Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Search for Research

A common and very reasonable complaint I hear of Agroecology (and by Agroecology I mean all the different brands and labels associated with this i.e biodynamics, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, regrarian, sustainable farming etc) is that there is a lack of research and experimental data to support the claims made by its proponents. There is, in fact, quite a lot of research undertaken regarding agroecological systems (see below) however it has not been disseminated effectively and is relatively difficult to access.  I have not been able to find any research relevant to small scale that addresses the simplest of issues.  I have been looking for answers to what I consider to be very simple questions, such as how productive is a four species annual guild in direct comparison to growing the same 4 species separately in the same amount of space with the same nutrient and water inputs. I decided this year to embark upon some self directed research, my modest efforts focusing on recording the inputs and outputs for an annual herb and vegetable guild (click here for an overview of this garden) and comparing this with available data from conventional practices. You can view the results here.

The Permaculture Association have taken the lead on promoting research for permaculture and have a dedicated section on their website,  their aim being to "build a strong evidence base for permaculture and improve permaculture practice". They have created a great booklet for anyone wishing to undertake their own research. Its very easy to read and purposefully designed to be accessible to everyone. Click here to view.




They have also launched the Permaculture Association's international soil tests a test that started in the UK last year and has now been extended to the international community. We are taking part in this.

     If you are looking for peer reviewed research relevant to Agroecology,  you will find much of interest from the below journals some of which are open access and available to everyone. 
  • Agronomy for Sustainable Development  Click here for a list of open access papers
  • Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (formerly Journal of Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • Agroforestry Systems
  • Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
  • Agriculture and Human Values
  • Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
 from Rafter Sass Ferguson's Blog - Liberation Ecology

Agroforestry Research Trust  publish an excellent quarterly journal. I highly recommend subscription to this journal as essential reading for all who are interested in temperate tree crops and agroforestry.

The The European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) aims at promoting the use of trees on farms as well as any kind of silvopastoralism throughout the different environmental regions of Europe. EURAF publish an excellent book of abstracts on their website.

Links related to Research

http://www.orgprints.org/
http://www.fibl.org/en/switzerland
http://www.agroecology.org/CaseStudies.html
http://www.permaculture.org.uk/research/1-team-who-we-are-and-what-we-do
http://surveymonkey.net/s/forestgardenbaseline


If you know of any other good research resources please add a comment below.


   
If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience join us this Spring. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

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