How to farm in a way that maintains the soil and produces a profitable crop is the ever constant question for farmers.
Syntropic farming was developed in Brazil by Swiss farmer Ernst Gotsch who moved there in 1984 and turned 480 hectares of degraded farmland into a productive farm.
By looking at the local forest systems Gotsch mimicked what he saw in natural clearing events in the forest and developed a system of farming that grows a variety of products at the same time in the same area. Using intensive pruning techniques and planting sequences the system aims to promote a rapid recovery of degraded soils culminating in an agroforest needing significantly less inputs than traditional farming.
‘The input reduction is enormous. It might be higher initially in terms of labour and nutrients, but it goes down afterwards, and continues to decrease overtime,’ said Scott Hall, a fourth-generation farmer using syntropic farming techniques in Australia.
‘Even if you are producing certified organic food, the traditional farming methods work with the mindset of inputs versus outputs under three basic points: bare soil, ploughing and monoculture.
‘The problem is that over time, to sustain that same quantity of output, you need to increase input, due to soil degradation. It’s not a sustainable practice from either an environmental or economical point of view’
Thaigo Barbosa has been working locally at helping farmers develop syntropic farming techniques at St Helena, Byron Bay and Chillingham.
‘I’ve been to Brazil and seen farms that are 500 hectares and have been running for 40 years,’ said Barbosa.
The experience has inspired him to bring members of the Agenda Gostch group to Australia to give courses in syntropic farming. There will be both introductory and advanced courses running between 7 and 30 April.
‘We have people who are experienced farmers including members of the seed savers in far North Queensland and regenerative agriculture on the Sunshine Coast to do the course.’
Click here for more information on the technique and the courses.