3 constraints of permaculture for avocado and grape production and ways to increase profitability
Permaculture refers to the framework creating sustainable methods of living. Through the procedures of ecologically efficient production system, anyone can start and practice permaculture to implement self-reliant and resourceful production process (Rhodes, 2012). The farm in the research project uses its land for producing avocado and grapes as its main crops. During the permaculture process, it has faced challenges from the following factors.
3 major and most common constraints for permaculture of avocado and grape are water logging, pests and diseases. Both of these fruits are hard to grow. They both require well drained soil. Water logging creates a problem in the growth of the fruits. An ideal condition for avocado and grape production require proper irrigation system, well drained soil, minimized erosion of soil, pruning, weeding, and pest free environment (Malhotra, 2017). In the permaculture of avocado and grapes, the farm faces the issues of water logging. As the land has no slope, and also the soil is prone to water logging, the plants face issues in rotting of roots due to less oxygen and too much of water. Pests are another problem for the crops. Both avocado and grape are sensitive to pests and diseases. The Fruit-Spotting Bug, Helopeltis, Swarming Leaf Beetles, and Red-banded Thrips are the most common pests that have been infecting the avocado trees in the farm (Schaffer, Wolstenholme & Whiley, 2013), and the grapevines face challenges from Grape Berry Moth, Grape Phylloxera, Grape Rootworm and Grape Flea Beetle (Reineke & Thiéry, 2016). The farm also faces hard challenge from the diseases. The avocado root rot disease is a curse in the whole avocado production industry. Along with that, there are also Pepper-spot, Stem end rot and Bacterial soft rot that cause a lot of damage for the avocado plants (Mavuso & Van Niekerk, 2013). On the other hand, the grapevines are prone to fungus, such as, Downy Mildew, Grey Mold, Black Rot and Crown Gall bacteria (Sannakki et al., 2013). These issues have been affecting the production of avocado and grapes in the farm and decreasing the profitability.
To increase the profitability of the farm, the above constraints should be mitigated and production should be increased. Controlled irrigation and drainage system should be implemented to prevent water logging. Weeding system should also be more regulated and used frequently to reduce the root rot. Harvesting lands for both the crops should be examined to determine the appropriate amount of drainage required. Artificial slope can be created to establish a natural drainage, which will save the cost of implementing advanced drainage system (Ferguson & Lovell, 2014). To mitigate the pests, teaming up with animals can be done. Chickens and other cattle can be raised along with the crops, which will eat away the pests and fertilize the land with their dung. The cattle can help in adding more natural fertilizers on the soil, which helps in more yields. At the same time, the crop wastes can be used for feeding them, which saves much cost of the cattle food. Moreover, herbivorous cattle, such as, cows, and goats feed on the bushes and weeds, that saves money for weeding. This way they can contribute in the profitability of the permaculture. To reduce the diseases, continuous inspection should be done and genetically modified seeds can be used, which prevent the diseases. Increasing the fertilizers, burning the crop residue and regular removal of diseased plants would help in saving the lot and increase profitability.
Priority future projects to improve productivity of permaculture system
To improve productivity of permaculture system, the farm should first adopt a research process to find out the particular areas where improvement is required. In depth study should be undertaken to identify the problem areas and find out ways to improve those. However, there are some issues with this approach, as a thorough research is time consuming and require high budget. The potential outcomes might not be cost effective also.
The other future projects may include integration of the cattle farms with crop production and using genetically modified seeds. Integrating the cattle farms is quite beneficial to improve the productivity of permaculture. Raising ducks, geese and other animals, like, cows, goats, and rabbits, is helpful in not only reducing the worms and pests from the soil, but also increasing the nutrients in the soil, that act as natural fertilizers. While scratching the ground and animal dung for insects, the ducks and geese spread the nutrients on the surface, which act as fertilizers. They themselves dump their dung on the soil, which gets converted into important nutrient elements in the soil. Moreover, the chickens and the ducks covert the grasshoppers, crickets and other insects into eggs, thereby provide another source of food along with sanitizing the pastures (Rwanyarare, 2017). This helps in removing the parasites that damage the crops. At the same time, the crop residues and weeds and bushes provide food for the herbivorous animals (Mosher et al., 2015). Hence, this is a mutually beneficial project, which helps in increasing the productivity of permaculture and also getting benefits from the cattle without having to invest much in infrastructure and highly expensive fertilizers.
In case of avocados, this is a low yielding tree crop. Good farming practices are essential for increasing the productivity of avocado, such as, irrigation scheduling, and maintaining proper flow and pressure in the irrigation system. The trees need well drained soils, proper irrigation system, a sunny positioned shelter to avoid strong hot winds, good amount of fertilizers to control the diseases and pests, timely and 7cm deep mulching for reducing the water loss from evaporation and preventing weed seed germination, and canopy management (Faber & Bender, 1999). The trees should also be protected from the rodents by using trunk wraps. Lastly, well organized harvesting is required to reduce the amount of fruit load so that the trees can set fruits again.
Regarding the grape permaculture, the fruit requires manure. It is found that, the vines that receive a well-rotted manure as mulching in the growing period, produce 30% more yield consistently than the other method (Booth, 2013). While ducks and geese can help in adding nutrients in the soil, it is wiser to keep most of the vines quite higher up the fence to keep it out of reach of the ducks. Pruning is a necessary factor for grapes. When the vine is dormant, if 90% of the stems are pruned off, it leads to good production. Apart from these, arbors and trellises should be made and maintained properly to minimize the damages. It should also be noted that the vines get full sun.
Permaculture refers to the innovative framework of sustainable living. The term refers to the system of designing and maintaining the agriculturally productive ecosystems that incorporates stability, diversity and resilience of the natural ecosystems. The sustainable way of life through the harmonious integration of people and nature is the foundation of permaculture (Cassel, 2016). Thus, people practicing permaculture integrate various natural ways to make the production sustainable. However, due to small scale investment and production size, the farms often face challenges from issues like, water repellence, water logging on the pastures, poor sandy soils, pests and diseases etc. which reduces the productivity and profitability of the farms. The farm that produces sensitive crops, such as, avocado and grapes, as main harvest crops, faces quite a few challenges that hamper the production and profitability of the farm. Water logging, pest attack and diseases are the major constraints that the farm faces for both avocado and grape permaculture. To improve profitability, the farm must address these issues in the most effective manner. At same time, to improve the productivity in permaculture, the farm should focus on implementing projects on cattle farm integration and few techniques, such as, manuring, irrigation system and mulching for avocado and grapes.
Previously, many researches have been undertaken to mitigate such problems for large scale farms, which can invest high amount of capital on advanced measures to improve profitability of permaculture. However, implementing those measures to improve productivity in a small farm would impose heavy burden on it. Hence, research is required to identify cost effective ways to implement measures like integrating cattle farm and other manure methods. The cost efficiency would help in increasing the profit margin for the farm and also enhancing the scope for permaculture.
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