Soil characteristics, the benefits of permaculture on soil

Increasing awareness about the environmental limits of modern agriculture has led to the need for a transition toward a more resilient and biodiverse agriculture model. In this regard, micro- or mini-farms, inspired by the permaculture model and biointensive micro-gardening, could potentially play a key role in this transition.

Permaculture offers positive solutions to properly manage the biogeochemical cycles, eliminate toxic chemicals, and create an abundance of food while regenerating land. Application of artificial fertilizer and high nitrogen manures can create nitrous oxide
and carbon dioxide. Permaculture has a variety of approaches to mediate, resolve, or avoid these unsustainable practices. Specifically, permaculture advocates for completely organic agriculture which avoids artificial fertilizers. When you farm
organically, you don’t feed the plants, you feed the soil. Permaculture methods like composting, ‘chop and drop,’ no-till farming, and more efficient fertilizer application, like foliar sprays, increase beneficial soil organisms. These methods reduce or eliminate
nitrogen or carbon escaping from soils

Regarding soil management, permaculture designs seek to ‘slow, spread, and sink’ water. This reduces stormwater runoff, recharges the aquifer, and seeks to eliminate soil erosion, thereby reducing the amount of carbon and nitrogen which leave the soil. Furthermore, soil organic matter plays a fundamental role in soil, functioning by maintaining fertility through nutrient recycling, as well as increasing nutrient retention.

Some of the useful permaculture techniques and their benefits on soil are:

  • Greywater – it may look “dirty”, but it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard. If greywater is released into rivers, lakes, or estuaries, its nutrients become pollutants, but to plants, they are valuable fertilizer
  • Hügelkultur – a practice of burying wood to increase soil water retention due to the porous structure of wood acting as a sponge when decomposing underground. During the rainy season, sufficient buried wood can absorb enough water to sustain crops through the dry season.
  • Composting – an organic fertiliser produced from plant and animal waste by partial aerobic decomposition by microorganisms through the composting process. Compost can be added to soil to help plants grow. Compost enriches the soil with humus, increases soil fertility, and increases its water and air capacity. It makes the soil airy and plump and improves plant growth and development.
  • Agroforestry – a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. This intentional combination of agriculture and forestry has multiple benefits, such as greatly enhanced yields from staple food crops, enhanced farmer livelihoods from income generation, increased biodiversity, improved soil structure and health, reduced erosion, and carbon sequestration.