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The Integration of Recycled Waste in an Integrated farm/ranch environment

Updated on March 24, 2015

I practice these techniques. Home & Aquarium. They work!

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Practice What You Preach

First allow me to comment that this images are of my yard, and I recycle as much as I can into the yard to get these results. I feed my food wastes to earthworms and the compost pile, teaming with life. So, yes, I practice what I preach and it works well.

Integrated Developments

Developments can be created wherein implementation of various strategies to recycle the waste generated by those developments is implemented, significantly decreasing or eliminating waste to landfills.

For instance, one strategy is to put all waste (except metals and glass) back into the soils. Trash is incinerated producing high concentrations of potassium, calcium and other minerals. This alkali substance is blended with organic wastes which acidify the soils, and so neutralize these alkali elements and make them useful to the soil organisms, capturing the carbon left in them to the benefit of the organisms and plants.

Fruit and or nut trees are planted which need these nutrients uptaking them into their structures and production of fruits and nuts.

This recycling includes waste water liquids and solids then augmented by cattle and sheep which, raised, fed and watered on the site are eventually used as food themselves. Their waste is, of course, itself a fertilizer used by soil organisms and recycled, along with those organisms into the soils creating a highly fertile and lively system.

The orchards should be mixed to prevent one insect type from attacking the entire orchard. Mono-cropping creates its own issues often deadly to the trees or crops.

Learning a lesson from nature, be it the Great Plains or the Serengeti, high densities of ruminant animals passing through an area denude it of ground covers, but then their waste stimulates the growth of the same plants (or the next generation of those same plants) creating incredible fertility, however, they are not continually present. Just as with crop rotation of annual crops, animal rotation is a primary key to this system.

Animal Cycle

After several years of growth and with trunk protections in place, cattle and sheep can be introduced to the orchards. They of course will eat local vegetation in addition to fodder supplied to them to increase the density of the animals in the plot. The animals will drop their own wastes on the soils and walk stepping on the same driving it into the loose top soils. This constant dunging of the soils over a month long period and the hoof driven compression of this into the soils builds soil organisms, increasing the soil health and fertility, improves organic matter, and organisms, controls weed growth, and heavily fertilizes the trees.

When animals exit, the topsoil is tilled by machine, trenched between rows and a foot or more of waste solids are buried, and a mixed cover crop is planted. These cover crops will be grown for several months while the land rests and the soils degrade the wastes.

Immediately before animals are returned, threes are trimmed of any foliage, which is simply dropped onto the ground or directly fed to the animals in their current locations. The animal type is rotated between cattle and sheep.

Mixed Cover Crops

Mixed cover crops have beneficial effects on the soils surface because of the mix of nutrients, and bug life they attract as well as the different root depths, which roots eventually die and leave both organisms and carbon compounds in the soils. Cattle bite off the cover crops leaving the roots, but sheep pull out the roots, effectively aerating and loosening the soils to the depth of their lager roots.

Legume (bean family) crops fix nitrogen, which benefits the soil fertility as well as the animals that eat them. Cover crops improve soil health and yield potential over time. They improve weed control and earthworm populations, improve soil microbiology and build soil organic matter. They both produce and scavenge nutrients, and improve the capacity for manure management in the soil increasing grazing opportunities for the cattle and sheep.

By cycling these, adding nutrient and organisms, this system will significantly increase the soils organic matter composition, fineness and depth, increase soil porosity and aeration, permeability and nutrient cycles of plants and organisms.

Organism in soils are plentiful and diverse and include those that are transient in the soils during some phase of life as well as those who never leave the soils throughout their life, and those that periodically surface and descent into the soil.

They range in size from microscopic single or multiple celled organisms that digest decaying organic material to very small bugs and small mammals that live primarily on other soil organisms, and all play important roles in maintaining soils structure, fertility, and aeration of soil.

These organisms break down plant and animal tissues, releasing nutrients and altering many of them into either more complex or less complex forms useful directly to the plants or to other organisms.

While some organisms are considered pests, maintaining a broad spectrum of organisms but adequately feeding the soils maintains a balance between them which in itself is beneficial.

Pests in the soil include nematodes, slugs and snails, symphylids, beetle larvae (grubs), fly larvae, caterpillars, and root aphids. Some soil organisms such as bacteria and fungi cause rots, some release substances that inhibit plant growth, others eat roots, and others serve as hosts for organisms that cause animal diseases.

Five Categories of Soil Organisms

Maintaining a balanced organism base is crucial to long term soils and therefore plant health because most of the functions of soil organisms are beneficial, soil with large numbers of organisms tends to be soil that is fertile. It is estimated that one square yard of rich soil can house as many as 1,000,000,000 organisms.

There are generally considered to be five grouping sizes of soil organisms, the smallest of which are the protists, mostly single celled eukaryotes, bacteria, actinomycetes, and algae. Following in the size projection are the microfauna, which are smaller than 100 microns and usually feed upon other microorganisms and include in their ranks single-celled protozoans, smaller flatworms, nematodes, rotifers, and tardigrades (eight-legged invertebrates).

The mesofauna are the next group and range in size from 0.1mm to 4mm, are a very heterogeneous group (mixed, diverse), including those that feed on microorganisms, decaying matter, and living plants. These include nematodes, mites, springtails, the insect like proturans (very small cone headed animals which feed on fungi, and this prevents the fungi from dominating the soils and locking up all nutrients), and the pauropods (several hundred different small centipede like anthropoids).

The next largest group are larger again, and so called macrofauna. Also a very diverse group, and much easier to see the most common macrofauna is the pot worm, a small white, segmented worm that feeds on fungi, bacteria, some mesofauna species, and also decaying plant material. The group also includes slugs, snails, and millipedes, which feed on plants, and centipedes, beetles and their larvae, and the larvae of flies, which feed on other organisms or on decaying matter, and so we see more heterogeneity of food sources, and control of smaller organisms as the divers groups become larger and food sources broader.

Large organisms are classified as megafauna which constitute the largest soil organisms and include the large earthworms. Large worms of the class Oligochaeta consume and pass both soil and organic matter through their guts, aerating the soil, breaking down the litter of organic material such as leaves on its surface, and moving that material, organic or not, vertically from the surface to the subsoil. The importance of this to soil health is hard to understate, but, as above, based very much on the organisms above which are smaller and do much of the bulk preliminary work, which is only now becoming understood. The importance to soil fertility is enormous. The worms develop much of the structure of the soil, alter its chemistry and process both organic and inorganic materials.

Large worms are not alone in the megafauna grouping since this group included many larger animals such as all of the rodents, herps (Herpetology, reptiles) and predators such as badgers and ground owls.

All of these are helpful or necessary for good soil ecology worldwide, though you do not need all of them in your soils, in particular rodents and badgers.

Note that most of these live and then die in the soil and return to the soils to feed those other organisms in the cycle of life. All of the nutrients in animals and plants, and there are tens of thousands of them, come from the soils, its flora and fauna, and all are interdependent. All are involved in the nutrient cycles of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, potassium, iron, calcium, and so on.

This is the cycle we can heavily influence by adding animals, feed, and water which will very quickly stimulate the growth of more organisms to take advantage of the new food supplies.

Sustainable Ecotechnological Innovation

Innovations will be implemented which reduce the demand for water and reduce chemical inputs as they reduce strain on the global water supply and reduce the impact on surrounding ecosystems.

What must be understood is that this is simply integrating systems disintegrated in the past. Putting nature back together as a unified whole to balance out the organic systems. To recreate the cycles already present in nature which in turn not only recycles water used to feed animals, but also helps the soils absorb and hold more water.

This is now critical in California, Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Texas and New Mexico not to mention all of northern Mexico.

Ecotechnological Innovations which enhance the health and yield of crops and herds by integrating their lifecycles are included as these reduce waste from the industry and alleviate pressure to convert native land into agricultural fields. We argue that more crops can be grown in a smaller area, albeit with increased labor.

Innovations which help keep carbon and nitrogen (the two main metrics of fertility), but also all other nutrients are found here, and so this is a collective of innovative improvements to agriculture which includes land, water, resources, plant and animal management to create a sustainable production which had not been seen in the U.S. since the Great Planes were cultivated.

Here we need to implicate organic farming practices for some of their practices also. They did not take their concepts far enough. They understood recycling organics, but did not understand the integration of farm and ranch nor the reuse of ash from waste.

How about you?

Do you recycle nutrient into your yard?

See results

Integration of Animals

In crop farming why not integrate the animals back into the crop areas to increase the fertility of the fields?

The common answer is crop damage, especially true with swine, and this is so, however, leaving this animal, cattle and sheep can be integrated with simple changes needed to protect the trees from damage, or, with ground crops, on a rotational basis, and sustainability in crop farming results in increased yields as well as improving resilience and persistence of crops. Greater yields are, and will continue to be, needed in order to feed the growing population with existing agricultural lands. Crop resilience describes the capacity of the plant to buffer shocks and stresses, which helps ensure food security in the face of climactic stresses. Persistence describes the ability of arable land to sustain a crop rotation indefinitely without diminishing yields. Sustainability describes s system that can continue and do so without damage to the land or crops over a long term.

Unsustainability can be seen first in the practices of a century ago which resulted in the dust bowl, but also in today's disintegrated thinking about nature where either, say, in a feed lot, eutrophication combines with veterinary chemicals to enhance eutrophic conditions, or, in crops where the land is continually depleted until crop failure results.

We are currently entering a time where we understand certain damages and can produce isolated nutrients or plant growth factors, synthesize them, apply them and see positive results, however, when one considers that they have yet to identify, isolate, or synthesize tens of thousands of other soil and plant components found in healthy soils and made naturally by more than 2,000,000 different species of organisms in the soil (this includes the crop plants), one is reduced to asking how to produce them all, or, at least, produce sufficient numbers to satisfy the needs of our crops.

The answer is simple: Feed the soils instead of the plants.

As animal farming and ranching become an increasingly important agricultural segments to our expanding population, the needs to process animal waste and cycle their nutrients increases. Feedlots continue to grow and so do toxic plumes of excessive nutrients which themselves actually harm the soils because of the veterinary medications required to keep animals in such confined spaces.

Those same nutrients, without the antibiotics and other medications are highly beneficial in a living field where they feed the local soil biology and subsequently the plants. An additional absurdity is the patenting of systems which treat and recycles animal waste which nature has always recycled Such systems do have their applications in dairy and a few other situations, however, in simple beef finishing, this is not necessary.

This concept is to simply recreate a state that more closely represents nature by simply replacing one specie with a different one that has characteristics we need. Replace the forest trees with fruits and nut trees once themselves occupants of forests. Replace deer or elk with cattle. Replace the flora of the forests with grass or other crops we can use for food, again, plants that originated in nature, and once lived in natural states.

It is a fully managed forest where we intelligently manage every aspect which is of concern.. Yes, the species have been hybridized, but they still have the same growth requirements and their waste is still useful in the same manners as they were when they grew in the forests.

© 2015 Ronald A Newcomb

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