Recommended Reading

Introduction To Regenerative Agriculture

  1. Food Inc (documentary)
  2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma
  3. INHABIT (documentary)
  4. How To Not Go Broke Ranching
  5. Letter To A Vegetarian Nation
  6. Folks, This Ain’t Normal
  7. For The Love Of The Land
  8. The Carbon Farming Solution
  9. Gardeners Of Eden
  10. Cows Save The Planet
  11. The Soil Will Save Us
  12. Defending Beef
  13. Permaculture Playing Cards (playing cards)

Learning The Core Concepts In Regenerative Agriculture

  1. Holistic Management: A New Framework For Decision Making
  2. Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual
  3. Restoration Agriculture
  4. Working With Nature: Shifting Paradigms
  5. Regrarians Handbook
  6. The Resilient Farm And Homestead
  7. Teaming With Microbes
  8. You Can Farm
  9. The One-Straw Revolution
  10. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture
  11. Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture
  12. Water For Every Farm
  13. The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook

Delving Deeper Into Specific Techniques

  1. Holistic Management Handbook
  2. Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture
  3. Edible Forest Gardens
  4. The Urban Farmer
  5. Rainwater Havesting For Drylands And Beyond
  6. Kick The Hay Habit
  7. Comeback Farms
  8. Stockmanship Manual
  9. Man, Cattle and Veld
  10. Salad Bar Beef
  11. Farming The Woods
  12. Pastured Poultry Profit$
  13. Natural Horsemanship
  14. The Permaculture Orchard (dvd)
  15. Soil Biology Primer
  16. The Rodale Book Of Composting
  17. The Market Gardener

Other Recommended Reading

  1. Twilight Of The Mammoths
  2. The $50 And Up Underground House Book
  3. Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal
  4. The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse
  5. The Vegetarian Myth
  6. Fields Of Farmers
  7. Earthbag Building
  8. The Botany Of Desire
  9. The Hand-Sculpted House
  10. Rocket Mass Heaters
  11. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World
  12. Biogas

My Favorite Books Not About Farming At All

  1. Mastering The Core Teachings Of The Buddha
  2. Starting Strength
  3. 8 Steps To  A Pain Free Back
  4. The Lord Of The Rings
  5. A Path With Heart
  6. Being Zen
  7. Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind
  8. A Brief History Of Time
  9. Practical Tracking
  10. Beyond Happiness
  11. Waking Up
  12. Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion

*Titles in bold are the ones I have read. I am working on reading all of these, but I only have so much time…. Everything I have included which I have not personally read has come highly recommended from people I trust. 

**Almost all of the links on this page are “associate links” which means that if you buy something on Amazon after clicking one of my links I will get a percentage of the value of what you bought, with no extra cost for you. This is a way you can support the work I do. I would love to be able to spend all of my time teaching people about Regenerative Agriculture, but I need to make money doing it or I will not be able to continue doing it for much longer. Thanks for your support!

*** A lot of these books are much cheaper if you buy them through this link:

Why Should We Regenerate The Environment?

I have been writing about how to regenerate the environment using agriculture for quite a while now… but I have never actually written about why it is a good idea to regenerate the environment in the first place! I will remedy that oversight here…

Why should we regenerate the environment?

  1. Oxygen for us to breathe.
    • Living, photosynthesizing plants produce oxygen. We need oxygen in order to live. Therefore, the less total plant growth on the planet the less oxygen available for us to breath. (reference)
    • Regenerating landscapes almost always increases the plant growth on those landscapes. Turning a wild landscape into cropland almost always reduces total plant growth on that landscape (reducing the oxygen produced). Therefore, when landscapes degenerate and lose plant growth, we are putting our oxygen supply at risk.
    • Which landscape is producing more oxygen?
      Which landscape is producing more oxygen?

       

  2. Sustainable food production
    • Chemical fertilizers will not last forever. Eventually we will have to learn to grow food without petroleum-based chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides).
    • Farmers have already discovered how to produce food on an industrial scale without these chemicals (read “The Future Of Agriculture Is Regenerative”). It requires healthy soil and a healthy ecosystem. Most agricultural soils are currently in a degraded state, which would make them unsuitable for growing crops without fertilizer and pesticide inputs. In order to develop sustainable global food production it is necessary to regenerate these farmland soils and ecosystems.
    • concern
  3. Healthier food
    • Crops produced in a biologically healthy soil are healthier for humans to eat. They contain all of the nutrients we need. Crops produced in degraded soils do not provide all of the nutrients humans need… leading to many health problems in our populations. (reference)
    • Regenerating landscapes will, therefore, produce healthier food for humans.
    • This Kernza perennial wheat plant can access nutrients from far deeper in the soil than traditional annual crop plants ever could.
      This Kernza perennial wheat plant can access nutrients from far deeper in the soil than traditional annual crop plants ever could.

       

  4. Reduced poverty, starvation, and disease in developing countries
  5. Reduced drought and water shortages
    • Healthy landscapes are able to hold more water in their soils, mitigating the effects of drought. (reference1, reference2) Bio-diverse ecosystems are also able to cope with droughts better. (reference) This puts water back into the aquifers and also provides surface water even when there has been no rain. (reference)
    • glenn-gall-farm-scale-permaculture-water-harvesting-27-638
  6. Reduced landslides, flash floods, etc.
    • A healthy landscape will absorb most of the water that falls onto it into the soil, instead of allowing it to run over the surface. This reduces, or eliminates, all floods (including flash floods). (reference) Landslides are primarily caused by removal of vegetation from steep slopes. Regenerating landscapes almost always requires a re-vegetation of steep slopes with trees or shrubs who’s roots will hold the soil in place, preventing landslides.
    • Slope-use
  7. Reduced environmental toxins
    • Regenerating landscapes means we can produce food without using toxic chemical fertilizers or pesticides. (reference) Healthy soils also act as filters, removing pollution from water that passes through them. (reference) The microorganisms which exist in healthy landscapes are also able to break down many toxins. (reference)
    • 253110_116269798531105_1394971852_n
  8. Beauty from healthy landscapes

Enough said.

Enough said.

Learn More

These three books are great places to start:

Restoration Agriculture

The Sheer Ecstasy of Being A Lunatic Farmer

Holistic Management

This article will give you a quick taste of the Regenerative Agriculture movement.

And this one will introduce you to some of the most important techniques in Regenerative Agriculture.

You can find even more resources here.



A Response To Chris Clarke’s Misinformed KCET Article

As techniques for greening deserts, like Planned Grazing and Permaculture, are becoming widely known there are a few people who are raising their voices in protest. Chris Clarke’s article, “TED Talk Teaches Us To Disparage The Desert”, is one of the more prominent articles opposing the greening of deserts.

After Chris Clarke refered to Allan Savory’s supporters as an “ecocidal cult” I decided to write a point by point response to his article, once again...

*I was fortunate enough to get Allan Savory’s direct comments on this article. I will be including his comments throughout, but his full response can be found at the end of the article…

People are dying right now due to the effects of desertification. If Allan’s methods work (they do), then the only reasonable and ethical response we can have is to first express our wholehearted support for these methods being used where they are needed desperately, and only then debate their merit in locales where human lives are not in immediate peril from desertification. Chris Clarke has failed to do so, and that, in my opinion, is the biggest flaw in his article.

Oxfam_East_Africa_-_A_mass_grave_for_children_in_Dadaab

A Point By Point Response To Chris Clarke

You can read Chris’s full article here.

Chris doesn’t take long to get into his attack:

Part 1:

“Allan Savory takes it further than that: He wants to eradicate deserts just because they exist.”

Actually, as he states very clearly in his TED Talk, Allan Savory wants to “reverse desertification” in order to feed dying people in Africa, reduce conflict over food and water, save traditional dry-land cultures from extinction, and to reverse global warming. Lets move on….

Part 2:

“Savory, who has been riling up land management scientists for decades with his theories about grazing management, gave a talk in February 2013 at TED Long Beach that’s available on YouTube. In that talk, he claims that the world’s deserts are all human-caused, that they all were once grasslands, that they can and should be converted back to grasslands by the application of very large numbers of grazing livestock, and that his plan is the only way we as a global species could combat the effects of global warming caused by desertification.”

Savory has been riling up land management scientists for decades, but this is not because his techniques don’t work (they do) it is because they are a dramatic departure from previous land management paradigms. It is hard for people to accept new knowledge.

Second, no where in the TED Talk does Allan ever claim that “the world’s deserts are all human-caused”. Nor does he ever say that all deserts “were once grasslands” and nor does he ever say that “they [all] can and should be converted back to grasslands”.

Allan could not fully explain his exact views on deserts in the TED Talk because of the time restrictions. However he has said many times in other talks and public comments:

“At no time ever in my life, nor in the TED talk, have I ever stated or believed that we should do anything about the few natural deserts in the world, like the Gobi or Namib deserts that get either no rain or only occasional rain. They are wonderful but thankfully limited. TED people put that title “greening the deserts’ and not me.”

-Allan Savory

Chris Clarke’s next argument is similarly misleading…

Part 3:

” Savory claims that desertification is always caused by overgrazing, but in many places other factors play as large a role: plowing, groundwater mining, habitat fragmentation, and a range of other issues.”

No where, in this TED Talk or elsewhere, does Allan Savory ever claim that “desertification is always caused by overgrazing”(emphasis added).

allan picture
Desertification in New Mexico happening without livestock, plowing, mining, etc….

 

Part 4:

“But Savory seems to take the conflation completely to heart: his TED Talk is entitled “How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change.” Not “how to repair our damage to the planet.” Not “how to revegetate desertified grasslands.” Savory wants to “green the deserts.””

Let me refer you once again to Allan’s comments:

“At no time ever in my life, nor in the TED talk, have I ever stated or believed that we should do anything about the few natural deserts in the world, like the Gobi or Namib deserts that get either no rain or only occasional rain. They are wonderful but thankfully limited. TED people put that title “greening the deserts’ and not me.”

-Allan Savory

Bunched Bison

Part 5: 

“Savory has spent most of his life in Southern Africa, where that paleoecological description has some small validity — and where, for that matter, the line between actual old-growth deserts and human-trashed wastelands is somewhat less distinct. His science there has been challenged rather harshly over the decades, but at least it’s plausible in an African context. But Savory doesn’t limit his recommendations to Africa. He’s pushing them in deserts in Australia and the Americas, where the local arid landscapes did indeed have grazers, and sometimes destructive ones — but by no means on the scale of the Serengeti’s massive herds.”

So, to summarize, Chris Clarke is basically saying that intensive grazing (properly managed) should not be applied to Australia or the Americas because past populations of “grazers” in these areas were “by no means on the scale of the Serengeti’s massive herds”. 

Lets ignore the fact that Allan’s Techniques have been proven to be very effective in Australia and the Americas….

Chris provides exactly no evidence to support his claim about prehistoric mega-fauna population levels. But consider that there were an estimated 50 million bison in North America when Europeans arrived, which was after the megafauna of North America had been subjected to devastating losses for over 10,000 years.… compare that to the 1.3 million wildebeest which currently roam the Serengeti (there are other animals present, but their numbers are generally under 1 million). Chris Clarke’s statement is in direct opposition to the evidence. Australia and the Americas probably did have herds on the scale of Africa’s Serengeti. 

All of these giant animals roamed North America not very long ago.
All of these giant animals roamed North America not very long ago.

 

Part 6:

“I’ve written here, for instance, about the blackbrush vegetative community that’s common at upper elevations in the California deserts. Blackbrush is quite fragile: if a massive herd of grazing animals wanders through it, it gets trampled and broken. Solid covers of blackbrush can take 10,000, even 15,000 years to develop. Solid covers of blackbrush are reasonably easy to find without much searching across the American West. Which means that across the American West, it’s not hard to find vegetative communities that have not been affected by massive herds of grazers for millennia.”

Conveniently 10,000-15,000 years ago is exactly when megafauna populations in North America were devastated… Leading to an alternate explanation:

10,000-15,000 years ago when the natural herds of large herbivores roaming North America were put out of commission, the desertification process began, exactly as Allan describes it. The loss of animal impact lead to a dramatic increase in bare ground along with a shift in vegetation from grasses to woody plants like blackbrush. The types of ecosystems and vegetation found in most of America’s west are most likely nature’s response to the loss of mega-fauna.

Grassland or "cryptobiotic crust"?
Grassland or “cryptobiotic crust”?

 

Part 8:

Chris Clark finishes with comments about bare soil being a good thing, stands of dying grass being a good thing, and “cryptobiotic crusts” being a good thing. (read his comments here)

I think Allan Savory’s response, below, is excellent. But I will offer my own opinion as well:

The biodiversity present in true desert ecosystems should definitely be preserved. But this leaves a whole lot of room for grassland restoration projects.

hm1-e1397284335630

Regenerating desertified land into healthy grassland has the following benefits:

  • increased rates of carbon sequestration (reference1, reference 2, reference 4)
  • sustainable production of human food as a side effect
  • increased wildlife populations due to increased forage availability
  • decreased water runoff over the surface of the soil, which reduces flooding (especially flash floods), soil erosion, and silting of waterways (reference)
  • increased biodiversity in the area, which leads to increased ecosystem resilience against short and long term changes in environment  (reference 1, reference 2)
  • increased plant biomass, which means more carbon is stored in the living biomass, and more oxygen is being created (reference)
  • soil organic matter is increased, improving water filtration abilities of the soil (reference)
  • air temperatures at the surface of the soil are moderated because bare (or capped) soil is covered by either vegetation or litter, on a large enough scale this leads to more moderate regional temperatures(reference)
  • greatly reduced wind erosion and nutrient loss (reduced dust in the air) (reference)
  • improved nutrient distribution over the landscape (the livestock which are necessary in grasslands are far more capable of transporting nutrients to high ground than small animals like lizards and desert hares) (reference)
  • reduced poverty in dry regions due to increased availability of food and water in the local area
  • reduced national poverty in dry regions, due to increased national food production and reduced droughts

Allan Savory’s Response:

Dear Sheldon,

By all means post my response to your question and some comments I make on the claim by Chris Clarke that my TED talk disparaged deserts. While I can understand the confusion, tragically beliefs about the role of cryptogrammic crusts (in brittle environments quite different from their role in nonbrittle environments) is causing untold loss of biodiversity, increasing man-made desertification, violence, suffering and dying as we write. Anything we can do to increase public understanding is good.

Clarke states Allan Savory takes it further than that: He wants to eradicate deserts just because they exist”. That statement reflects the tone and assumptions throughout his article. At no time ever in my life, nor in the TED talk, have I ever stated or believed that we should do anything about the few natural deserts in the world, like the Gobi or Namib deserts that get either no rain or only occasional rain. They are wonderful but thankfully limited. TED people put that title “greening the deserts’ and not me. If anyone watches my TED talk about the unfortunate word desertification to describe environmental degradation brought about by humans they should understand. As Elisabe Sahtouris said, viewed from space over the past centuries we would be described as a “desert-making species” because these expanding deserts are the greatest changes on Earth seen from space as we now can do.

While we know for certain those natural deserts and a few others perhaps, much of what is being called desert today, and assumed to be natural is not. An example would be the Tihama desert in Yemen that is ancient and I showed in TED talk. That has been called a desert for centuries but is in fact a man-made desert. The Arizona desert where caring concerned people fiercely defend soil crusting is probably a man-made desert but those people would oppose such thinking to their death. Why do I think this might be the case? The main reasons. First N.America now has about 11 large mammals where it used to have about 40 more large mammal species before humans within recent time (about 9,000 years) with language and organization, spear and fire wiped out most large animals and replaced their role mainly with fire. Australia the same thing but over 50,000 years creating their great man-made deserts. Such “deserts” – with low and erratic rainfall environments high on the brittleness scale simply did not evolve with total rest or protection and the very nature of many of the present “desert” plants having evolved with protective structures to minimize over-browsing show this. Second reason, the desert tortoises that are endangered because of habitat change, and not predation and accident as believed – predation and accident, as well as disease, are decimating factors not welfare factors. Other than with slow breeding animals as far as we know if decimating factors are wiping out a population it is because something is wrong with the welfare factors (Leopold). Something the crust protectors do not consider. If that habitat is what the tortoises evolved in over millennia and was not changing they would not be endangered. This is not a casual view – I have spent many hours in that “desert” with researchers, officials and others analyzing the problem using the holistic framework that enables us to do such analysis in a way that is simply not possible with conventional management/research. The same analysis of many management practices and policies that enabled many scientists undergoing training in the use of the holistic framework to state “We now recognize that unsound resource management is universal in the United States”.

You ask “What type of deserts should be turned over to grasslands?” None of the true deserts because you cannot do so practically with any tool available to mankind and science. Nor is it either desirable or necessary. Now of the remaining – land that is desertifying, has long ago become what we believe today is a true desert – all of which amounts to about two thirds of the world’s land area it would be a case by case situation. And in no situation would the goal be to turn that land into grassland. That is reductionist management that has led to the problems humanity faces.

The social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity involved, no matter how many scientists, experts and people are involved in the management simply cannot be reduced to a simplistic context for management actions and policies. To make this concrete for you and your readers let me assume that we were looking at the Arizona “desert” and concerned people were doing the best they can to preserve cryptogrammic crusting of the soil, desert tortoises and all the other plant, insect, reptile, bird and animal life. This is what government agencies, environmental organizations and others have been doing for many years. However, as we observe floods and droughts are increasing in frequency and severity I believe and some species are disappearing or in danger of doing so. Clearly something is wrong. So assume we decided to simply manage holistically what would that entail? It absolutely would not entail anyone even suggesting putting cattle on the land, bringing back wolves or any other measure. Why? Because we would have immediate conflict and one of the first things Holistic Management does is to prevent conflict and get everyone collaborating in their own self-interest.

In my TED talk I showed a picture of land on which there has been protection of cryptogrammic crusts for a very long time strongly reinforced by US National Parks Service. It was simply desertifying seriously and historically used to be the centre of an irrigation-based civilization.

Here is a picture of similar land here in NM with the result plain to see after many years of the very best of current management known in the Western World.

allan picture

So if we were to look at the possibility of managing say Arizona “desert” land we would begin by simply looking at what land is to now be managed holistically as indivisible from society or economy. With that in mind we would bring key people to a solutions retreat – from the large environmental organizations, government agencies, ranchers, farmers, captains of industry, church groups, etc. being as inclusive as we can be. These people, with facilitation in the process of Holistic Management, would develop a holistic context. An over-arching context for management and policy that everyone agrees upon and that represents what all deeply desire. No action, no prejudice can be part of the context which is 100% what people desire 0% how to do that. In my recent Schumacher Lecture I used a generic holistic context that I personally use to guide me in all countries and amongst all cultures I work with globally – people in Arizona would come up with their own holistic context but being human it would not differ greatly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrBauQO2sI4

Once we had a context for management that does cater for social, environmental and economic complexity we would then move forward with management having of course determined who will lead the management on the ground. At this point we would recognize we have some problems – tortoises as mentioned and perhaps other species declining, fear of development encroaching, need to protect cryptogrammic crusts to preserve those species for thousands of years and so on. We would also recognize we have other problems perhaps – rising taxation, small towns and communities dying, a dying Western culture and more.

We would clearly have a number of goals associated with each such problem and would seek ideas and suggestions as to actions that could possibly deal with every one of these problems. Each and every idea would be welcomed as a constructive possible solution. With each suggested action we would first do all the normal stuff we have done for centuries and consider many factors – past experience, research results, expert opinion, cost, etc. etc. And then if a suggested action looked promising to solve any of those issues we would pass it through seven holistic context checking questions. This is to ensure the action would be socially, culturally, environmentally and economically sound short and long-term and in line with the holistic context that all own.

If any action is found to be in line with the people’s holistic context and going to solve a specific problem, and it is a new action affecting the environment never before taken, then we would automatically assume it was wrong – no matter how much it might be supported by research or expert opinion. And on that assumption we would institute a feedback loop based upon the earliest possible change so that management ceases to be adaptive (as it has been for centuries) and becomes proactive.

While this may sound an awful lot of work it is only because I am writing about it. Just as if I was writing trying to tell you and your readers how to ride a bicycle would sound awfully confusing. I have found that people with little education learn the process within days as long as we simply do it. The commonest reaction is “this is such commonsense”. People experiencing most difficulty are usually those who defend a certain limited point of view fiercely. And this John Ralston Saul summed up best perhaps when studying mounting management issues since the Age of Enlightenment. He states “The reality is that the division of knowledge into feudal fiefdoms of expertise has made general understanding and coordinated action not simply impossible but despised and distrusted.”

Sheldon the article you provided by Chris Clarke is simply a mass of assumptions and rejection with no idea about Holistic Management and what that entails. I am going to ignore it.

For your interest, I am involved in watching Holistic Management in action on land I live on half of each year. They began with the usual conflicts, land desertifying, species dying out and thousands of acres on which as I said in my TED talk we had cryptogrammic crusting between plants and over larger bare areas of soil. They have lost no cryptogram species and today have wildlife returning, and open water, water lilies and fish, with geese breeding where never known before. The productivity of that land is now so great, even after 8 years of average but generally poorer rainfall, that they are battling to keep up with it. As Dr M. Sanjayan a Senior Scientist with The Nature Conservancy, who hosted a recent National Geographic/PBS documentary partly filmed on that land had to say The message is an extraordinarily powerful one, and it could be the best thing, the absolute best thing that conservation has ever discovered.”

I hope this helps increase understanding.

Allan”

I would also like to include some comments a friend had about this article, which I thought were quite relevant:

“A few of my quick thoughts, mainly having to do with, how do you say, “now-centrism” – the idea that the state of the system as we found it is how that system is ideally, irrespective of its relatively recent history and functioning. The saguaro reference is particularly useful, because the environment which we typically imagine them to be living in has been radically modified anthropogenically over thousands of years, but especially beginning in the 19th century with the introduction of the railroads and intense grazing, but to other extents by indigenous groups over millennia. The whole of the Sonoran desert, the native range of the saguaros, was a rich grassland-savanna. The name ‘Sonora’ refers to the sounds of water flowing through the riparian zones which were forested bosques of cottonwoods, sycamores, plentiful beaver and what have you – not what you think of when you’re in Tuscon today. The saguaros evolved in a system very different to what we’re used to seeing, and in fact without the cover of trees (nurse plants) there will be no further saguaros – a reason why you see a strong age-dependence in their populations-very few young cacti. Obviously this environment isn’t recovering on its own, the grassland needs livestock in order to recover. At a point before human use began under the Uto-Aztecan peoples of the region, the hills were forested with quintessential Sonoran dryland trees – palo verde, ironwood, mesquite – which extended down into the lowland grasslands. Go back to the end of the ice age and beyond and you have throngs of bison, mammoth, rhinoceros, camels, horses and the whole megafaunal cohort. This region was still a dryland then, even if a little moister, and the saguaro existed in it just fine for the whole of its evolution, jackrabbits, insects, the whole Holocene gang and all.

This sort of “now-ism” colors a lot of “conservation” thinking. Conservation of what? A degraded, barely functioning landscape? The arguments of the long-lived desert plants are equally telling. If you go to Mesa Verde in Colorado, up on the mesas there are plentiful juniper trees, the oldest cohort of which are all 900 years old, nothing older. These trees demark a radical change in the landscape – the collapse of the Anasazi civilization around 1100. Similarly, all these clonal creosotes, yucca, oak and what have you, all dating to the end of the ice age demark the collapse of a vast ecosystem, and the entering of a new steady state. If what Allan Savory says about rebuilding desert grasslands is true, and we all have reason to believe it’s on to something, the loss of the megafauna is what caused this descent into the steady state we’re familiar with, dominated by creosote bushes and everything else. All of these systems evolved with throngs of megamammals orchestrating the nutrient cycling and ecosystem functions, without which the systems have collapsed. Cows are a mimic of these historical conditions orchestrated not by packs of megapredators, but by people. Really, many of these systems have probably been waiting for the return to historic conditions, and their megafaunal partners.

The cryptogramic soils are another example of this thinking, as we’ve been studying a disturbed system while assuming that it’s “normal” and what’s supposed to be there. The cryptobiotic crusts are actually the highest order succession in these systems without disturbance, and to say that they’re supposed to dominate the deserts of the world would be like saying of a disturbed ocean that the “rise of slime” was the highest trophic level the system was meant to progress to, and therefore that fish are bad for eating all the slime.”

-Jesse Sherer

Ecological Companion Planting Groups And Fungal Pr…

[[“Plant Name”,”Scientific Name”,”Plant Type”,”Ecosystem”,”Soil Group”],[“Alyssum”,”Alyssum species”,”Flower”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Amaranth”,”Amaranthus cruentus”,”Grain”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Artichoke”,”Cynara cardunculus”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Arugula”,”Eruca sativa”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Beach Pea”,”Lathyrus japonicus”,”Vine”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Beets”,”Beta vulgaris”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Bindweed”,”Convolvulus arvensis”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Broad Beans”,”Vicia faba”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”1″],[“Broccoli”,”Brassica oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Brussels Sprouts”,”Brassica oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Buckwheat”,”Fagupyrum esculentum”,”Grain”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Buddleia”,”Buddleia davidii”,”Bush”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Cabbage”,”Brassica oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“California Poppy”,”Eschscholzia californica”,”Annual Flower”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Canola”,”Brassica napus”,”Grain”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Carrots”,”Daucus carota”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Cauliflower”,”Brassica oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Celery”,”Apium graveolens”,”Vegetable”,”Bogs”,”1″],[“Chamomile”,”Matricaria chamomilla”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Chard”,”Beta vulgaris”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Collards”,”Brassica oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Coriander”,”Coriandrum sativum”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Cornflower”,”Centaurea cyanus”,”Annual Flower”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Couch Grass”,”Elymus repens”,”Grass”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Curry Bush”,”Helichrysum italicum”,”Herb”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Dandelion”,”Taraxacum species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Daylily”,”Hemerocallis species”,”Perennial Flower”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Deadnettle”,”Lamium species “,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Dill”,”Anethum graveolens”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Dock”,”Rumex species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Fennel”,”Foeniculum vulgare”,”Herb”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Fireweed”,”Chamerion angustifolium”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Ground Elder”,”Aegopodium podagraria “,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Hemp”,”Cannabis species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Heuchera”,”Heuchera species”,”Perennial Flower”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Horseradish”,”Armoracia rusticana”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Japanese Knotweed”,”Polygonum cuspidatum”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Kale”,”Brassica oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Lambs Quarters”,”Chenopodium album”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Lettuce”,”Lactuca sativa”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Lupine”,”Lupinus species”,”Annual Flower”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Milk Thistle”,”Silybum marianum”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Miner’s Lettuce”,”Claytonia perfoliata”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Mullein”,”Verbascum thapsus”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Mustard”,”Brassica juncea”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Nasturtium”,”Tropaeolum”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Okra”,”Abelmoschus esculentus”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”1″],[“Oregano”,”Origanum vulgare”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Parsnip”,”Pastinaca sativa”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Peas”,”Pisum sativum”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”1″],[“Pigweed”,”Amaranthus species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Quinoa”,”Chenopodium quinoa”,”Grain”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Radish”,”Raphanus sativus”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Red Valerian”,”Centranthus ruber”,”Perennial Flower”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Rosemary”,”Rosmarinus officinalis”,”Herb”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Rue”,”Ruta graveolens”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Rutabaga”,”Brassica napobrassica”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Sage”,”Salvia officinalis”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Scallion”,”Allium cepa”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Scotch Broom”,”Cytitus scoparius “,”Shrub”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Shepherd’s Purse”,”Capsella bursa-pastoris”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Soy Beans”,”Glycine max”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”1″],[“Spinach”,”Spinacia oleracea”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Sweet Pea”,”Lathyrus odoratus”,”Annual Flower”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Tarragon”,”Artemisia dracunculus”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Thistle”,”Most species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1″],[“Tree Mallow”,”Lavatera arborea”,”Shrub”,”Coastal Areas”,”1″],[“Turnip”,”Brassica rapa”,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Area”,”1″],[“Annual Flowers”,”Most species”,”Annual Flower”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Annual Pasture “,”Most species”,”Grass”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Barley”,”Hordeum vulgare “,”Grain”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Basil”,”Ocimum basilicum”,”Herb”,”Unknown”,”1.5″],[“Bergamot”,”Monarda fistulosa”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Burdock”,”Arctium species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1.5″],[“Calendula”,”Calendula officinalis”,”Annual Flower”,”Gardens”,”1.5″],[“Chicory”,”Chichorium intybus “,”Vegetable”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1.5″],[“Chives”,”Allium schoenoprasum”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Clover”,”Trifolium species”,”Weed”,”Disturbed Areas”,”1.5″],[“Comfrey”,”Symphytum species”,”Herb”,”Disturbed Area”,”1.5″],[“Corn”,””,”Grain”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Daisy”,”Leucanthemum x superbum”,”Perennial Flower”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Garlic”,”Allium sativum”,”Vegetable”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Hyssop”,”Hyssopus officinalis”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Mugwort”,”Artemisia vulgaris”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Oats”,”Avena sativa”,”Grain”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Peanut”,”Arachis hypogaea”,”Nut”,”Unknown”,”1.5″],[“Sorrel”,”Rumex acetosa”,”Vegetable”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Wheat”,”Triticum species”,”Grain”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Wormwood”,”Artemisia absinthium”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Yarrow”,”Achillea millefolium”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”1.5″],[“Borage”,”Borago officinalis”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Camas”,”Camassia quamash”,”Perennial Flower”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Catnip”,”Nepeta cataria”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Coneflower”,”Echinacea species”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Cucumber”,”Cucumis sativus”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Eggplant”,”Solanum melongena”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Goldenrod”,”Solidago species”,”Weed”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Lady’s Mantle”,”Alchemillia mollis”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Lawn Grass”,”Most species”,”Lawn”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Leeks”,”Allium ampeloprasum”,”Vegetable”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Lemongrass”,”Cymbopogon”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Lovage”,”Levisticum officinale”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Marsh Mallow”,”Althea officinalis”,”Herb”,”Bogs”,”2″],[“Mellons”,”Cucumis melo”,”Fruiting Vine”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Mint”,”Mentha species”,”Herb”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Oca”,”Oxalis tuberosa”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Onion”,”Allium cepa”,”Vegetable”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Ornamental Grasses”,”Most species”,”Grass”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Parsley”,”Petroselinum crispum”,”Herb”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Peony”,”Paeonia species”,”Perennial Flower”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Peppers”,”Capsicum annuum “,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Perrenial Flowers”,”Most species”,”Perennial Flower”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Perrenial Grasses”,”Most species”,”Grass”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Pole Beans”,”Phaseolus vulgaris”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Potato”,”Solanum tuberosum”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Rice”,”Oryza sativa”,”Grain”,”Bogs”,”2″],[“Skullcap”,”Scutellaria lateriflora”,”Herb”,”Riparian “,”2”],[“Summer Squash”,”Cucurbita pepo”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Sunchoke”,”Helianthus tuberosus”,”Vegetable”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Sunflower”,”Helianthus annuus”,”Grain”,”Grasslands”,”2″],[“Sweet Potato”,”Ipomoea batatas”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Tomatillo”,”Physalis philidelphica”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Tomato”,”Solanum lycopersicum”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Watermelon”,”Citrullus lanatus”,”Fruiting Vine”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Winter Squash”,”Cucurbita pepo”,”Vegetable”,”Unknown”,”2″],[“Acacia”,”Acacia species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Almond”,”Prunus dulcis”,”Nut Tree”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Cactus”,”Most species”,”Cactus”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Fig”,”Ficus carica”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Lavender”,”Lavendula species”,”Herb”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Mesquite”,”Prosopis species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Olive”,”Olea europaea”,”Shrub”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Paloverde”,”Parkinsonia species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Pomegranate”,”Punica granatum”,”Fruit Tree”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Sea-Buckthorn”,”Hippophae rhamnoides”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Stonecrop”,”Sedum species”,”Groundcover”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“Yucca”,”Yucca species”,”Shrub”,”Desert Scrub”,”2.5″],[“American Groundnut”,”Apios americana”,”Vegetable”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Autumn Olive”,”Elaeagnus umbellata”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Barberry”,”Berberis vulgaris”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Blackberry”,”Rubus armeniacus”,”Fruiting Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Bushes”,”Most species”,”Bush”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Clematis”,”Clematis species”,”Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Columbine”,”Aquilegia species”,”Perennial Flower”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Currants”,”Ribes species”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Elderberry”,”Sambucus species”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“English Ivy”,”Hedera helix”,”Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“False Indigo”,”Baptisia australus”,”Perennial Flower”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Goji Berry”,”Lycium barbarum and chinense”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Unknown”,”3″],[“Gooseberry”,”Ribes uva-crispa”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Goumi Berry”,”Elaeagnus multiflora”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Grape”,”Vitis vinifera”,”Fruiting Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Hawthorn”,”Crataegus species “,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Hazelnut”,”Corylus avellana”,”Nut Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Hops”,”Humulus lupulus”,”Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Hydrangea”,”Hydrangea macrophylla”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Lemon Verbena”,”Aloysia citrodora”,”Herb”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Passionflower”,”Passiflora species”,”Flowering Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Portuguese Laurel”,”Prunus lusitanica”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Rose”,”Rosa species”,”Flowering Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Salmonberry”,”Rubus spectabilis”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Siberean Pea Tree”,”Caragana arborescens”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Snowberry”,”Symphoricarpos species”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Strawberry Tree”,”Arbutus unedo”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Tayberry”,”Rubus fruticosus x ideaus”,”Fruiting Vine”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Valerian”,”Valeriana officinalis”,”Herb”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Viburnum”,”Viburnum lentago or prunifolium”,”Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Wild Rose”,”Rosa species”,”Flowering Shrub”,”Forest Edge”,”3″],[“Willow”,”Salix species”,”Riparian tree or shrub”,”Riparian “,”3”],[“Alder”,”Alnus species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Apple”,”Malus domestica”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Apricot”,”Prunus armeniaca”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Astilbe”,”Astilbe species”,”Perennial Flower”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Azalea”,”Azalea”,”Shrub”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Bay Leaf”,”Laurus nobilis”,”Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Beech”,”Fagus species”,”Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Birch”,”Betula species”,”Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Boxwood”,”Buxus sempervirens”,”Shrub”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Buttercup”,”Most species”,”Groundcover”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Cherry”,”Prunus avium”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Chestnut”,”Castanea”,”Nut Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Chinese Dogwood”,”Cornus kousa”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Citrus”,”Citrus species”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Cornelian Cherry”,”Cornus mas”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Crabapple”,”Malus species”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Deciduous Trees”,”Most species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Dogwood”,”Cornus species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Elm”,”Ulmus species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“English Laurel “,”Prunus lauroceracus”,”Evergreen Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Eucalyptus”,”Eucalyptus species”,”Evergreen Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Fruit Trees”,”Most species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Honeysuckle Vine”,”Lonicera species”,”Vine”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Horse Chestnut”,”Aesculus hippocastanum”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Hosta”,”Hosta species”,”Groundcover”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Jujube”,”Ziziphus jujuba”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Kiwi”,”Actinidia deliciosa”,”Fruiting Vine”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Linden”,”Tilia species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Loquat”,”Eriobotrya japonica”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Magnolia”,”Magnolia species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Maple”,”Acer species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Mitsuba”,”Cryptotaenia”,”Herb”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Mullberry”,”Morus species”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Nectarine”,”Prunus persica var nectarina”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Oak”,”Quercus species”,”Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Paw Paw”,”Asimina triloba”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Peach”,”Prunus persica “,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Pear”,”Pyrus species “,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Periwinkle”,”Vinca major and minor”,”Groundcover”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Persimmon”,”Diospyros kaki”,”Fruit Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Poplar”,”Populus species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Ramps”,”Allium tricoccum”,”Herb”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Raspberry”,”Rubus idaeus”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Saskatoon Berry”,”Amelachier alnifolia”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Sassafras”,”Sassafras species”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Violet”,”Viola odorata”,”Groundcover”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Walnut”,”Juglans species”,”Nut Tree”,”Deciduous Forest”,”3.5″],[“Arbutus”,”Arbutus menziesii”,”Evergreen Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Chilean Guava”,”Ugni molinae”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Conifer Trees”,”Most species”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Creeping Jenny”,”Lysimachia nummularia”,”Groundcover”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Ferns”,”Most species”,”Fern”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Fir”,”Abies species”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Ginko “,”Ginko biloba”,”Deciduous Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Hemlock”,”Tsuga species”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Holly”,”Ilex aquifolium”,”Shrub”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Huckleberry”,”Gaylusssacia species”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Juniper”,”Juniperus communis”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Monkey Puzzle”,”Araucaria araucana”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Moss”,”Most species”,”Moss”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Pine”,”Pinus species”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Rhododendron”,”Rhododendron species”,”Shrub”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Salal”,”Gaultheria shallon”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Sequoia”,”Sequoia sempervirens”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Spruce”,”Picea species”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Strawberry”,”Fragaria species”,”Fruiting Groundcover”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Sweet Woodruff”,”Galium odoratum”,”Groundcover”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Tamarack”,”Larix laricina”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Wintergreen”,”Gaultheria procumbens”,”Fruiting Groundcover”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Wood Sorrel”,”Oxalis species”,”Groundcover”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Yew”,”Taxus baccata”,”Conifer Tree”,”Conifer Forests”,”4″],[“Blueberry”,”Vaccinium corymbosum”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Peat”,”4.5″],[“Cranberry”,”Vaccinium macrocarpon”,”Fruiting Groundcover”,”Peat”,”4.5″],[“Heather”,”Calluna vulgaris”,”Shrub”,”Peat”,”4.5″],[“Honeyberry”,”Lonicera caerulea”,”Fruit Shrub”,”Peat”,”4.5″],[“Lingonberry”,”Vaccinium vitis-idaea”,”Fruiting Groundcover”,”Peat”,”4.5″],[“Peat Moss”,”Sphagum species”,”Moss”,”Peat”,”4.5″]]

How To Find Regenerative Farms Near You

There is unfortunately no central database of all regenerative farmers in the world. But the resources below, when combined, represent a significant portion of them. If you search through them all I am quite confident you will be able to find regenerative farms that are near to you.

Regenerative Agriculture Facebook Group, Google Map

Permaculture Global, map of worldwide Permaculture projects

Permaculture Global, map of worldwide Permaculture people

Holistic Management International, includes most Holistic Managers who have any online presence

Permies Forum

Permaculture Google Map (check out the “Related Maps”  at the bottom for more people)

Savory Hubs (not very many, but high quality)

To find more people, farms and projects I recommend using a simple Google search.

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Why Livestock Are Necessary For Food Production To Be Sustainable

The Argument:

  1. Livestock are the key to a healthy soil food web
  2. A healthy soil food web is necessary for sustainable food production
  3. Large numbers of livestock are necessary to maintain the soil food web
  4. Therefore large numbers of livestock are necessary for sustainable food production

*Note I am not going to be talking about the role of livestock in Brittle Environments in this article. Please refer to this article on the subject of livestock in Brittle Environments.

BT_Calves_Grazing_Cover_Crop_Millet

1. Livestock Are The Key To A Healthy Soil Food Web

Why are animals so important? Animals improve the health of the soil food web in three ways: they graze, they trample, and they digest. Lets look at each of these three functions to see why exactly they are necessary for soil food web health, and why livestock are our only option for providing these functions over most agricultural land on earth.

The Benefits Of Grazing

When a plant loses some or all of its above-ground leaves or stems (like when it is grazed) it will immediately try to regrow the lost material as fast as possible. It needs nutrients to regrow so it starts putting out huge amounts of energy (exudates) into the soil, far more than usual, in order to acquire these nutrients. This effectively puts the soil food web in overdrive for a little while. (for more information about this process see this post).

Because grassland plants have evolved alongside grazing animals they are able to recover from grazing very quickly. This allows the soil food web to be put into “overdrive” several times each year. This process increases the health and efficiency of the soil food web over time. It also physically increases the depth and organic matter content of the soil. (Note: plants must be allowed to recover after being grazed or the soil food web will eventually start to degrade. See “What Are Properly Managed Livestock” )

Grazing stimulates soil microorganisms and increases soil fertility.
Grazing stimulates soil microorganisms and increases soil fertility.

lambs-eating-grass

This is why grasslands have the deepest and richest soils on the planet: for millions of years animals have been eating the grass plants, each time they do the soil food web goes crazy. And when the soil food web goes crazy soil is created, fast.

After the animal’s graze the plant material goes through their digestive system and passes out later as feces. This process is also incredibly important, you will learn more about that later in the section called “The Power Of Digestion”.

Why Do We Need Livestock, Not Just Wild Animals, For Grazing?

  1. The larger the proportion of the plant that is grazed, the greater the amount of energy (exudates) released by the plant into the soil because the plant is trying to regrow a greater amount of biomass. Therefore animals which eat more of each grass plant will have a greater positive effect on the soil food web.

  2. If the recovery period before the plant is grazed again is too short the plant will be stunted. Stunted plants cannot contribute much, if at all, to the soil food web. So to get maximum benefit from grazing the recovery period must be long enough to allow the plant to prepare to be grazed again. An animal which returns to graze a plant too soon is not benefiting the soil food web.

Therefore we need animals which eat most of a plant, and then leave the plant alone for several months.

Deer tend to take small bites from many different plants, and they tend to return to a plant when the regrowth is still tender and delicious (way too short of a recovery period). Deer, and their relatives, cannot improve the soil food web with their grazing.

Smaller animals like mice, rabbits, and gophers exhibit the same behavior. They take small bites, and they return when the regrowth is most appetizing, which is far too soon for proper recovery.

There is only one category of wild animal which will do this reliably: large herbivores in a natural herd. The vast majority of agricultural areas do not have access to these natural herds anymore (Africa probably is the last place on Earth that this process happens naturally).

Livestock, on the other hand, can be controlled to eat a large portion of the plant and then allow it to recover fully. We cannot rely on wild animals to graze the land properly, we need livestock.

Why Can’t We Use Technology To Graze?

There are many machines which can perform the function of grazing (lawn mowers, industrial mowers, swathers, etc).

Most of them cut the vegetation which is slightly different than grazing because most animals pull the vegetation until it tears (allowing the plant to have some control over the grazing through its leaf and stem structure). There is no solid evidence about how important or unimportant the pulling-action of animal mouths are to plant health. Some farmers claim that the pulling action stimulates more biological activity around the roots of the plants. But lets assume that machines can perform the same grazing function as animals can…

Do you think machines should be used instead of animals? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many machines would it take to “graze” all agricultural land in the world at least once every couple of years (which is a very rough estimate of the ideal minimum amount of grazing needed)?

  • How much fuel would they use? What happens when fossil fuels become scarcer? (it is possible, of course, that at some point these machines could run off of renewable energy sources. But what should we do in the meantime?)

  • How would steep mountain slopes, woodlands, and wetlands (where machinery cannot go) receive the benefits of grazing except through animals?

  • Why would any farmer use a machine to graze (which costs money) instead of animals (which make money, and provide additional benefits)?

  • Why would we use machines, which can only perform some of the functions needed, instead of animals which have a whole host of positive interactions with the soil, wildlife, and with the humans who manage them?

In conclusion, machines can be used to mimic livestock grazing action and improve the soil food web. But it is impractical, costly, and unsustainable to use machines on a large scale. Machines will no doubt continue to be important for certain landscapes (lawns, for example) but over the vast majority of land on Earth machinery cannot replace the grazing function of livestock.

* Note: If you are going to use machines to graze (or livestock for that matter) you must understand the importance of timing. The reason you do not see lawnmowers dramatically increasing the health of people’s lawns has to do with timing. Lawns are mowed too often. Grass plants must be allowed to fully recover before they are grazed/cut again otherwise their growth will slow over time, reducing and eventually eliminating the beneficial effects on the soil. Generally a grass plant has “fully recovered” when it starts to put out a seed head. “Grazing machinery” will not benefit the soil food web unless it is timed properly!

The Necessity Of Trampling

When an animal tramples a plant to the ground without eating it the stems are usually broken in the process, so from the plants point of view it is as if it had been grazed. So the soil food web kicks into high gear exactly like it does when plants are grazed. But trampling actually does even more than that…. trampling also deposits a layer of dead plant material onto the surface of the soil called “litter” or “mulch”.

The trampling action of properly managed livestock.
The trampling action of properly managed livestock.

 

Mulch, or litter, has the following benefits:

  • Reduces water evaporation from the soil

  • Provides habitat for bugs, rodents and other small organisms which are essential parts of any food chain. Without these organisms the soil food web itself would be negatively effected.

  • Creates organic matter. All of the plant material is eaten by soil microorganisms and incorporated into the soil where it can do its job of providing water and nutrients for years to come.

  • Protects the surface of the soil from extreme temperature fluctuations which are harmful to plants and soil organisms

  • Protects the soil surface from solar radiation which is deadly to most soil organisms

Without a litter layer on the soil surface the soil’s health will decline rapidly. Water will not be absorbed into the soil in sufficient quantities, and the soil itself will be lost via erosion. Eventually the soil will not be capable of growing anything but weeds. Maintaining a litter layer on the surface of the soil is a necessity for basic sustainable food production. 

Note: Animals must be in a fairly high density “herd” in order to trample any significant amount of vegetation. See “Properly Managed Livestock”.

Why Do We Need Livestock, Not Just Wild Animals, For Trampling?

  1. The heavier and larger the animal, the more types of vegetation it will trample onto the soil surface. (For example, an elephant (or a mammoth) can trample shrubs and small trees whereas a deer can only trample delicate grasses). The more vegetation trampled the greater the benefits to the soil food web.

  2. The heavier the animal the tighter it packs the vegetation onto the surface of the soil. The more tightly packed the litter layer the faster it can decompose (especially in dry environments) and therefore the faster its nutrients are incorporated into the soil food web.

  3. Normal animal behavior is to follow well-worn pathways. Animals must be either running away in fear, running towards something eagerly, or in a tightly packed herd in order to trample vegetation. Most animals spend a relatively small amount of their time running away in fear. If they can, they will run along pathways and therefore trample no vegetation. They spend even less time running towards something in anticipation. So the most practical way to get an animal to trample vegetation is to put it in a tightly bunched herd.

Therefore in order to receive the maximum soil food web benefits from trampling we need the tallest and heaviest animal possible and it must spend the most amount of time possible in a herd.

Deer cannot be kept in a tight bunch for very long, they are not herd animals and will not be happy with those conditions. Deer are also relatively light, and have small feet, meaning they do not do a very good job of trampling anything.

Smaller animals like rabbits, birds, and rodents are simply not heavy enough or tall enough to trample vegetation onto the soil surface.

Once again, in most areas of the world, we must use livestock in order to receive the soil food web benefits that result from animal trampling.

Why Can’t We Use Technology To Trample Instead Of Livestock?

There are also many machines which can trample vegetation. Some machines can even mimic animal hooves.

However trampling machinery faces the same problems as grazing machinery: it is simply too expensive and too energy intensive to use on a large enough scale to provide the essential service of trampling to all of the worlds agricultural land. Trampling machinery cannot access many areas of the world which are too steep, too heavily vegetated, or too wet. 

So, yes machines can be used to replicate the trampling action of livestock. But they are not practical, except on a relatively small scale and in locations where livestock may not be allowed. Machines also cannot perform the other roles which animals provide for ecosystems like providing food for birds, food for dung beetles, etc. Machines are also not edible.

The Power Of Digestion

The environmental conditions inside an animal’s gut are far different than the conditions in the soil. The inside of an animal’s digestive system is anaerobic, always moist, and very warm. This means that different organisms and different chemical processes take place within animals, which can not be replicated anywhere else in nature.

This unique process recycles nutrients far faster than soil organisms ever can because the conditions in an animal’s gut are more conducive to chemical reactions. Plants have evolved in environments where animal feces were almost always available, so they have evolved to require these easily available nutrients for optimal growth.

In the absence of animals the store of easily available nutrients will eventually be depleted and plants will only be able to access nutrients as fast as small organisms can make them available (which is not very fast). Plants will begin to suffer and many will not be able to grow at all.

The only other source of these extra nutrients besides animals are fertilizers. The difference between animal manure and fertilizers is that animal manure (when deposited naturally) is not harmful to soil organisms, and animal manure is infinitely sustainable.

*Note: Animal poo is also an important source of microorganisms for soils which have lost their native microorganism populations.

All of these giant animals roamed North America not very long ago.
All of these giant animals roamed North America not very long ago.

 

Why Do We Need Livestock, Not Just Wild Animals, To Cycle Nutrients?

  1. Most vegetation consists of mostly cellulose. An animal which can digest cellulose in its body will speed up the nutrient cycle more than an animal which leaves the cellulose in its feces where it must be slowly decomposed by soil organisms. Think about how long it takes a leaf to decompose on the surface of the soil, or even in the soil. Compare that with a ruminant which can decompose that leaf completely in a matter of hours!

  2. All major terrestrial ecosystems evolved with cellulose-digesting animals, therefore plants have adapted to grow in ecosystems with very fast recycling of cellulose. Without cellulose-digesting animals plants will not grow to their full potential. Eventually this altered nutrient cycle may no longer be able to keep up with the needs of the plants in the area. It may take a long time for this deficiency to show up if plenty of non-ruminant animal digestion is taking place.

  3. The higher the percentage of biomass digested by animals versus by soil organisms the faster the nutrient cycle and the more nutrients will be easily available for plant growth at all times. So the more an animal eats, the better (as long as plants are allowed to recover and there is a layer of “litter” on the surface of the soil).

Therefore an animal, or a population of animals, which can eat the most total vegetation and which can digest cellulose will provide the most benefits for the nutrient cycle.

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Based on this information it seems likely that we need the largest herbivores that we can find. In many areas cattle are the largest animal available. There may be larger animals available (like moose, horses, bison, etc) but if their population is small than they will not be able to compete with a large herd of cattle in terms of their effect on nutrient cycles. Likewise a large herd of sheep will have a greater effect on a given area than a small number of cattle.

Of course there is a limit to the number of animals any ecosystem can support, and going over that limit would start to degrade the ecosystem. So to have the maximum benefit to the nutrient cycling of an ecosystem we need to have the maximum population of grazing animals that can live on the land without overgrazing it.

Why Can’t We Use Technology To Replace Livestock Nutrient Cycling?

There are two ways in which technology might help us replace the nutrient cycling functions of livestock: composting/fermentation, and redistributing human wastes.

Composting/Fermentation

It is definitely conceivable that fermentation process could mimic the conditions inside the digestive system of livestock. The temperature would need to be maintained within a very narrow range, oxygen would have to be excluded from the process, the base material would need to be shredded (chewing) and then bathed in acids and enzimes (stomach), moisture would need to be constant and evenly distributed, and the specific organisms which live in digestive systems would need to be applied to the compost. Composting on a large enough scale to replace animal manure would b very costly and energy intensive.

Expensive machinery would be required to harvest the compost base material and then again to distribute the compost over the land, whereas animals distribute their manure for free. Once again this sort of technology-intensive solution is just not a practical or sustainable way of distributing nutrients over the vast landscapes of the Earth. Although it is certainly a useful technology that we should be using in situations where livestock are not practical. 

Humanure

Human waste should definitely be put back onto the land, where it is a benefit to the environment, instead of being put into our waterways where it causes tremendous harm. However, there are a lot of logistical problems in accomplishing this.

Most people live in cities. In order to use humanure to fertilize our agricultural land it would need to be transported out of cities and then spread evenly on the land. Considering the volumes of humanure that would be produced by the average city every day you can see how distributing this manure would be tremendously expensive. There would also be pathogen problems, the humanure would probably need to be fermented or processed before being put on the land to remove human pathogens. I am not saying we shouldn’t try to make it happen, but I am saying it is very unlikely to happen anytime soon and when it does happen it is unlikely to be a practical, or economical way of fertilizing most of the world’s farmland. 

There is a second problem with humanure; humans cannot digest cellulose. Cellulose is the most abundant plant material on earth, but it is very hard to break down. Only large herbivores (mostly ruminants) can break down cellulose rapidly. If a cow eats a leaf from a tree (which they do, if given the chance) that leaf will be completely decomposed in 1-3 days. Think about how long it would take that same leaf to decompose if it were just sitting on the forest floor? (months or even years) Clearly animals that can digest cellulose significantly increase the speed of nutrient recycling. In human feces cellulose passes through undigested, it must then be digested further by the slow-working soil organisms before it can be used by plants. Humans, in otherwords, are not as effective at recycling most organic matter as livestock are. Large cellulose-digesting herbivores used to roam every continent on Earth in huge numbers. It is only logical that plants would have evolved to require the very rapid nutrient cycle provided by these animals. Humans cannot replicate this without using livestock.

Nutrient Distribution

Recent research has indicated that large animals are also essential for spreading nutrients around the globe and counteracting the natural effect of gravity (which is to move everything downhill, into valleys and eventually into the ocean). (Reference) An animal eats a marsh plant, walks up a hill, and then defecates, depositing the marsh nutrients onto the hill. Without animals highlands and hills will eventually lack the nutrients needed to sustain their ecosystems.

All of this applies to farmland as well as natural ecosystems.

Why Do We Need Livestock, Not Just Wild Animals, For Nutrient Distribution?

The research specifically implicates large herbivores as being essential for this process. But why?

  1. Larger animals more nutrients in their guts while they travel.

  2. Larger animals can usually travel longer distances than smaller animals.

  3. The larger stride of big animals also makes it easier for them to travel uphill.

So which animals are needed to perform this function on agricultural land?

  • Most agricultural land has fences or infrastructure which prevents wild animals from roaming freely and depositing nutrients far and wide.

  • Most deer, and similar large wild animals, hang out it woodlands. In many areas woodlands occur in the valleys while the hills are grassy. This means that most of the time the deer will not be transporting nutrients from the low to the high areas.

  • There are no animals left in most areas of the world which can transport as many nutrients (by volume) as a cow can. Cows have big bellies!

Once again it makes the most sense to use livestock to fill this role. Livestock can transport large quantities of nutrients long distances. Livestock can also be consciously used to deposit nutrients on slopes and high ground if the grazing is planned carefully (there are many people already doing this).

Cattle can be moved very long distances to distribute nutrients.
Cattle can be moved very long distances to distribute nutrients.

A Summary Of Why Livestock Are Necessary For A Healthy Soil Food Web

Livestock are necessary because:

  • Grazing of vegetation stimulates the soil food web. The more grazing (as long as it is properly managed) the healthier the soil food web becomes over time. Grazing increases the depth of the soil and increases soil organic matter content. Beneficial grazing cannot be accomplished over most of the world’s land with technology or by wild animals, livestock are our only option.
  • Trampling of vegetation to create a “litter layer” can only be accomplished with livestock, not wild animals or technology, on most of the Earth’s surface. Constantly maintaining a litter layer on the surface of the soil is the key to maintaining the soil health necessary for sustainable food production.

  • Most plants, including food plants, have evolved with access to the rapid nutrient cycle which can only be provided sustainably with animal poo. Without the periodic deposition of animal manure plants will become unhealthy and unproductive. Some will eventually stop growing altogether. Livestock preform this nutrient cycling function far more effectively than any wild animals or technology can over most of the Earth’s landscapes.

  • In order to combat gravity and move nutrients uphill in our farm ecosystems we need livestock. They are large, can travel long distances, and we can precisely control how they move nutrients around the landscape. If we do not use livestock for this purpose lands at higher elevation will lose their soil and nutrients over time, making them inhospitable for agriculture and for natural ecosystems as well.

xKUVQTx

2. A Healthy Soil Food Web Is Necessary For Sustainable Food Production

I have written an in-depth article about the the necessity of  healthy soil food web for sustainable food production. You can read that article here, but here is a quick summary:

  • A healthy soil food web is responsible for the productivity of agriculture, and, therefore, the price of food and the total amount of land needed to produce our food. If the soil food web falls below a certain level of health agriculture will not be productive enough to sustain our population.
  • A healthy soil food web is necessary to mitigate droughts and reduce irrigation needs. Below a certain threshold of soil food web health most areas in the world will not have enough fresh water to reliably produce food in the future.
  • A healthy soil food web is the key to preventing diseases and pest problems in our crops. Pesticides are continuing to new pesticides, with every increasing levels of pesticides being required every year. Clearly this is not a sustainable model. There will eventually come a time when we will be forced to employ the natural pest protection services of a healthy soil food web or face the widespread loss of food crops.
  • The soil food web is responsible for supplying plants with all of their nutrients. If the soil food web is not healthy than plants will be nutrient deficient, and these nutrient deficiencies will be passed on to the animals or humans that consume them. If the soil food web is not healthy enough than human nutrition will suffer (we are already seeing the effects of this).
Healthy ecosystems have huge numbers of large herbivores.
Healthy ecosystems have huge numbers of large herbivores.

3. LARGE NUMBERS OF LIVESTOCK ARE NECESSARY

So we need livestock. But how many do we need?

We do not know for sure how many livestock we need because there is a tremendous lack of research in this area (the vast majority of agricultural research funding generally goes to the latest chemical, tractor, or GMO, not into researching sustainable alternatives).

The missing information we need in order to determine the bare minimum number of livestock necessary:

  • How frequently must vegetation be trampled in various climates in order to maintain a constant litter layer? (my personal guess is that trampling must be applied ever 2-3 years in most climates, but that is only based on personal observation, we need research!)
  • How many livestock are needed to achieve this rate of trampling over all of the world’s farmland? (Based on personal observation of high density livestock I would estimate that 40 cattle can trample 1 acre/ day)
  • How frequently must vegetation be grazed in order to maintain reasonable levels of soil health over a very long period of time? (I have no idea)
  • How many livestock are needed to achieve this rate of grazing over all of the world’s farmland?
  • How many livestock are needed to provide the soil and plants with the manure (nutrient cycling) that they need? (probably a similar number to the numbers of mega-fauna which used to roam the earth)
  • How many livestock are needed to counteract the constant movement of nutrients downhill over an indefinite period of time? (no idea)

We can use my extremely rough estimations to get some idea of how many livestock would be needed at a bare minimum in the United States and Canada (which are the areas I have experience with).

  1. Every acre of farmland (not including existing pasture land, which is often too poor quality to produce other crops) in  must be trampled every 2.5 years to maintain soil health.
  2. There are 90 million acres of cropland in Canada and 408 million acres in the United States. (roughly 500,000,000 acres total)
  3. So there would need to be enough livestock (we’ll assume they’re all cattle) to trample 200 millions acres of land once every year.
  4. Using my estimate that it takes 40 cattle to trample 1 acre in 1 day we can calculate that in order to maintain the minimum soil health of all existing cropland in the US and Canada I estimate that we need to put about 22 million cattle on that cropland permanently. (Plus the cattle needed to maintain the other ecosystems in Canada and the US)

This is estimate was based on extremely limited data, so it is probably very inaccurate. (haha). More research is needed!

We do, however, have some very good reasons to believe that a lot of livestock are necessary, possibly far more than are currently being raised! Here are the reasons we need large numbers of properly managed livestock:

  1. The more properly managed livestock on our cropland the greater the benefits to the soil food web. In other words, the more properly managed livestock on our cropland…. (reference)
    1. The less total land area needed for human food production
    2. The less total amount of water needed for irrigation
    3. The less pesticides needed for crop production
    4. The lower the price of food
    5. The more nutritious the food produced.
  2. Ecosystems, and individual organisms, tend to function most efficiently and productively in the same conditions they evolved in. Almost all ecosystems on earth evolved with large numbers of megafauna (huge animals), and most of these megafauna moved in herds to avoid mega-predators. (reference) These megafauna only went extinct relatively recently (10-50 thousand years ago depending on location) so most ecosystems have probably not had enough time to evolve adaptions to their absence (considering those megafauna have been around for at least 5 million years, 100 x longer than they have been extinct). We can therefore assume that most ecosystems on Earth need the ecosystem functions provided by these extinct megafauna in order to be at their most healthy and productive state. The only method available to replicate these extinct megafauna is properly managed livestock. Especially cattle, horses, and other large livestock. Mamoths would be way better!

In summary, we do not know the bare minimum number of livestock necessary to maintain our basic food production needs. I estimate that in Canada and the US we might need 22 million cattle just to maintain existing cropland soil health.

But why settle for the bare minimum soil health? We have many good reasons to strive for maximum soil health (see them above) which would mean putting as many properly managed livestock on our land as possible.

Bunched Bison

Conclusion

Livestock are necessary for maintaining healthy soil food webs on our agricultural land. Their trampling, grazing, and digestive systems cannot be replaced by wild animals or by technology. Additionally, maintaining healthy soil food webs is a basic prerequisite to sustainable food production. Without healthy soil food webs we agriculture simply cannot sustain our needs into the future. In order to provide all agricultural land with grazing, trampling and manure we need large numbers of livestock.

Therefore, for food production to be sustainable, large numbers of livestock are a necessity

*Note: Everything in this article was written with Non-Brittle Environments in mind. Brittle Environments have an even greater need for livestock, for different reasons. Read about why Brittle Environments require livestock here.

Why Properly Managed Livestock Are Necessary In Brittle Environments

A very Brittle location.
A very Brittle location.

 

Terms:

Brittle Environments are simply areas where humidity is distributed unevenly throughout the year. See this InfoGraphic for more information on the “Climate Brittleness Scale”.

Properly managed livestock are simply livestock managed to mimic the natural herds which used to roam the Earth. Managing livestock properly is actually fairly complex, you can read more about properly managing livestock here. 

Different Ecosystems

Ecosystem processes (like the water and nutrient cycles, for example) function very differently in Brittle Environments than in Non-Brittle Environments. In Brittle Environments large grazing animals, bunched together in herds, are actually essential to ecosystem health.

The effect of properly managed livestock on a Brittle Environment in South Africa.
The effect of properly managed livestock on a Brittle Environment in South Africa.

 

Why are herds of herbivores so essential in these environments?

  1. Microbes require moisture to function. Without moisture all natural nutrient cycling stops. Large herbivores are nature’s way of keeping the nutrient cycle going during the long dry periods. Animals essentially carry the humid environment in their guts. The gut of an herbivore is the only place biological decomposition can take place at these times… so animal manure and urine are the only sources of plant nutrients during the dry months.

  1. Brittle Environments tend to develop hard crusts on the soil surface where there is bare soil. This hard “cap” on the soil prevents seeds from germinating and it prevents the little rain that does fall from entering the soil where plant can actually use it. Instead the rain runs over the surface of the soil (which is why flash floods are so common in desert environments). Properly managed livestock will quickly break up this hard crust on the soil surface which will once again allow seeds to germinate and rainfall to infiltrate the soil.

Improperly managed livestock do not break the hard cap on the soil surface.
Livestock which are not exhibiting herd behavior do not effectively break the hard cap on the soil surface in Brittle Environments.
  1. In Brittle Environments plants that die or go dormant do not fall to the ground and decompose like they do in more humid environments. If this standing plant material is not trampled onto the soil surface it will not decompose biologically which means the nutrients it holds will mostly be unavailable for future soil and plant growth. The standing plant material will also shade new growth which is trying to establish. If the standing plant material is trampled into the ground it becomes litter/mulch: preventing evaporation, feeding the soil food web, moderating temperatures, and allowing rainfall to infiltrate the soil where it can be used. This trampling can only be accomplished on the necessary scale with properly managed livestock.

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This plant will not decay biologically unless it is trampled onto the soil surface.
  1. The trampling of livestock also presses seeds into very tight contact with the soil. This close contact allows the seed to draw more moisture from the soil, which often means the difference between the seed growing into a new plant or just remaining dormant.

After properly applying animal impact to this very Brittle environment new seeds can germinate, and it can return to a healthy state.
After properly applying animal impact to this very Brittle environment new seeds can germinate, and it can return to a healthy state.

 

A Brittle Environment in a healthy state.
A Brittle Environment in a healthy state.

 

How Many Livestock Are Needed?

In Brittle Environments all grass must be trampled or grazed every year or the land will start to deteriorate. This means that livestock numbers in Brittle Environments must exactly match the productivity of the grass in those environments. (Note: Stocking rates are typically increased by 50 to 100% the first year that proper management is implemented compared to conventional stocking rates in that area). When properly managed livestock are introduced to Brittle Environments grass productivity starts increasing dramatically, so livestock numbers must also increase dramatically until the ecosystem reaches its peak productivity. This is one very good reason why the system of Planned Grazing is so useful in Brittle Environments: it makes it easy for livestock managers to have the exact right number of livestock for their lands current production.

Why Livestock Must Be The Predominant Land Use 

Crops cannot grow without a functioning water and nutrient cycle. The water and nutrient cycles of Brittle Environments rely on annual application of heavy animal impact in order to function. Therefore crop areas must be rotated with pasture areas to maintain fertility, or animal impact must be regularly applied directly to the cropland. This places a severe limit on the amount of cropland that can be in production compared to the amount of land that must be dedicated to perennial pasture for livestock. Crop production is possible, but, by far, the predominant source of food and income for farmers in Brittle Environments must be livestock.

We Must Mimic Natural Herds

Brittle Environments co-evolved with large herds of animals who played an essential role in the cycling of nutrients and the soil health. In a healthy state they are grasslands. Without herds of herbivores, the land desertifies. (reference) Desertifying land is not a place that you will find much food for human consumption. Desertifying land also represents a loss of biodiversity and a loss of habitat for the once-abundant dry grassland plants and animals which existed in these environments along with the large grazing animals. Desertification is a loss for the environment, a loss of potential happy animal lives, and a loss for humans.

Brittle Environments ringed in red.
Brittle Environments ringed in red.

 

Brittle Environments Are Incredibly Important For The Health Of The Earth

Brittle environments cover more than half of the Earth’s land surface. In other words: more than half of the land on earth requires herds of large animals (in high densities) to produce any significant amounts of food. If your food comes from a Brittle Environment it cannot be produced sustainably unless properly managed livestock are a part of the production.

We Cannot Use Technology To Replace The Role Of Livestock In Brittle Environments

A "Dixon Imprinter" machine. Relatively effective, but impractical compared to livestock.
A “Dixon Imprinter” machine. Relatively effective, but impractical compared to livestock.

 

There are machines which can mimic the hoof action of livestock, breaking up the surface cap on soil, trampling vegetation, and pressing seeds into the ground. There are not yet any machines which can graze, digest, and poop. But they could be invented.

The problem is not a lack of technology, the problem is that technology is not as efficient at performing ecosystem functions as animals are. Animals graze, digest, poop, and trample, but they also produce food, income, habitat for birds and bugs, and food for predators. No machine can do all of that.

But the main reason that machines cannot replace the role of livestock in Brittle Environments is that animal impact (or machine impact, in this case) is require on every single acre of every single Brittle Environment on Earth at least once every year! What a logistical nightmare that would be! Not to mention the gigantic energy needs of these machines and the huge costs of running them. Its just not practical. No way. Livestock are cheap, and they actually generate income over time. They reproduce themselves, for free. They can be easily managed by poor and illiterate people (who often are the occupants of very Brittle Environments). They are available right now in every country on earth.

There is no way that technology can replace the essential role of livestock in Brittle Environments any time in the foreseeable future. 

Further Resources:

Allan Savory’s TED Talk  on reversing desertification

Tony Lovell demonstrating these concepts on a massive scale

Holistic Management: A New Framework For Decision Making 

Allan Savory’s Full Length Talk

The Savory Institute 

Resources from Holistic Management International

Properly managed livestock on the right. Poorly managed livestock on the left. In Australia.
Properly managed livestock on the right. Poorly managed livestock on the left. In Australia.

The Foundation Of Everything: The Soil Food Web

xKUVQTx

In a natural setting plants acquire their nutrients through the following process: (reference)

      1. The plant releases “exudates” ( a mixture of sugars and proteins) into the soil around its roots

      2. These exudates feed a specific type of bacteria or fungi living in the soil.

      3. The bacteria or fungi extract specific nutrients from the inorganic matter (rocks, sand, clay, etc) or from the organic matter (decomposed organisms) in the soil

      4. These nutrients are incorporated into the bodies of the fungi and bacteria as they grow. They are not plant-available

      5. The bacteria and fungi are then eaten by nematodes, and other microscopic organisms, which releases the nutrients in a plant-available form directly at the plant root.

      6. The roots absorb these nutrients, and the process repeats. The plant can acquire any nutrient it needs by simply sending out the correct exudates to feed the specific organism which mines those specific nutrients.

The soil food web is simply the collection of soil organisms which support plant growth. Some of these organisms acquire nutrients for plants (as described above), some of them build a well structured soil so that plant roots can access the oxygen they need, some of them protect plants from disease, etc.

The soil food web determines agricultural productivity, sustainability, human health, water quality, global climate and more. Without a functioning soil food web plants can not grow. Without plants all animals, including ourselves, cannot live. Even our fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals originally came from plants who were also dependent on the soil food web.

Can’t Plants Just Absorb Nutrients Directly Through Their Roots? Why Do They Need Microorganisms?

This is the paradigm of plant growth that has been sold to us by chemical companies. It is a seriously damaging paradigm.

  • Nutrients must be water soluble in order to be directly absorbed by plant roots, water soluble forms of nutrients quickly leach out of the topsoil if they are not immediately absorbed by plant roots.
  • Nature has solved this problem by keeping the vast majority of nutrients in insoluble forms (like rock) the vast majority of the time. These insoluble nutrients stay in the soil indefinitely until they are needed by a plant, and only then are they converted into a soluble form, and only in the amounts required by the plant at that time. No nutrients are lost with this system, that is what makes it sustainable.
  • If we apply soluble fertilizers to the soil directly we severely disrupt the soil food web (either through directly killing microorganisms or by simply depriving them of the exudates they need to survive). When the soil food web is disrupted in this way it can no longer supply all of the nutrients the plants need, so the plants suffer, unless more fertilizer is applied. Thus we begin to believe that plants require fertilizers to grow, not realizing that they would be able to provide for their own needs completely if the soil food web was in a healthy state.
  • Tillage/cultivation is probably even more damaging to the soil food web than fertilizer. So when the “green revolution” (invention of chemical fertilizers) happened the soil food web in most farm soils was already damaged, so plants were not getting the nutrition they needed. Applying fertilizers suddenly gave these plants the nutrients that the soil food web was no longer providing them, so they grew much more vigorously than before. This created the belief that “plants grow better with fertilizers”. In truth plants only grow better with fertilizers when the soil food web has been degraded.

So we have two options to produce plant growth, to sustain life, and human civilization:
Direct Fertilization and The Soil Food Web.

Pasture on the left has had a one-time compost application to restore the soil food web, no fertilizers. Pasture on the left has been grazed several times, pasture on the right has only been grazed once.
Pasture on the left has had a one-time compost application to restore the soil food web, no fertilizers. Pasture on the left has been grazed several times, pasture on the right has only been grazed once.

 

Direct Fertilization:

Usually chemical fertilizers are used, although there are also many organic fertilizers available. Chemical fertilizers (and, to a lesser extent, organic fertilizers as well) kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil, which means that plants become more and more dependent on Direct Fertilization to grow.

Fertilizers are one of the world’s biggest sources of water pollution.

Chemical fertilizers are made from non-renewable fossil fuels.

Organic fertilizers are either mined (non renewable, resource intensive), taken from plants (who grew either via fertilization or the soil food web), taken from sea life (which is closely tied to terrestrial ecosystem health and therefor the soil food web), or taken from animals (who ate plants for their nutrients) (reference).

*Compost and other “bio-fertilizers” do not apply significant amounts of nutrients directly to plants. Therefore they are not fertilizers. They are used to directly boost the health of the soil food web.

So, if you look closely you will realize there are only three sources for plant nutrition: non-renewable mined resources (including fossil fuels), ocean plants/animals (the harvest of which damages ocean ecosystems) or the soil food web.

Clearly any sustainable agriculture must rely on the soil food web. In fact, the soil food web is responsible for all terrestrial life as we know it.

To replace fertilizers we must feed the soil food web.
To replace fertilizers we must feed the soil food web.

Understanding The Soil Food Web

The health of any soil food web is determined by the diversity and size of the beneficial microorganism populations which are a part of it (bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc.). (reference)

The diversity and size of the microorganism populations are determined by these five factors:

      1. The biodiversity of organisms. If a soil is severely disturbed (tilling, heat, chemicals, etc) biodiversity will have to be reintroduced from outside sources. Each plant will support a different set of organisms (although they are not mutually exclusive) so having a diversity of plant species will also increase the diversity of soil organisms.

      2. Beneficial microorganisms require oxygen. Oxygen enters soil when the soil is loose. A healthy soil food web creates soil that is naturally loose (no mechanical tilling required)

      3. Soil organisms also require water. Water is held in soil either by tiny particles of organic matter or by particles of clay. The more organic matter in a soil the more water it can hold (the clay content of a soil cannot be easily changed).

      4. Soil organisms require energy. They get their energy from living plant roots. Plants will put up to 40% of the energy they produce back into the soil as exudates (reference). In the absence of living plant roots some microorganisms can live off of the organic matter in the soil and on the soil surface, but many cannot. Even a short period of time without living plant roots will quickly degenerate the soil food web. This is why perennial plants provide more benefit to the soil than annual plants.

      5. Microorganisms require nutrients. These are provided by bacteria and fungi. The bacteria and fungi get their nutrients either from inorganic rock particles, or from organic matter. It is far easier and faster for them to obtain the nutrients they need from organic matter than from rock particles. Therefore the more organic matter in the soil the less energy plants need to use in order to acquire their nutrients.

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In conclusion; the soil food web becomes healthier:

  • the longer it operates undisturbed (increased aeration and oxygen)
  • the more organic matter there is in the soil (for water and nutrients)
  • the more exudates released by living plant roots (energy)
  • and the more diversity in the plants providing those sugars (biodiversity).

It is by controlling those four factors that a Regenerative Farmer is able to do what they do.

The Importance Of The Soil Food Web:

The soil food web is the foundation of any sustainable civilization. There is no other way for plants to acquire their nutrients in the absence of non-sustainable fertilizers.

If a plant has adequate sunlight and adequate genetics than the soil food web is the primary factor determining the health of that plant.

The soil food web effects:

  • Rate of plant growth (productivity)

  • Soil water-holding capacity (drought resistance)

  • The nutritional content of our food

  • Water infiltration rate into the soil (influencing surface runoff, erosion and floods)

  • Plant resistance to disease and insects

  • The diversity of plants (healthier soil food web supports a greater number of species)

What does this mean for human food production?

  1. It means that the total amount of land needed to produce our food is dependent on the health of the soil food web. A healthy soil food web will produce more productive and vigorous plant growth which equates to higher total food production per acre. Fewer acres are needed to produce the same number of calories with a healthy soil food web. An unhealthy soil food web has the opposite effect.

  2. It means that the total amount of water needed for agriculture is dependent on the health of the soil food web. A healthy soil food web will make even small amounts of rain more effective, dramatically reducing irrigation needs. It does this by increasing the percentage of rain that is actually absorbed into the soil (since a healthy soil is loose and not compacted). A healthy soil food web also means that there is more organic matter in the soil to hold water. And it is almost inconceivable to have a healthy soil food web without a layer of “litter” on the surface of the soil which dramatically reduces the rate of evaporation from the soil. A healthy soil food web almost always includes extensive networks of “myccorhizal fungi” (you can imagine them as cosmetic hair extensions, but for plant roots). These myccorhizal fungi draw water from deep in the soil and from distant areas and give it to the plant in exchange for energy. The less healthy the soil food web the more dependent agriculture will be on unsustainable irrigation practices.

  3. It means that the amount of pesticides applied to crops is dependent on the health of the soil food web. A healthy soil food web directly protects plant roots from harmful organisms. Plant roots are one of the main vectors for plant diseases. The plant is also better able to defend itself with its natural forms of defense because it has all the energy and nutrients it needs to produce protective chemicals and to recover after being attacked. If the soil food web is not healthy than farmers are forced to put pesticides on crops to keep them alive.

  4. It means that the prices of food are heavily dependent on the health of the soil food web. A healthy soil food web increases agricultural productivity while keeping costs low. This increase in the profit margin for farmers means that prices for consumers will go down. The reverse happens with an unhealthy soil food web.

  5. It means that the health of our food (and therefore our health) is dependent on the health of the soil food web. A plant growing with a healthy soil food web will receive all of the nutrients it needs, including micro-nutrients, and incorporate these into its cells. So when we eat a plant grown in a healthy soil food web we are getting the maximum amount of nutrients that that plant can provide us based on its genetics. A plant growing without a healthy soil food web will usually have trouble finding all of the nutrients it needs, especially micro nutrients, so when we eat it we will also not be getting those nutrients.

The total amount of land, water and pesticides needed for agriculture; the price of food; and human health are all dependent on the health of the soil food web. Wow!

Learn More About The Soil Food Web:

Elaine Ingham @ Putting Grasslands To Work conference

Life In The Soil

Soil Food Web Inc.

Properly Managed Livestock Are The Key To Stopping Climate Change

Not all livestock contribute to Climate Change. In fact, it turns out the properly managed livestock are probably our best hope for preventing Climate Change!

*For an overview of what “properly managed livestock* are please read this article. 

**I have included several reference links to support the claims in this article, they are at the bottom.

Before I go into the effects of livestock on Climate Change I would just like to make a little note for people who doubt, or downright deny, Climate Change:

It is okay to question Climate Change, you are free to form your own opinions (saying anything else would be denying the basic freedoms which have allowed humanity to flourish so much since the Enlightenment, we cannot ever forget that). So here are some benefits of properly managed livestock that don’t have anything whatsoever to do with Climate Change…

The non climate-related benefits of PROPERLY MANAGED LIVESTOCK:

    • They are happy animals, living natural lives

    • They reduce soil erosion, silting of waterways, and they reduce floods

      • They do this by covering bare ground which allows rainwater to move into the soil instead of over it

    • They moderate regional temperatures in Brittle Environments (Middle East, Sahara, Sahel, Australia, India, Sonora, etc)

      • They do this because they cover the soil surface which lowers the peak temperatures at the soil surface and also moderates the lowest temperatures at the soil surface

      • The temperatures at the soil surface, when multiplied over hundreds of millions of acres, hugely impact the regional climate (not talking about GHGs or global warming here)

    • They increase biodiversity

    • They improve agricultural productivity, reduce the total land area needed for agriculture, reduce the water needed for agriculture, reduce the pesticides needed for agriculture, lower food prices, and increase nutrition in humans (reference)

    • They can be eaten

    • They are infinitely sustainable and do not consume non renewable resources (they self replicate for free, every year)

    • They are more profitable than poorly managed livestock

The effect of properly managed livestock on a severely degraded savanna in Zimbabwe.
The effect of properly managed livestock on a severely degraded savanna in Zimbabwe.

 

Carbon Dioxide

Alright, with that out of the way, lets look at how the carbon cycle works.

  1. Carbon Dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by plants. They use the carbon in their cells, to build structures and energy, and they release the remaining oxygen back into the atmosphere.

  2. If this plant dies, and is incorporated into the soil, than all of the carbon it removed from the atmosphere stays in the ground where it is called “organic matter”. Carbon in the ground does not cause harm (it is actually a really good thing)

  3. If the surface of the soil is completely covered with litter and living plants than the carbon will stay in the ground indefinitely.

  4. If the surface of the soil is bare, or if the soil is disturbed by tilling/cultivating, then the carbon is “off gassed” back into the atmosphere where it becomes atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Clearly the organic matter content (a.k.a carbon) of the Earth’s soils has a lot to do with climate change. (reference)

But how much does organic matter really affect the global climate?

The soils of the world currently hold over 2,700 Gigatons of carbon. The atmosphere (right now) holds about 780 Gigatons of carbon. All of the biomass on earth (mostly wood) is estimated to hold about 575 Gigatons of carbon. (reference) Clearly the soil is important if we are concerned about carbon!

So, it follows that any mechanism which can increase the baseline level of organic matter in the soils of the world will have a tremendous positive effect on greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Increasing soil organic matter is the same as decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. 

How do we increase organic matter in soil?

  1. By increasing biomass growth per acre per year…

    • We need to increase the productivity of plants

    • The primary drivers of plant productivity are sunlight, nutrient availability, and water

      • Sunlight levels are mostly out of our control

      • Nutrient availability, in the absence of harmful chemical fertilizers, is determined by the health of the soil food web.
        • Livestock are the most effective way to increase the health of the soil food web
      • The only sustainable way to increase water availability on the massive scale required is to increase the soil infiltration rate (how much rainwater actually is absorbed by the soil), increase the soil water holding capacity (primarily determined by organic matter content and the depth of the soil), decrease evaporation from the soil (all soil must be covered with vegetation and/or “litter”

        • properly managed livestock do all of those things more effectively than any other tool on a large scale

  2. By ensuring as much of this growth as possible becomes organic matter in the soil

    • Plants can decay either biologically (via microorganisms) or through oxidation

    • Only biological decay will turn dead plants into soil organic matter

      • oxidation primarily happens in Brittle Environments when dead plant material is not trampled or eaten by livestock

      • fire is just a very rapid form of oxidation, and releases tons of carbon into the atmosphere instead of storing it in the soil

    • Plants which are trampled directly onto the surface of the soil will decompose faster than if they remain standing. This increases the rate of carbon sequestration in soil

      • Properly managed livestock are the only viable mechanism for trampling vegetation over the vast rural lands of the world

    • The health of the soil food web also determines the rate of biological decay (which cannot take place without microorganisms)

      • Properly managed livestock are the most practical and powerful tool for increasing the health of the soil food web (although a one-time application of thermal compost to heavily degraded soils can sometimes have a greater effect than livestock, although adding livestock will still improve the soil even further)

  3. By ensuring that organic matter does not leave the soil via “off gassing”

    • Bare soil is constantly “off gassing” carbon, soil must be covered at all times

      • The deeper, and more tightly packed, the litter layer on the soil surface the less “off gassing” happens (to the point where there is far more carbon coming in to the soil than going out)

      • The best way to achieve a thick and tightly packed litter layer on top of the soil over the vast landscapes of the earth is with Properly Managed Livestock

    • Cultivation/tillage is the fastest known way to put soil organic matter back into the atmosphere, the opposite of what we want

      • Growing food without tilling requires an extremely healthy soil food web, to maintain this high level of soil health while growing crops the benefits of livestock need to be applied to the land at least once every year. Therefore to reduce tillage we need more livestock on the land.

The enemies of soil carbon storage are tillage, bare soil, and fire.

The trampling action of properly managed livestock: all of that trampled vegetation is carbon sequestration in action!
The trampling action of properly managed livestock: all of that trampled vegetation is carbon sequestration in action!

 

Therefore to dramatically increase the carbon stored in our soils (which will reduce the carbon in the atmosphere by an equal amount) we must dramatically increase the number of properly managed livestock.

Not only do all current livestock need to become properly managed, but the actual numbers of livestock will need to be increased as well, especially in Brittle Environments.

Haven’t Scientists Proven That Livestock Cause Global Warming?

There are many statistics and studies claiming that livestock have a negative effect on climate change. Unfortunately none of these studies say anything about the effect of properly managed livestock on global climate! Most of them are discussing the effects of animals when either in a factory farm system or in conventional, destructive grazing management. These systems are fundamentally different than Regenerative Agriculture systems in the way they effect global climate. Factory farms do not sequester carbon in the soil, nor do poorly managed pastures.

References And Further Reading

Properly Managed Livestock sequester Methane in soil. 

Improved Grazing Reducing GHG Levels

Well Managed Livestock Rapidly Sequestering Carbon

Methane And Properly Managed Livestock

The Fight Against Global Warming: A Failure And A Fix

Pasture Raised Beef Is Methane-Neutral