroecology. Work especially stresses the importance of People's Knowledge in societal transformation and using participatory, transdisciplinary and action oriented approaches to research.

Traditional food systems prevent malnutrition (report)

Exploring the Potential of Diversified Traditional Food Systems to Contribute to a Healthy Diet

This report authored by members of the Food Sovereignty Alliance India along with the Catholic Health Association of India is an in-depth analysis of the traditional diets of marginal farmers, landless and agro-pastoralists.

The enquiry provided clear evidence of the following:
  • Marginal farming communities continue to be a rich repository of knowledge, resilient food systems, biodiversity and agro-ecology.
  • Their food systems are nutritionally diverse and rich in nutrients.
  • These traditional food systems have been eroded over time.
  • Land, water and forest rights are seriously under threat.
  • Lived experience and knowledge is an integral part of lives and livelihoods and socio-ecological resilience.


First peer reviewed permaculture book - free! (Download)

The Permaculture Student 2

The first peer-reviewed permaculture textbook EVER and the first cited and referenced global permaculture textbook since Bill Mollison's 1989 Permaculture: A Designer's Manual.
Representing & collaborating with dozens of experts & organizations from around the world, Matt Powers' latest installment in his series of curriculum takes permaculture to a new level & organizes all regenerative techniques & methodologies into one clear, understandable system that also serves as a path to deeper study. Download it FREE.

The amazing evolution of oak trees (online)

Evolutionary history of oaks

Oaks have a complex evolutionary history that has long eluded scientists. New research, however, provides the most detailed account to date of the evolution of oaks, recovering the 56-million-year history that has made the oaks one of the most diverse, abundant and important woody plant groups to the ecology and economy of the northern hemisphere.

Monday, 30 September 2019

An agroecological Europe by 2050 (report)

An agroecological Europe in 2050: multifunctional agriculture for healthy eating
This report explores the possibility of generalising agroecology to a European scale. An original quantitative model makes it possible to analyse retrospectively the functioning of the European food system and to quantify an agroecological scenario by 2050 by testing the implications of different hypotheses. The core scenario is based on the widespread adoption of agroecology, the phasing-out of vegetable protein imports and the adoption of healthier diets by 2050. Despite an induced drop in production of 35% compared to 2010, this scenario: - provides healthy food for Europeans while maintaining export capacity; - reduces Europe's global food footprint; - leads to a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from the agricultural sector; - regains biodiversity and conserves natural resources.

Agro-ecology and political transformation (journal)

From Transition to Domains of Transformation: Getting to Sustainable and Just Food Systems through Agroecology 

Agroecology has a fundamentally political dimension. It is based on an aspiration of producers and citizens to self-organize for sustainability and social justice. This review analyzes the enabling and disabling conditions that shape agroecology transformations and the ability of communities to self-organize. It develops the notion of ‘domains of transformation’ as overlapping and interconnected interfaces between agroecology and the incumbent dominant regime. We present six critical domains that are important in agroecological transformations: access to natural ecosystems; knowledge and culture; systems of exchange; networks; discourse; and gender and equity. The article focuses on the dynamics of power and governance, arguing that a shift from top down technocratic approaches to bottom up forms of governance based on community-self organization has the most potential for enabling transformation.

Nature-based solutions to climate change (pdf)

Compendium of Contributions: Nature-Based Solutions

In preparing for the 23 September 2019 Climate Action Summit called by the United Nations Secretary-General, the Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) Coalition put out a global call for initiatives on how NBS can be enhanced and scaled-up. More than 180 proposals were received and have been posted online in advance of the Summit.The purpose of this compendium is to share a summary of initiatives and best practices received from the global call. The NBS coalition co-leads, China and New Zealand, drew on the proposals to build the NBS for Climate Manifesto below in order to articulate the value and rationale for implementing NBS.

A permaculture interactive space (on-line)

The Lions' Gate: Towards a Permaculture-inspired Blended Space   

This paper presents The Lions' Gate - an in-development, urban, interactive permaculture project on-campus in Edinburgh, Scotland. We argue that to address limits to computing, a radical framework is needed. We position permaculture as an alternative to the economic growth model, and it's associated temporal controls. Our work is an attempt at shifting our thinking and doing by employing a blended spaces perspective to permaculture, university campuses and digital media. By starting from a permaculture view we have the ecological and ethical tools to practice alternatives to growth.

A radical critique of PDC pedagogy (#journal)

What’s wrong with permaculture design courses? Brazilian lessons for agroecological movement-building in Canada

The authors argue that PDC instruction remains deeply embedded within market and colonial relations, which orients the pedagogy of permaculture to reproduce the basic elements of the colonial capitalist economy among its practitioners. The paper highlights key elements of the agroecological pedagogy used by the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers Movement. The objective is to draw lessons from these inspiring experiences, and to critically assess the pedagogical practices presently informing permaculture communities in advanced industrialized countries. The key arguments and lessons drawn from the Brazilian pedagogical experiences are engagement and coalition-building with established rural and urban movements, as well as progressive farmer, indigenous, and rural associations to foster a just and sustainable transformation of agri-food systems.

Indian permaculture farm has high biodiversity (online)

Gauging the Effects of Sustainable Permaculture: a Biological Index of Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India
The study site was a 28.3 ha permaculture farm within a tropical dry evergreen forest. Authors performed a non-destructive biological inventory including point counts for birds, and leaf counts, sweep netting, and flying insect counts for invertebrates. We also recorded a cumulative count of all species throughout the study. We found that animals were detected significantly more in areas of the farm with higher percentages of native trees, for both invertebrates and birds. Leaf counts also had significantly greater abundance of invertebrates in areas with more native species. Our data also had a trend of higher average detections in native areas. Our research corroborates other studies, and will provide data that support forest restoration of native habitats through permaculture.


A website highlighting 52 simple actions people can take in their own lives to reduce their impact on climate change and reduce the impact climate change has on them. The 52 are divided into easy-to-follow themes such as food, transport, home etc.

We've chosen actions we think are both powerful and realistic for individuals and communities. We’ve tried to ensure they are up-beat, positive and fun (which is in contrast to a lot of communication about the climate). The actions fall into three categories: those to reduce your carbon footprint (mitigation); those to help you cope with the effects of climate change (adaptation); and those that aim to change your mindset (thinking differently).

Breathing life back into The Digest

Breathing life back into The Digest

It would be fair to say that the Permaculture Research Digest has been suffering a period of chronic neglect recently, with only 14 posts made in 2019!

This has not been intentional, but due to being very busy with other projects, chief among them our new website www.52climateactions.com. But it feels like it is now time to breath some life back into the Digest. There are now far more peer reviewed articles being published on permaculture than there were when we started back in 2012, not to mention on climate change, agro-ecoolgy, and new forms of economy, so it should be easier than ever to fill the Digest with high quality material that our readers will enjoy.

If you write something or find something you think will be of interest to the readership, please let me know, research@permaculture.org.uk. Likewise, if you have any feedback on The Digest or anything we publish, do drop me a line.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Evaluating the effects of integrating trees into temperate arable systems on pest control and pollination (Journal article)

Free full access to article until 26th October 2019 available here.

This review evaluates the effects of silvoarable systems on invertebrate pest control and pollination in temperate regions. The review includes published journal articles as well as unpublished theses and reports, and a few old Agroforestry Forum studies. The paper finds that, although individual studies sometimes vary widely in their findings, on average pest populations (excluding slugs) were reduced by 25%, and their predators and parasitoids increased by 24%, compared with monocropped arable. Both effects were statistically significant, but only when slugs were excluded. Studies of pollinators are scarcer, but show consistent positive effects of silvoarable. A substantial part of the review is devoted to identifying further research needs. 

The team are collecting further data so look for future updates too.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Citizen science for climate adapted crops (journal)

Crop variety management for climate adaptation supported by citizen science

Climate adaptation requires farmers to adjust their crop varieties over time and use the right varieties to minimize climate risk. Authors used a scalable approach to on-farm participatory variety evaluation using crowdsourced citizen science, assigning small experimental tasks to many volunteering farmers. They generated a unique dataset from 12,409 trial plots in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and India, a participatory variety evaluation dataset of large size and scope. This shows the potential of crowdsourced citizen science to generate insights into variety adaptation, recommend adapted varieties, and help smallholder farmers respond to climate change.

Roe Morrow; Growing permaculture (video)

Rosemary Morrow "What is Needed for Permaculture to Grow" 

Roe Morrow talks about her 40 years working in permaculture and considers where we're going next. International Permaculture Conference, London, 2015.

German permaculture as community of practice (journal)

The German Permaculture Community from a Community of Practice Perspective 

Authors use the concept of Communities of Practice to answer important questions concerning community dynamics and learning processes: How are individual perspectives turned into a joint endeavour? How do the community and its respective relation to its members affect the interactions with external actors? Drawing on qualitative data from twelve semi-structured interviews with teachers from Germany’s Permakultur Akademie, our goal was to gain insights into the community’s self-organisation and learning interfaces. Findings suggest that the German permaculture community displays key characteristics of a Community of Practice with developed shared values as well as education and organisational structures, while being embedded in an international community. Internal challenges were the absence of a common strategy that effectively linked individuals to coordinated activities

Characteristics of permaculture farms (#journal)

Permaculture farmers consistently cultivate perennials, crop diversity, landscape heterogeneity and nature conservation

 This study characterized plant communities on ten applied permaculture farms and found that independent adopters consistently implemented predominately perennial species (73% of species richness), polycultures (mean 42 crop species per site), and zone design. These practices resulted in commercial farms characterized by perennialization, crop diversification, landscape heterogeneity and nature conservation. Grassroots adopters were remarkably consistent in their interpretation and application of an unregulated agricultural model suggesting that such movements may exert considerable influence over local agroecological transitions.

100 solutions to global warming (video)

100 solution to reverse global warming

What if we took out more greenhouse gases than we put into the atmosphere? This hypothetical scenario, known as "drawdown," is our only hope of averting climate disaster, says strategist Chad Frischmann. In a forward-thinking talk, he shares solutions to climate change that exist today -- conventional tactics like the use of renewable energy and better land management as well as some lesser-known approaches, like changes to food production, better family planning and the education of girls. Learn more about how we can reverse global warming and create a world where regeneration, not destruction, is the rule.

Plant choice changes soil long-term (journal)

Single introductions of soil biota and plants generate long‐term legacies in soil and plant community assembly

Centuries‐old man‐made legacies in the landscape still strongly influence present‐day nutrient cycling, plant productivity and species composition in natural ecosystems. For instance, long‐term human soil cultivation led to ‘Dark Earths’ around the world, supporting fungal‐dominated soil communities that still affect productivity and plant species composition centuries later. This paper demonstrates experimentally that one‐time additions of soil biota and plant seeds alter soil‐borne nematode and plant community composition in semi‐natural grassland for 20 years. Over time, above ground and below ground community composition became increasingly correlated, suggesting an increasing connectedness of soil biota and plants. Authors conclude that the initial composition of not only plant communities, but also soil communities has a long‐lasting impact on the trajectory of community assembly.

Soil microbe that eats methane (journal)

Widespread soil bacterium that oxidizes atmospheric methane

The global atmospheric level of methane (CH4), the second most important greenhouse gas, is currently increasing by ∼10 million tons per year. Microbial oxidation in unsaturated soils is the only known biological process that removes CH4 from the atmosphere, but so far, bacteria that can grow on atmospheric CH4 have eluded all cultivation efforts. This study isolated a pure culture of a bacterium, strain MG08 that grows on air at atmospheric concentrations of CH4. This organism, named Methylocapsa gorgona, is globally distributed in soils and closely related to uncultured members of the upland soil cluster α. CH4 oxidation experiments and 13C-single cell isotope analyses demonstrated that it oxidizes atmospheric CH4 aerobically and assimilates carbon from both CH4 and CO2.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Borehole garden permaculture (#journal)

Local scale water-food nexus: Use of borehole-garden permaculture to realise the full potential of rural water supplies in Malawi

 Borehole-garden permaculture is advocated as one opportunity that involves the sustainable use of groundwater spilt at hand-pump operated borehole supplies that is otherwise wasted. Our goal has been to develop an, experience-based, framework for delivery of sustainable borehole-garden permaculture and associated benefits. This is based upon data collection and permaculture implementation across the rural Chikwawa District of Malawi during 2009–17. Based on the probable ubiquity of underlying issues, the framework is expected to be generalizable to the wider developing world. However, this particular application of permaculture represents a fraction of its greater potential opportunity for rural communities that should be explored.

Effects of permaculture on soil organic matter (journal)

Effects of Permaculture Practices on Soil Physicochemical Properties and Organic Matter Distribution in Aggregates: A Case Study of the Bec-Hellouin Farm (France)

The limitations of conventional agriculture have accelerated the need for a transition to an environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural model. Authors aimed to study the impact of permaculture and biointensive micro-gardening practices on soil physicochemical properties and soil organic matter (SOM). The physicochemical properties of soils in permaculture farming implemented for 7 years were compared with a soil under pasture. The concentrations of total OC and nitrogen (N) in bulk soils were higher under permaculture practices, due to significant inputs of manure and compost, resulting in higher concentrations of the bioavailable nutrients Ca, Mg, K, and P. Permaculture/biointensive micro-gardening practices enhance SOM storage and substantially improve nutrient bioavailability.

Organic grape growers have more water security (#journal)

Turning water into wine: Exploring water security perceptions and adaptation behaviour amongst conventional, organic and biodynamic grape growers

Australian irrigators regularly experience drought. This study explores irrigators’ water security perceptions and their water management adaptation behaviour using in-depth interviews and surveys with 37 conventional, organic and biodynamic grape growers in South Australia. Overall alternative growers perceived higher water security and less water vulnerability due to higher soil water retention. Findings suggest a need for current Murray-Darling Basin water policy to seriously reconsider the approach of primarily investing money in irrigation infrastructure to save water and to focus more on agro-ecological methods.

Shea trees in agro-forestry (#journal)

Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa Gaertn. f.): from local constraints to multi-scale improvement of economic, agronomic and environmental performance in an endemic Sudanian multipurpose agroforestry species

 Shea trees have been for 3000 years probably the most economically and culturally important tree species in Sudanian agroforestry systems. This synthesis paper gathers and updates most of the scattered knowledge on shea trees and parklands: socio-economic potential of shea production, current means of enhancing shea domestication, tree impacts on environmental resources and associated crop production. It concludes with a proposal for a systemic and participative bio-economic modelling approach in order to simulate intensification of shea parklands’ production.

The fight for nature (book)

The Right to Nature: Social Movements, Environmental Justice and Neoliberal Natures, 1st Edition

Since the 2008 financial crash the expansion of neoliberalism has had an enormous impact on nature-society relations around the world. In response, various environmental movements have emerged opposing the neoliberal restructuring of environmental policies using arguments that often bridge traditional divisions between the environmental and labour agendas.
The Right to Nature explores the differing experiences of a number of environmental-social movements and struggles. Chapter 21, 'Humans in the landscape', includes permaculture.


Insects in major decline globally (#journal)

Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers

Biodiversity of insects is threatened worldwide. Authors present a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe, and systematically assess the underlying drivers. This reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world's insect species over the next few decades. The main drivers in order of importance are: i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation; ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) climate change. A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage is urgently needed. In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters.