Regenerative Agroforestry

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Please note. We are in the initial planting phase of our regenerative efforts, as such we do not have results to speak of, only ideas learnt through research into successful regenerative projects. Our research came from the following sources: 

Ernst Götsch – Syntropic Agriculture. An incredible piece of work on 500 hectares of degraded Brazilian land. Over 40 years Ernst turned his land from dust in to a productive tropical forest. 

‘Restoration Agriculture’ by Mark Shepard. Mark runs a successful regenerative farm, and has written this excellent practical book. 

‘Desert or paradise’ by Sepp Holzer. Sepp was accredited by the Permaculture Institute despite not knowing what Permaculture was. He now teaches his form of Permaculture around the world and his book Desert or Paradise offered a lot of information relevant to Portugal and the drier regions in Europe. 

One of our main goals here at Fazenda Tomati is to reforest our two vineyards, which flank our central pasture space.

We will do this using Agroforestry principles which aim to replicate a natural forest, using productive fruit and nut perennial plants, as well as herbs and beneficial species which we do not consume, but help the system as a whole.

Our goal is to build soil and create a productive perennial ecosystem for generations to come.

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Our main vinyard after the first years restoration works – moving from a grid to a contour formation

Before embarking on a productive system however we must plant many pioneer species whose evolutionary goal is to colonise degraded landscapes and rapidly build a temporary forest structure which fixes its own nitrogen and creates its own soil.

We have chosen the following layout as a starting point in our first year here. Pioneer species, which will grow first, and fastest, are in italic

Root/Ground cover

  • Lupin (Lupinus Perennis)
  • Clover (Medicago Sativa)
  • Rosemary
  • Chamomile
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Potato

Our ground cover layer consists mainly of Mediterranean herbs but we have also left all the existing ‘weeds’ which were growing initially. Our belief is that they are the most hardy of species and should be left there as ground cover rather than expending a lot of energy removing them and replacing them with species that we want in their place. Species that already covered our land included many varieties of the edible (once processed), nitrogen fixing Lupin family and Lavender amongst others.

We had some success planting potatoes immediately below our swales and we will continue to do this each year. Because of their low market value it doesn’t pay to grow them in the market garden but as they are a good staple for our own kitchen we will make space for them on our farm.

Shrub/Understory

  • Tree Lupin (Lupinus Arboreus)
  • Madroneo (strawberry tree)
  • Prickly Pear Cactus

Our understory was the first of our major planting efforts here. We planted around 250 Madroneo seedlings and around 35 Prickly Pear Cactus. These two species are extremely hardy and thrive in semi-arid conditions, so we were confident they would do well in our extremely degraded vineyards

Understory

  • Hazelnut
  • Lemon/Orange/Grapefruit/Lime
  • Almond
  • Avocado
  • Apple
  • Peach, plum, cherry

Most of our understory was planted directly from seed. We prepared the space where the tree was to grow, planted the seeds when the Autumn rains came, and waited. The Almond and Citrus trees are relatively hardy but we believed that planting them from seedling would mean they would require a lot of attention to get them through their first summers. So we planted 5 seeds per space and let them germinate where they will stay.

Canopy

  • White Leadtree (Leucaena Leucocephala)
  • Silver Birch (Betula Pendula)
  • Chestnut
  • Walnut
  • Oak
  • Ash

As with the Understory, the spaces for our canopy layer trees were prepared, and planted directly with 3-5 nuts/acorns per species. The Walnuts and chestnuts will be a valuable source of protein for us in thr future.

Our desire is to create a space where a future farmer could graze pigs and chickens under the canopy of a productive forest and the Oaks and other nut species make this possible

The Ash tree, like the oak and walnut are very good timber trees, it also has a relatively. Open canopy so we can comfortably grow shade tolerant nut crops such as Hazel below and to the north of them.

Vine

  • Grape
  • Kiwi
  • Passionfruit

When the canopy trees are a few years old we will allow our vines to grow up them. Until then we have a few kiwi and Passionfruit growing up existing trees, and our grape vines are pruned to be low and self supporting.

Emergent

  • Eucalyptus
  • Pine

The top layer of our system is the eucalyptus. This is a controversial tree here in the Mediterranean as their irresponsible monoculture cultivation has exacerbated the forest fire risk. But we believe that no single species is responsible for fires, including pine, and the Spruce in the North of Europe. When planted in a polyculture the Eucalyptus has been shown to quickly create a good ground cover which we hope will shelter our younger trees from the intense summer suns. After 6 years the eucalyptus will be harvested for building and firewood. In this way we believe that eucalyptus can be cultivated responsibly and benefit Mediterranean forests. It has been proven to work in polycultures in Brazil by Ernst Götsch and his system of Syntropic Agriculture, so we are looking to investigate if it will also work in Portugal.

The pine trees we have in our vineyards were growing when we arrived so we let them continue. The pine tree creates symbiotic relationships with a lot of our favourite mushrooms. So in the future they will provide another source of food for us, as well as habitat for wildlife

Pond Areas

  • River Birch (Betula Nigra)
  • Italian Alder (Alnus Cordata)
  • Mint