“Permaculture for Agroecology” is out! 13

I want to say “at long last” but really it’s been a relatively quick process, given the going pace of academic publication. It’s just been in any-day-now land for several weeks, so I’ve been experiencing very faint shades of when my mom made us kids sit and eat a nice breakfast before opening Xmas presents.

The paper will be Open Access at Springer – in Agronomy for Sustainable Development, in case you missed it – but right now it’s stuck behind a paywall. I’ll continue to host it here in any event. If you would care to point people at this post rather than emailing the article around, I’d be grateful. Thanks!

11/10/2013 Update: As Dana points out below, it’s no longer stuck behind the paywall. 🙂

11/18/2013 Update: If you are on ResearchGate, please download through my RG profile here:
ResearchGate.PermacultureForAgroecology Apparently it helps boost some statistic that may be important to me at some point. Thanks!

If you aren’t on ResearchGate, then go ahead and download it right here: [wpdm_file id=2]

  • Christian Joks

    Congrats. Look forward to readin this.

  • JoeMoore

    Glad to hear it! Your work certainly deserves the attention.

  • RafterSass

    Thank you! I hope it’s helpful. Looking forward to discussion.

  • Ethan Roland

    This is a groundbreaking publication – a long-awaited overview of permaculture in a peer-reviewed journal! The writing is excellent, and the article sinks some roots for the continued healthy growth of permaculture in the scientific world. Thank you, Rafter & Sarah.

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  • Steve Whitman

    Wow! I was so excited to read this, and really look forward to using this volume of work as a resource in the future. It is an amazing amount of information, sends a clear message that really needs to be heard, and overall is really a wonderful contribution on behalf of Permaculture. Lots to be proud of!

  • Dana Beegle

    FYI – I was able to find and access this paper through google scholar yesterday…for free. Excellent and exciting work!!! Thanks so much!

  • MikeH

    Your connection of “dynamic accumulators” in permaculture discussions to “ample support in the ecological literature for the importance of plant processes in determining the vertical distribution of nutrients in the soil column” is a weak justification of the ongoing current use of the concept in permaculture literature. There is extensive research showing vertical distribution of N, P, K. but little or none for the micro-nutrients except in the area of phytoremediation. None of the research mirrors the claims being made in permaculture literature. Specifically, Jacke and Toensmeier as well as Hemenway (I don’t know about Whitefield and Bell) publish tables of specific plants and the micro-nutrients that they supposedly mine. If one examines the references given, not only are they pseudo-scientific, ie, they make claims but have no supporting research but more significantly they do not provide the detail in the tables contained in their books. So where do these tables come from????? See page 270 of Robert Kourik’s Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally which was first published in 1986 and has never been revised.

    This is not to say that there are some plants that are excellent at mining micro-nutrients but not the lists as presented by Jacke and Toensmeier and Hemenway. Some of the plants in their lists are excellent but most are not including comfrey. See Dr. James Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases and Mark Pederson’s Nutritional Herbology for hard ppm data – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aoz8GE1bbsDjdDdxSjA3dWxKaU5qU2xVZUFUcHR4RGc&usp=sharing#gid=0

    This is not meant to be critical of Jacke and Toensmeier and Hemenway but rather to call for increased research rigour going forward. Increasingly, permaculture is the only sensible approach to food production. It needs to be put on a strong footing that is not just anecdotally based.

    • RafterSass

      Hi Mike, and thanks for your comment. I’m excited to see that someone is digging into the available literature on the mineral phytoaccumulation question. Did you extract and assemble that spreadsheet by hand? That’s an impressive piece of work, if so, and in either case is a welcome resource.

      A little confused as to how you read my brief discussion of dynamic accumulators as a justification (weak or otherwise) for the status quo in the permaculture literature – as seems to be your implication. In characterizing the pc discussion of DAs as ‘folk science’ rather than ‘pseudo-science’ I’m hardly defending it as scientifically rigorous. Rather, I’m letting the reader know that the basic mechanism proposed is sound, even if the details are sketchy. This paper is written for a wide audience, remember, and that information will be significant for some readers. I’m drawing a distinction between an imperfect, evolving body of knowledge and a scam. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

      Earlier drafts of this paper actually did trace the connections back through Kourik’s work and on to other sources – as well going into greater depth in virtually every section. But the desire to have the thing read won out, as the likelihood of someone actually finishing the article plummets as you get up above 9000 words. 🙂

      • MikeH

        Hi Rafter,

        The spreadsheet wasn’t all that difficult to assemble. I started from wiki’s classification of minieral nutrients as either macro or micro and then searched for each in Duke’s database – http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/. A bit of cut-and-paste and a bit of sorting and there’s the spreadsheet.

        Yes, there is a distinction between pseudo-science and folk science but it starts to blur when it comes to dynamic accumulators. As used in permaculture, most of the plant/nutrient mining relationships are more than sketchy; they’re wrong or don’t exist. But they are repeated over and over and more importantly incorporated into design systems. Depending on the particular usage, the design could be undermined.



      • RafterSass

        I would love to see a species-by-study breakdown of the quality of evidence behind that claim!

  • Kata

    Well done Rafter and Sarah!!! I am really looking forward to digesting this work (as soon as my semester concludes mid December), and look forward to discussing it in great depth with you! You have undertaken an admirable feat, job well done for bringing this into peer-reviewed light!

  • Also, are you aware of the Ecosan group called SOIL in Haiti (www.oursoil.org)? They were the first group I’ve ever seen use the phrase “liberation ecology” so it’s fascinating this is the name of your site here!

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