If you find
Nature fills any vacuum, for example weeds establish on bare ground
Too much time, effort, money and energy goes into trying to control weeds and other pests
A big part of the farm income is spent on pest and weed control
Tackling weeds and other pests with chemicals just leads to worse problems
One way to pull all of that together into a self-managing system and reduce your workload is to shift your management so Nature does the work.
At first glance you might think Nature does the work means you try to enslave nature. However, you will find that it takes a high level of understanding to harness nature’s power.
Nature can be a confusing old draught horse when you first come to manage it. But once you get the hang of it you will better understand why Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed — as Francis Bacon put it so beautifully so many years ago.
Farming is an intervention in nature, it is not natural and so cannot continue unless it is supported by good management or high inputs of time, effort, chemicals and money.
There are natural forces at work such as:
- Pioneering: This is where organisms such as weeds emerge to colonize bare areas or any areas occupied by species that are not highly competitive. Many of our desired species have been bred for production, not competition;
- Succession: This allows our crop and pasture plants to be replaced by others that are more adapted or more competitive;
- Parasitism: This is where one species attacks another, such as internal parasites (barbers pole worms, liver flukes etc) literally eat our profits. These organisms can survive if we allow them to. They can be beaten with fencing, rotational grazing, selection of resistant breeders and isolation. Each of these methods depends on an understanding that re-aligns the farm so Nature does the work.
Realistically we can only hold nature at bay or keep it under control for a short time and at a high cost. Longer term, we can’t control nature and it makes sense to work with rather than against it. This turns nature into a great ally rather than a formidable enemy.
Fighting nature takes time, effort, chemicals and money. And nature has the last say — no matter what we humans do in a doomed attempt to fight nature, control nature or tame nature. This is because nature always bats last.
So, to ensure Nature does the work, you can get it to earn its keep by giving it the job of sharefarming through:
- managing succession in the field
- doing what is delegated to it
- Being a source of information — mainly through observing what happens in nature when we intervene with our farming methods and also what happens when we stop intervening
- Being a source of inspiration — for example, using a natural succession pattern to model your own succession pattern. In some countries a naturally-occurring legume tree succession pattern can be copied but with preferred species substituted to provide better fodder etc. For example, tagasaste Chamaecytisus species can replace wattles Acacia species in some areas of southern Australia to form a Living haystack that can be harvested for animals or they can harvest for themselves. As a result, tagasaste can save a lot of time, effort and money.
- Healing wounded areas; for example an eroded creekbank that has been fenced off to keep stock out and has then been left alone will usually revegetate and move from active erosion to a stable and rounded shape that is less prone to erode
- Providing useful native pasture and perhaps crop species that you can incorporate into your rotation or that you can blend your desired species into as part of an effective and self-sustaining rotation.
Having a partnership with nature means the Farm works for farmer rather than the other way around. On a well-run farm, the farm system works so effectively that the farmer’s workload is significantly reduced, allowing the farmer to focus on understanding and managing rather than on doing the physical work.