Could Perennial Fodder Crops Mean More Sustainable Livestock?

Image credit: Permaculture Research Institute

TreeHugger has featured an awesome tour of a permaculture allotment, permaculture-inspired disaster relief in Haiti, and even greening the desert in Jordan. Yet while permaculture—which very simply put is the art of designing gardens and farms that mimic natural ecosystems—may get us hippies excited, it would be fair to say that it has not made a major impression on mainstream agriculture. However, the Permaculture Research Institute brings news that livestock farmers in Australia are now exploring some ideas that permaculturists have been going on about for decades. But they warn us not to tell anyone that the hippies got there first.Paul Douglas brings news that farmers are exploring perennial fodder crops called tagasaste and Old Man Saltbush to protect soils, prevent erosion, and avoid the energy, time and monetary costs of planting annuals for fodder. As a bonus, he says, the farmers are also finding that the more rugged perennial diet reduces parasites and decreases methane emissions too.

Douglas is quick to claim credit for the permaculture movement, though he warns that we might not want to let the mainstream know:

"Whilst the Permaculture movement probably influenced the experimental use of crops, either directly or indirectly, I believe it's important that the farmers and scientists maintain ownership of these ideas, lest they be forced to admit that a bunch of hippies are in some way responsible for them being financially and environmentally sustainable. They know they are applying scientific principles to their lands and so long as we don't tell them that the scientist probably had dreadlocks, a tie dyed shirt and a PDC [Permaculture Design Certificate], then everything will be just fine."

Whatever the truth of the matter is, it's great to see livestock farmers exploring alternative feeds. Common sense dictates that all else being equal, perennial crops have the potential to decrease both labor and fuel costs, not to mention the need to till the soil. Who cares who got to the idea first? What matters is that people are busy putting it into action.

More on Permaculture
From Arid, Salty Desert to Permaculture Garden: Greening of the Desert Revisited (Video)
Permaculture - Permanent Agriculture (and a Mini-Movie)
Awesome Tour of a Permaculture Allotment (Video)
An Interview with David Holmgren: Co-creator of Permaculture

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