[permaculture] Svar: autumn Seedballs?

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 20 12:29:00 EDT 2009

I live in a hot and very dry climate.  The difficulty I have experienced is that seeds germinate easier without seedballs then with seedballs.  In other words, seeds inside seedballs need more rain than the naked seeds.  And sufficient rain is exactly what we don’t have in this region.
You may have sufficient humidity but may experience different problems that you will only find out about after conducting tests for a number of years.  One problem I can see with autumn sowing of annual crops (if that is what you intend to do) is that some seeds, instead of germinating in spring, may germinate on a warm autumn day and than die during the winter, which will result in the loss of your seeds.  In other words, you need to check minimum germination temperatures for all your seeds and compare these with your expected autumn temperatures.  But with uncertain climatic conditions, this will still not safeguard completely against some seeds germinating prematurely.
I have practiced Natural Farming for nearly 10 years and also followed closely Natural Farming in Japan and elsewhere. Fukuoka has done a great job of demonstrating his method and making it known through his writing. Unfortunately, his methods are not being used in farming, not even on his own farm or in parts of Japan where growing conditions are most advantageous.  Among the few thousand farmers actually practicing Natural Farming in Japan, most follow Kawaguchi’s methods, some Okada’s (the founder of Natural Farming), others again belong to Shumei, which is a somewhat spiritually oriented split-away group from the Okada school.  There are also different schools of Natural Farming in Korea, the Philippines and other parts.
The problem with Fukuoka has been all along that his philosophical leaning doesn’t address the practical problems farmers have to face.  Most who are impressed by Fukuoka are non-farmers who take an idealistic approach to farming, and who will all too often insist on a dogmatic interpretation of his writing.  The few who actually try his methods usually give up after a season or two.  I have seen this again and again over the years, and not just in the West but even in Japan.
For Natural Farming to be successful we need to find a practical approach that takes into consideration local growing conditions even if the method chosen are very different from those used by Fukuoka.
Now I have a question for you relating to your field of study.  I have for a number of years been interested in plant nutrition.  I.e, the question of whether plants live on chemical substances absorbed via ion exchange (is that the correct expression?) or whether they take up entire molecules that pass through the cell membrane (endocytosis).  In other words, do they do the one or the other? Or do they do both? Or do they do the one in preference over the other?  Or do my questions not make any sense?
I have ploughed through a lot of scientific gibberish over the years, but not being a trained biologist I can’t make out to what conclusion scientists have come, or if science, today, even has any definite idea about plant nutrition. I would be grateful if you could give us your view in terms that can be understood by the layman.
I thing the answer is not trivial, because our way of growing food will ultimately depend on our concept of the way in which plants take up nutrients.  If they live on dead chemical substances there is no need to go to the trouble of organic or natural farming.  If, on the other hand, plants take up whole molecules which are the products of decaying microorganisms, chemicals-based farming with all its toxic substances seems like a very high-risk undertaking.
PS:  Did you read H.P. Rusch on Soil Fertility (Bodenfruchtbarkeit).  One of his central ideas is the “cycle of living substances” between soil, plants and humans.  Incidentally, he came to the same conclusion as Fukuoka that soil must not be turned up-side down by ploughing.
Dieter Brand


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