Saturday, October 21, 2006

'The Harmonious Wheatsmith'

I found this reference Thursday night, 'The Harmonious Wheatsmith' by Mark Moodie (ISBN 0-9517890-0-7). It's about a method of no-till farming developed by Marc Bonfils, a French ecologist/grain farmer.

Yesterday I found this abstract

Author: Mark Moodie
The only text on the Bonfils/Fukuoka no-till methods of cereal cultivation. A delightfully idiosyncratic booklet with quirky illustrations.
Book's abstract at

This morning I found this

An e-book of 'The Harmonious Wheatsmith'

then this

Authors website with e-book versions of his works (Buy via

Here is Marc Bonfils, the developers enter on wikipedia,

I also remembered that CSIRO was doing Clover/Lucerne research in the early 1990s. They were using Lucernes summer growth to produce a mulch layer for winter growing veggies and Clovers winter growth to produce a mulch layer for summer growing veggies.

I saw a backyard Clever Clover patch in suburban Canberra in the early 1990's. It was during an 'open garden' organized by Permaculture ACT (now defunct). An Ex-Pacters out there?

While googling I found these interesting looking links.

Australian Journal of Soil Research
Long-term effects of crop rotation, stubble management and tillage on soil phosphorus dynamics

E. K. B√ľnemann, D. P. Heenan, P. Marschner and A. M. McNeill

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research
The effect of boron supply on the growth and seed production of subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.)

BS Dear and J Lipsett

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture
Survey of the productivity, composition and estimated inputs of fixed nitrogen by pastures in central-western New South Wales

A. M. Bowman, W. Smith, M. B. Peoples and J. Brockwell

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)
Research Update for Growers - Southern Region - September 2004
Putting the system together - Testing the value of lucerne with GRAZPLAN decision support tools

Libby Salmon, CSIRO Plant Industry

Then I hit pay dirt.

product info from the Diggers Club website and

info from a Canberra Organic Growers Society member. and

Organic Weed Management Survey results, Uni of New England research project

All the initial 'Clever Clover' stuff I found was from this decade. Then I found an early reference.

And guess where it was... a article written by David Holmgren in 1991
Development of the Permaculture Concept.
There is a reference to Clever Clover in the Natural Farming section (page 4-5)

Attempts to apply his [Fukuoka] methods have not necessarily been successful because any sustainable system is context and site specific. However, farmers inspired by Fukuoka or working independently have developed similar methods to produce organic and biodynamic grain. The techniques of growing grains and legumes together, over sowing of crops with no intervening cultivation or use of herbicide, and appropriate use of flooding and animals for weed control are now accepted in agriculture as at least possible. Recent research work by C.S.I.R.O. on vegetable growing using living mulches and green manure crops (including Clever Clover) without cultivation reflect as least the conceptual influence of Fukuoka's work.

Perhaps the most universal aspects of Fukuoka's work, the learning from nature, remains the most difficult for people to adopt and without that no amount of technical information on permaculture will lead to sustainable systems.

then back to the 2000's where I found a similar observation to David Holmgren's about the value of observing nature.

In a Science Show discussion panel, with the subject of the 'Serendipity in Science', Clever Clover and its originator Richard Stursacre are used to illustrate observation and serendipity.

Panel Transcript

David Salt: David Salt from ANU – just a bit of serendipity that I’m aware about, a friend of mine Richard Stursacre, he’s a young scientist at CSIRO Land and Water and he came up with this system called Clever Clover which was all about low till agriculture and he basically stumbled on this idea when he was trying to figure out how to help farmers basically till the soil without causing it any damage. And it was a system of sowing vegetables through sub-clover which would naturally die down and you basically didn’t have to cultivate it at all. He’s a really wise scientist but he says the secret of his success and it ties into so much of what you people have been saying, is that he gives himself a time of reflexion, he says that the most important part of his day, in fact the time when he does all his science is when he goes out into his field trials and he wanders through them and he doesn’t do anything but in his mind he moves the various components of the systems that he’s working on around in his head and he just asks himself questions – what if I do this, this way, or what if I do that this other way? And basically it’s that time in his experimental garden that first half hour he says that’s all the science, the rest of the day is just work, but it’s the reflexion where he actually does his science. So it would be great if you come up with a system basically where we all get half an hour in our garden each day where we just reflect upon what’s important in life.

Brad Collis: I’d very much like to follow on from that because I know Richard Stursacre and he’s developed something which I think is of far more profound importance than Clever Clover. He’s developed a little device that will tell you where the water is in the soil as it travels down through the soil, a Wetting Front Monitor it’s called. I believe that this could possibly go down in history as one of Australia’s greatest discoveries ever because three quarters of the world’s water is used to grow crops. With this device you can tell exactly how much water you need to put on the paddock and no more, you can then turn the tap off. You can make one of these devices with computer electronics and things like that and it can be expensive but you can also make it for 25 or 30 cents with a clay pot and a polystyrene rod.

This could actually fundamentally change the world from a water deficit world into a world with adequate water to do all the things we need to do. But Australia hasn’t shared this knowledge with the rest of the world. We’ve spent as far as I’m aware the last few years trying to commercialise this product with a small company and not really getting anywhere and yet this is knowledge that every country on earth desperately needs at the moment. How do we reduce the impact of the thirst of the irrigation industries that support our urban communities? This is a technology that will work on an African family farm or on a big Australian cotton spread. I think it’s a classic example, it’s very smart science, it’s good physics and good mathematics encased in some very humble and basic technology and it’s a classically Aussie solution to the problem. And I think that that’s what this country really you know is made of, clever science but very basic robust useable technology which is you know essentially one of our traditions. And I think you know Stursacre’s discover embodies what we have got to give to the world in the coming 50 years when water is going to be absolutely short, a third of the world’s countries without enough water, are severely water stress by 2030.

I wonder if a 'Wetting Front Monitor' is anything like the 4 foot steel rod an old farmer I know uses? ;)

I did some searches on Richard Stursacre, both on google & CSIRO, but it lead nowhere.

I do agree about the best thinking being done when your out in nature. I walk in the mornings, it's my best thinking time.


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