[permaculture] coppice and food crops
steveread at free.fr
Mon Apr 7 03:18:46 EDT 2008
When one sees techniques that have been around for centuries, such as pollarding and coppicing, trying to discover the original strategy is always fun. Pollarding, originally and in many places in Europe, is cutting useful firewood at a height where the young regrowth is above browsing height. So we tend to see, as in Normandy (Northmen) these trees planted as field dividers at ground level. Here in neighbouring Brittany (Celtic) pollarding is not the practice and trees are coppiced, these trees are on berms at about 1,5 m high so once again most of the bushy regrowth is protected. These trees are interplanted with gorse (Ulex) which was chipped as feed for horses. The wind protection afforded by both systems acting to raise yields.
Pollarding is also doen a lot around roads, especially in the south of France and in cities. This gives more light and reduces problems of snow laden limb breakage and lots of shade in the summer, which is much appreciated. Pooran Desai, founder of the London based Bioregional group used the 'problem' of woody waste in urban areas to launch his charcoal production initiative which has helped reduce imports of bbq charcoal from the Phillipines into the UK.
This is Phil Corbett presenting his coppice orchard system of food production which involves the coppicing of own root fruit trees. http://steveread.free.fr/webzine.htm scroll down and there are 3 articles by Phil, same subject.
Coppicing acts to rejuvenate the tree, so we have no real idea how long the productive life of the apples here will be, probably/hopefully centuries.
With regard to post coppicing yield there are several variables and one invariable, this latter being, as Robyn points out that fruit will form on branches after the 3 year. The variables are the age of the coppice stool, old coppice stools have a massive root system which gives enormous bush like regrowth, with the coppice orchard system we cut to leave the strongest on the apples, hazels we simply control the size of the bush. Then there is the light factor, if some trees go uncut and get more light chances are they will produce more fruit buds, thus compensating, again a strtegy with the copp-orch. Then there is the training of the new growth/planting density, if close planted then most regrowth will go straight up, this tends to delay fruit production, if widely spaced the outers will tend to curve down, encouraging fruit, you can do this by training.
In terms of perennial/annual food production systems well managed coppicing definately IMO has its place, for the cool-temperate climate here I've yet to see better thought out multi-functional, soil producing, sustainable etc etc systems than Phil Corbetts coppice orchard(which is ideally suited to bigger scale/commercial growing) and Robert Harts forest garden (which is for reafforestation low maintenace backyard production.) I find it amazing that Phils work is so under-exposed in British Permaculture, He recently taught with Bryn Thomas in Brighton but frankly the Brits should be cheering him on.
Directeur de l 'Université Populaire de Permaculture
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