Permaculture Designers Manual




Section 4.7 –

Compatible and Incompatible Borders and Components in Permaculture

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There are only limited interactions possible between two abstract or real systems brought into boundary contact. The sums of possible effects available are these: No difference in yields, stability, or growth (o o) One benefits, at the expense of the other (+ -)(- +) Both benefit (+ +) Both are decreased in yield or vitality (- -) One benefits, the other is unaffected (+ o) (o +) One is decreased, the other is unaffected (- o) (o -)   Almost all organisms or systems get along fine. A great many derive mutual benefit, and a very few decrease the yield of others or wipe each other out. It simply doesn’t pay to attack others. In the long run, one destroys oneself by accumulated injury or, more certainly, by pathogens in an animal or conflicts within a society that await a monocultural crop or repressive society. For our domestic plant groups, a powerful design strategy for yield and system stability is to select compatible components for complex edge and surface phenomena.

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Many crops, like wheat and pulse grains, trees which bear on the crown and mass-planted vegetable species, yield much better on the crop edge than they do within the crop. Taking examples where edge yield is marked (e.g. in wheat, Lucerne); where there is a (+,+) relationship, as is the case of crops such as wheat and lucerne (alfalfa); and presuming a two-fold yield increase on edges (it can be more for such trees as Acacias with hazelnuts), we can proceed as follows.

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First, we need to measure just how far into each crop the edge effect extends, so that we can estimate a finite width of higher yield. We will assume 1 m for wheat and the same for Lucerne, giving a 2m width as a double edge. It is now quite feasible to sow a field in 2m wide alternate strips of each crop, giving us (in effect) nothing but the edge, and obtaining from this field about the same yield as we would have had we sown twice the area to single crop stands (Figure 4-10).

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Two crops are a simple example, but if we extend the principle to many and varied crops on an even broader scale, we approach a new concept of growing, which we can call ZONE or EDGE CROPPING. These would produce a matrix of hedgerows or edge-rows, each suited in width to a particular crop. Such zonal strips are seen naturally occurring on coasts and around salt-pans or waterholes.

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This sort of setup might be a nightmare for the bulk-cropper (or it may not), but has immense potential for small shareholders in a single land trust, each of whom tends one or more crop strips. It is very like the older patterns of French-intensive agriculture and the farmed strips of modern Quebec, which produce a very productive crop mosaic.

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Polycultures” can be composed of such mosaics or zonal strips. For cases of (-,-) interactions, both crops suffer, but active intervention with a component acceptable to both systems may work: Place Intervening, mutually-compatible component between two incompatible systems. Compatible components may simply differ in sex, color, chemistry, belief, or political conviction from the warring parties. However, in time a beneficial mosaic will impose itself on all expansionist systems, arising from the potential for differences carried within all living systems. Natural interveners arise, often as hybrids between apparently antagonistic systems. Our design intention in landscape systems is to build interdependence into mosaics. Select and place components so that incompatibility is nullified, interdependence maximized.

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After all, in the absence of tigers, Hindus need Muslims to eat cows; they may also need a Christian businessman between them to effect the transaction. The interdependence of mosaics of belief is called for as much as mosaics of plants.

The stupidity principle may here be stated in a different way:

Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences and not to use or value them creatively“.

It is our skill in organizing spatial or functional distribution that may create beneficial interdependence in incompatible components.

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When we know enough to be able to select mutually beneficial assemblies of plant and animal species (guilds) then we have two powerful interactive strategies (edge harmonics and species compatibility) for design applications. Mosaic design (the opposite of mono-cultural means the creation of many small areas of differences. A few mistakes will occur, but the good average benefit will result. This was the tribal strategy.

A Golden Rule of Design

Keep it small and keep it varied.”

Our tree model is not only different from its supporting media, but exists because of them. Stress builds because of impermeable boundaries. If a fence allows mice through but restricts rabbits, it is the rabbit plague that will break it down. If too much money accumulates on one side of a door it will either force the door open of itself, or those deprived of it will break in.

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The terrible pressures that gases and molecules can exert are harmless only when that pressure is fee to disperse, or where potentially destructive energies are quietly released where there are no boundaries, multiple translators, or stress-relief mechanisms. Because the event itself creates a third medium, it again sets up stress between itself and the media (MI and M2). It  can  be seen, therefore, that  once any  one difference of any sort, even an idea, exists anywhere, then it demands  or  creates  conditions  for  the  evolution  of subsequent  events. That first event itself became yet another difference, which in turn needed translation, and so on. The process is self-complicating, continually creating or itself all that follows, and all that continues. All is stress, or the relief of stress, and that stress and relief is located between existing differences. One difference in the beginning was enough to generate the total range of subsequent events.

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There are no “new” events, just a continual expression of all possible events, each arising from some recombination of preceding differences. There are no miracles, just a realization of infinite possibilities. Any event has the potential to spawn all possible events. There are no new orders of events, just a discovery of existing events. Every event we can detect is a result of a proceeding event, and gives rise to subsequent events. Between all media, some DIFFUSION can take place. This is greatly enhanced by such phenomena as surface turbulence, wave overturn, temperature differences and pressure differentials. Boundaries between diffusing media are blurred, often seasonally different or sporadic in occurrence and always in flux. Plants give pollens and chemicals to air, and actively intervene in radiative, gaseous, liquid, and general energy transactions with the atmosphere. Between plant groups, leaf, root and mulch exudates diffuse as chemical messengers. Water is the “universal solvent” of substances diffusing through the earth’s crust, in plant systems, and in the atmosphere.

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Diffusion is a quiet process operating on a broad front or over the entire surface or some media. It is analogous to, but differs from, the active transport systems that we have called events or translators. However, once an event has occurred, it also uses diffusive processes to gather or distribute materials, and thus events merely enlarge the total diffusive area available. A tree may have many acres of leaf, and evapo-transpiration will then exceed evaporation at that place by a factor of forty or more. We can grow many such trees on one acre, and thus increase the diffusion effect by factors of 1000 or more, so that gaseous exchange from leaves and sugars in soils (or soil life) are both assisted by the trees.




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