Permaculture

Resilience vs. Efficiency?

In some talks by Bernard Lietaer (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4ThwS1Xln0) I came across the concept, that resilience and efficiency are two opposing variables in natural systems.

That would probably mean, in permaculture and organic agriculture with increased diversity, there is a gain in resilience, but a loss in efficiency.

But efficiency in what? Overall amount of produced food? Harvesting?

It was a founding fact for permaculture, when Bill Mollison discovered, that in a natural forest the production of certain materials is much higher than on a monoculture field, even with the best treatment. Since then it has been shown, that in a carefully planned food forest system, food production in the same area can be many times higher than on a usual monoculture field (e.g. for sugar palms instead of sugar cane as mentioned in this interview by Willie Smits). But how can efficient harvesting look like in such a system? Willie Smits says it in the video: As an art of cooperation with the plant, increasing with experience. That is the traditional way. Many people use permaculture in backyard garden systems accordingly. But not many talk about harvesting, also Joel Salatin and Sepp Holzer, who run larger farms.
I guess, partially that’s because the current machines are too crude to interact with a biological system without harming it. Maybe robots like this beautiful air manta could be a solution? I can imagine it picking fruit from large trees with very low effort…

Currently, the plants have to be fitted to the machines, which works to a certain extent. But usually, trees and shrubs can’t grow into their natural form, need to be smaller and in monoculture plantations. Mark Shepard has pointed out already existing systems, where perennial foods are harvested using machines, e.g. sweet chestnut and hazelnut in France as mentioned in this talk.

Some amazing discoveries in organic agriculture made Gabe Brown (here a short interview and a talk about soil building), who developed his large scale property from classical monoculture to no-till agriculture with plant diversity of about 70 different species on one field. This mixture is sown and harvested by machines, but crop yields grow from year to year because of development of new soil beneath the plants.