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PERMACULTURE [permanent agriculture] Mollison [1988].

Permaculture is fundamentally a holistic system and is considered as part of the alternative school of thought. The classification of Permaculture as an agricultural production system is open to debate, because its design has such wide implications. This author believes that it can be considered due to it being an alternative agricultural system [UNE, 1993] and that the design is part of every production system even if it is not openly recognised, for even a bare paddock is encompassed by a fence and the pasture or crop is invariably there because of human intervention and management.

Permaculture is the youngest alternative system of the five identified systems and was conceived and developed in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. It has gained wide public support since the launch of their original book, 'Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlement' in 1978 and now the concept of Permaculture has spread worldwide. The word 'Permaculture' was coined to express an integrated and evolving system of perennial or self- perpetuating plants and animal species that are useful to man [Mollison et al. 1987]. In essence, the design and maintenance of an agriculturally productive ecosystem [Mollison, 1988].

The philosophy of Permaculture is unique in that it takes up the theme of ecosystems and human settlements. Permaculture concepts can be applied to a pot of soil growing an edible plant on a suburban high rise balcony, or the pollution of irrigation water in a regional catchment area. Permaculture encourages the multi-use of all resources. Like the organic movement, Permaculture has also taken a different direction from its original philosophy. Originally an emphasis was placed for instance on perennial or self-perpetuating plants and the system to be a net energy exporter. Now, however, Permaculture has expanded its conceptual framework and fully integrated the works and philosophies of many individuals, notably the influence of fellow Australian, P.A. Yeomans with his 'Keyline' concept and Japan's Masamobu Fukuoka, author of the classic book "One straw revolution" [Fukuoka, 1978], with his "do nothing" natural gardening and farming which is based on: no cultivation, no weeding, no pesticides and no fertilisers. The integration of Fukuoka's work has also brought with it the acceptance of the use of grains and a move away from the focus on tree forage.

Permaculture has maintained a philosophy that aims to be a net supply of energy and not an energy sink. The use of high energy consumption non-sustainable chemical fertilisers is considered unsuitable and a waste of fossil fuels, particularly on cash crops. It has a broader view of sustainability and is concerned about the surrounding bioregion and global considerations, such as world plant rights. Permaculture principles are sustainable in the approach to non-renewable energy usage and are also ecologically applicable to an individual property, a bioregion and globally.

Specific management practices

To give a pragmatic view showing the practical application of Permaculture a number of unique characteristic management decisions and practices given below

  • Sector Planning
  • Zoning design
  • Maximum biodiversity
  • The 'edge' effect and plant succession
  • Keyline and swales
In summary, it would appear that Permaculture has had problems in gaining recognition as a legitimate philosophy as it started from a small nucleus of supporters. However, as the Permaculture concept reaches its twentieth anniversary it is rapidly becoming a legitimate force which is being practiced in more than eighty countries and has wide media attention. The underlying design principles of Permaculture are its foundation, the Permaculture movements new challenge is to take Permaculture ideas into mainstream agriculture and to encourage the principles of earth care. This increasing emphasis on global thought reflects Mollisons' personal philosophies, which are out working in the Permaculture movement for as it has matured there has also evolved a co-operative.global movement that is involved in teaching and practising the design of self reliant economics and caring for the earth [Permaculture International Journal, May, 1996, pp.8-9].

The information contained in this publication has been formulated in good faith, the contents do not take into account all the factors which need to be considered before putting that information into practice. Accordingly, no person should rely on anything contained herein as a substitute for specific professional advice.
S.O.S. Rev 9.2 All rights reserved. Contact: www.healthyag.com © Gwyn Jones 2001

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