Synergistic agriculture: in search of balance

With the'Synergistic agriculture we seek the balance that already exists in nature, we do not obsess over the product but we take care of the whole process, right from the ground where it is born that can and must do without fertilizers and pesticides. By associating and alternating plants and flowers with the principles of'Synergistic agriculture a virtuous circle is created, healthy and with benefits also for the mood and, with common gardens, for the community. Enrico Marcolongo, synergistic farmer ofSynergistic City Garden, tells what it consists of and indicates projects for a better future, within reach. And of hoe.

1) What is meant by synergistic agriculture?
L'Synergistic Agriculture (AS) derives from the studies of the Japanese microbiologist Masanobu Fukuoka and the French naturalist farmer Emilia Hazelip and is based on the search for balance in nature. Properly managed soil restores and then maintains its fertility making plowing and the addition of fertilizers useless. In the woods, the soil is fertile without human intervention thanks to beneficial microorganisms and bacteria, essential for the oxygen-ethylene cycle. L'Synergistic Agriculture it tends to do without fertilizers or pesticides, only water, sun and straw which, by decomposing, nourishes the soil. In addition to producing 100% healthy vegetables,Synergistic Agriculture is more resilient, a low ecological impact and low oil consumption.

2) How do the products obtained with Synergistic Agriculture differ from others?
With the'Synergistic Agriculture we do not focus only on the final product but instead we pay a lot of attention to the health of the plant, and therefore to the soil that hosts and nourishes that plant. In doing so, the fact of obtaining good products will only be the natural consequence of conscious management. Each plant has its own characteristic, its own particularity and it is enough to know them to exploit them to our advantage and to sustainable agriculture. For example, liliaceae (garlic, leek, onion…) are powerful natural antibacterials and fungicides, just put them in the edges of the pallet to have a sort of perimeter fortress that will defend all the other horticultural crops. Legumes, on the other hand, are excellent fertilizers: one hectare of soy can fix 400kg of nitrogen in the soil. And then there are the flowers. For example, marigold is a powerful nematicide, by putting some of it in the garden, we will have protected it in a natural way without feeding the chemical industry. Particular attention is paid toSynergistic Agriculture lends itself to various associations: for example onion and carrot feed each other, tomatoes grown next to a basil become tastier. And then every horticultural should have at least three different families around, so it has better ones organoleptic properties.

3) Is the idea of ​​having to compensate for soil fertility losses wrong? Why ?
Unfortunately, it is a widespread belief. In reality, each plant is made up of 75% water, 20% is made up of compounds of carbon and gas, the remaining 5% comes from compounds present in the soil, of which half is nitrogen. Only 2.5% therefore can be considered actually taken from the ground and everything that is removed from the plant is put back on pallet (dry leaves and chopped trunks / branches at the end of the cycle). If we manage the earth in this way (and not press it) we will create the ideal environment for the formation of microorganisms that will move the nutrients present in the soil and make them available for plants.

4) What is the first concrete step to start synergistic agriculture?
I recommend a course, but who wants to experience theSynergistic Agriculture in private gardens you will find material to take your first steps. For a small production in the country or for a city garden of a certain size, the state of exploitation of the starting land should be carefully evaluated to quantify the mineral and organic components and implement the ideal preparation.

5) What are the pallets? How are they organized and managed?
The pallets are raised plots of land, the base is approximately 1.2 meters, and the upper sowing level will be approximately 50 centimeters. The height depends on the type of soil: a sandy soil will tend to remain lower, a clayey one can push higher. Then the drip system will be placed and covered by straw. Keeping the width of 1.2 meters, the pallet can be as long as you like, and with fancy curves or shapes. Often in a synergistic garden you will find spirals, waves, even letter shapes to compose names. The only limit is your imagination, just remember to take a few steps every now and then, otherwise to harvest an aubergine you have to make long distances.

6) How do you proceed?
The management of a vegetable garden mainly consists in the collection of products, in the laying of new plants or seeds. The first few years you will also have to worry about doing a lot of manual weeding, but over time and with mulching the spontaneous ones will give way. However, some spontaneous ones are also useful, such as horsetail which brings many minerals to the soil. Salads grown close to them are especially good. And then straw that is always ready to compensate for what will be "digested" by the soil over time.

7) From your point of view, how many in Italy today practice synergistic agriculture? Is it more widespread in other countries?
In Italy, there are no longer people who practiceSynergistic Agriculture. For many years it has been in the gardens of a few, but now it has gone beyond the “household” boundaries. A municipality could make land available to citizens, a shared garden with free time in exchange for vegetables. The redundancies could be sold to those who don't have time to help. Doing so would create a virtuous circuit of local productions where citizens gather for pleasant collective work sessions. In addition, there are many schools that could create synergistic gardens in the school grounds, giving children one hour a week to get them to put their hands in the earth. Production could be integrated into canteens, with consequent savings for the school itself.
The "straw revolution" has just begun.

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