Holistic management (agriculture)
Holistic management (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, whole, entire, total) in agriculture is a systems thinking approach to managing resources that was originally developed by Allan Savory for reversing desertification. In 2010 the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, Operation Hope (a "proof of concept" project using holistic management) was named the winner of the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge for "recognizing initiatives which take a comprehensive, anticipatory, design approach to radically advance human well being and the health of our planet's ecosystems."
The idea of holistic planned grazing began in the 1960s when Allan Savory, a wildlife biologist in his native Southern Rhodesia, set out to understand desertification. This can be seen in the context of the larger environmental movement. Heavily influenced by the work of André Voisin and the ineffectiveness of mainstream rangeland science of the time, Savory concluded that the spread of deserts, the loss of wildlife, and the human impoverishment that always resulted were related to the reduction of the natural herds of large grazers and even more, the change in behavior of those few remaining herds. Livestock could be substituted to provide important ecosystem services like nutrient cycling when mimicking those uniquely coevolved grasses and grazers. But managers had found that while rotational grazing systems can work for diverse management purposes, scientific experiments had demonstrated that they do not necessarily work for specific ecological purposes. An adaptive management plan was needed for the integration of the experiential with the experimental, as well as the social with the biophysical, to provide a more comprehensive framework for the management of rangeland systems. None of these sources of knowledge could be understood except in the context of the whole. Holistic management was developed to meet that need.
In many regions, pastoralism and communal land use are blamed for environmental degradation caused by overgrazing. After years of research and experience, Savory came to understand this assertion was often wrong, and that sometimes removing animals actually made it worse. This concept is a variation of the trophic cascade, where humans are seen as the top level predator and the cascade follows from there.
"I have been particularly fascinated, for example, by the work of a remarkable man called Allan Savory, in Zimbabwe and other semi arid areas, who has argued for years against the prevailing expert view that is the simple numbers of cattle that drive overgrazing and cause fertile land to become desert. On the contrary, as he has since shown so graphically, the land needs the presence of feeding animals and their droppings for the cycle to be complete, so that soils and grassland areas stay productive. Such that, if you take grazers off the land and lock them away in vast feedlots, the land dies. "- His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) from a speech to the IUCN World Conservation Congress
Savory developed a flexible management system designed to improve grazing systems. Holistic planned grazing is one of a number of newer grazing management systems that more closely simulate the behavior of natural herds of wildlife and have been shown to improve riparian habitats and water quality over systems that often led to land degradation, and be an effective tool to improve range condition for both livestock and wildlife. Holistic planned grazing is similar to rotational grazing but differs in that it more explicitly recognizes and provides a framework for adapting to the four basic ecosystem processes: the water cycle, the mineral cycle including the carbon cycle, energy flow, and community dynamics (the relationship between organisms in an ecosystem) as equal in importance to livestock production and social welfare. Thus the holistic context in the planning stage leads to different decisions in dealing with that complexity. Holistic management has been likened to "a permaculture approach to rangeland management".
While originally developed as a tool for range land use and restoring desertified land, the holistic management system can be applied to other areas with multiple complex socioeconomic and environmental factors. One such example is Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), which promotes sector integration in development and management of water resources to ensure that water is allocated between different users in a fair way, maximizing economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. In essence, coordinated holistic water management takes into consideration all water users in nature and society. Another example is mine reclamation. A fourth use of Holistic management is in certain forms of no till crop production, intercropping, and permaculture. Holistic management has been acknowledged by The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS).
- Define in its entirety what you are managing. No area should be treated as a single-product system. By defining the whole, people are better able to manage. This includes identifying the available resources, including money, that the manager has at his disposal.
- Define what you want now and for the future. Set the objectives, goals and actions needed to produce the quality of life sought, and what the life-nurturing environment must be like to sustain that quality of life far into the future.
- Watch for the earliest indicators of ecosystem health. Identify the ecosystem services that have deep impacts for people in both urban and rural environments, and find a way to easily monitor them. One of the best examples of an early indicator of a poorly functioning environment is patches of bare ground. An indicator of a better functioning environment is newly sprouting diversity of plants and a return or increase of wildlife.
- Don't limit the management tools you use. The eight tools for managing natural resources are money/labor, human creativity, grazing, animal impact, fire, rest, living organisms and science/technology. To be successful you need to use all these tools to the best of your ability.
- Test your decisions with questions that are designed to help ensure all your decisions are socially, environmentally and financially sound for both the short and long term.
- Monitor proactively, before your managed system becomes more imbalanced. This way the manager can take adaptive corrective action quickly, before the ecosystem services are lost. Always assume your plan is less than perfect and use a feedback loop that includes monitoring for the earliest signs of failure, adjusting and re-planning as needed. In other words use a "canary in a coal mine" adaptive approach.
Holistic management planned grazing has four key principles that take advantage of the symbiotic relationship between large herds of grazing animals, their predators and the grasslands that support them:
- Nature functions as a holistic community with a mutualistic relationship between people, animals and the land. If you remove or change the behavior of any keystone species like the large grazing herds, you have an unexpected and wide ranging negative impact on other areas of the environment.
- It is absolutely crucial that any agricultural planning system must be flexible enough to adapt to nature’s complexity, since all environments are different and have constantly changing local conditions.
- Animal husbandry using domestic species can be used as a substitute for lost keystone species. Thus when managed properly in a way that mimics nature, agriculture can heal the land and even benefit wildlife, while at the same time benefiting people.
- Time and timing is the most important factor when planning land use. Not only is it crucial to understand how long to use the land for agriculture and how long to rest, it is equally important to understand exactly when and where the land is ready for that use and rest.
One limitation of any land management system is that economically and politically powerful users can easily quantify and argue their needs. It is harder to define the economic value of ecosystem services and, therefore, the ecosystems and people most dependent on them for their subsistence become voiceless and often neglected users. In theory Holistic Management framework addresses this issue, but it is not always seen in the field. Another common criticism of holistic planned grazing is that while farmers and ranchers around the world believe that it works for them and they have even received awards, the majority of range scientists have not been able to experimentally confirm that intensive grazing systems similar to those at the center of holistic management show a benefit, and claim that managers' reports of success are anecdotal. There is however a growing body of research work which is reversing the claim that the only evidence for holistic management is anecdotal.
- Coughlin, Chrissy. "Allan Savory: How livestock can protect the land". GreenBiz. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- "2010 Challenge Winner: Operation Hope: Permanent water and food security for Africa's impoverished millions". bfi.org. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Thackara, John. "Greener Pastures". Seed Magazine. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Rothstein, Joe. "Hang On, Planet Earth, Help Is On The Way". EIN News. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Voisin, André (1 December 1988) . Grass Productivity. Island Press. ISBN 978-0933280649.
- Voisin, André, Antoine Lecomte (1962). Rational grazing, the meeting of cow and grass: a manual of grass productivity. C. Lockwood LTD, London.
- Benyus, Janine (1997). Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York, NY, USA: William Morrow & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-688-16099-9.
- Retallack, Gregory. "Cenozoic Expansion of Grasslands and Climatic Cooling" (PDF). The University of Chicago. The Journal of Geology. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- Voisin, André (1 December 1988) . Grass Productivity. Island Press. ISBN 978-0933280649..
- Undersander, Dan; et al. "Pastures for profit: A guide to rotational grazing" (PDF). University of Wisconsin Extension. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- D. D. Briske, Nathan F. Sayre, L. Huntsinger, M. Fernandez-Gimenez, B. Budd, and J. D. Derner, Origin, Persistence, and Resolution of the Rotational Grazing Debate: Integrating Human Dimensions Into Rangeland Research, Rangeland Ecology & Management 2011 64:4, 325-334
- "Prince Charles sends a message to IUCN's World Conservation Congress". International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Dagget, Dan ; with photography by Tom Bean (2005). Gardeners of Eden : rediscovering our importance to nature. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Thatcher Charitable Trust. ISBN 9780966622911.
- Weber, K T; Gokhale, B S. "Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho" (PDF). Elsevier. Journal of Arid Environments. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- Schwartz, Judith D. "Greener Pastures". Conservation Magazine. University of Washington. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- Salatin, Joel. "Tall grass mob stocking" (PDF). Acres USA May 2008 vol 8 no 5. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- A. M. Strauch et al. Impact of livestock management on water quality and streambank structure in a semi-arid, African ecosystem, Journal of Arid Environments 73 (2009) 795–803
- Teague, W R; S. L. Dowhowera; S.A. Bakera; N. Haileb; P.B. DeLaunea; D.M. Conovera (2011). "Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie". Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 141, Issues 3–4, May 2011, Pages 310–322 (3–4): 310. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2011.03.009.
- Undersander, Dan; et al. "Grassland birds: Fostering habitat using rotational grazing" (PDF). University of Wisconsin-Extension. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Coppedge, Clay. "Cattle and Quail: Management requires a plan". Country World Friday, 31 August 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Ferguson, Bruce; et al. (18 June 2013). "Sustainability of holistic and conventional cattle ranching in the seasonally dry tropics of Chiapas, Mexico". Agricultural Systems. 120: 38-48. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- Schwartz, Judith D. "Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?". Yale Environment 360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- Sanjari G, Ghadiri H, Ciesiolka CAA, Yu B (2008). "Comparing the effects of continuous and time-controlled grazing systems on soil characteristics in Southeast Queensland" (PDF). Soil Research 46 (CSIRO Publishing), 348–358. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- Fairlie, Simon. "Maximizing Soil Carbon Sequestration: Carbon Farming and Rotational Grazing". Mother Earth News August 21, 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "FIRST MILLIMETER: HEALING THE EARTH PREVIOUS BROADCASTS". KQED PUBLIC MEDIA FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "The First Millimeter: Healing the Earth". Santa Fe Productions. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- Archer, Steve, Fred E. Smeins. Grazing Management an ecological perspective edited by Rodney K Heitschmidt and Jerry W Stuth. p. Chapter 5.
- Fairlie, Simon (2010). Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Chelsea Green Publishing. pp. 191–193. ISBN 9781603583251.
- K. T. Weber, B.S. Gokhale, Effect of grazing on soil-water content in semiarid rangelands of southeast Idaho, Journal of Arid Environments 75 (2011) 464-470
- J. N. Clatworthy, Results of the Botanical Analyses in the Charter Trial, Rhodesian Branch of the South African Society of Animal Production, Zimbabwe Agricultural Journal 1984
- Nilsson, C., and B. Malm Renöfält. 2008. Linking flow regime and water quality in rivers: a challenge to adaptive catchment management. Ecology and Society 13(2): 18.
- Dagget, Dan. "Convincing Evidence". Man in Nature. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Bush, Cole. "Holistic Managed Grazing at Soda Lake". Graniterock. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Leu, Andre. "Mitigating Climate Change With Soil Organic Matter in Organic Production Systems" (PDF). Trade and environment review 2013, Commentary V pp.22-32. UNCTAD. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Bradley, Kirsten. "Why Pasture Cropping is such a Big Deal". Milkwood. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Tallman, Susan. "No-Till Case Study, Richter Farm: Cover Crop Cocktails in a Forage-Based System". National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. NCAT-ATTRA. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Fears, Robert. "NRCS Adopts Holistic Management" (PDF). Lands of Texas Magazine. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- Terry, Quenna. "NRCS in Texas presents at Holistic Management Seminars". USDA-NRCS News room. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
- "Whole Farm Systems". United States Department of Agriculture. National Agriculture Library. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- "Holistic Management International Education Programs". National Agricultural Library, USDA. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- Savory, Allan. "Putting Holistic Management In Place". Savory Institute. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Sullivan, Preston. "Holistic Management: A Whole-Farm Decision Making Framework". The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - ATTRA. National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- Savory, Allan. "Principles of Holistic Management, Empowering Caretakers of the Land". Savory Institute. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- "Look who's NSW Farmer of the year 2011! Norm Smith" (PDF). Farming Secrets Digest vol 17. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- "The Heinz Awards :: Joel Salatin".
- Glasgow, Trudy (July 31, 2008). "Innovation, stewardship Top farmers for 2008 take a bow" (PDF). Agriculture Today. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- Glasgow, Tracey. "Bourke farmers take out joint NSW Young Farmer award title for 2007" (PDF). Western Division Newsletter. Australia NSW Department of Primary Industries. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- Briske, D. D. "Origin, Persistence, and Resolution of the Rotational Grazing Debate: Integrating Human Dimensions Into Rangeland Research" (PDF). Rangeland Ecol Manage 64:325–334. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- D. D. Briske, J. D. Derner, J. R. Brown, S. D. Fuhlendorf, W. R. Teague, K. M. Havstad, R. L. Gillen, A. J. Ash, W. D. Willms, (2008) Rotational Grazing on Rangelands: Reconciliation of Perception and Experimental Evidence. Rangeland Ecology & Management: January 2008, Vol. 61, No. 1, pp. 3-17.
- Itzkan, Seth. "Key Research Paper Summaries Germane to Holistic Management". Google Drive. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- Savory, Allan; Jody Butterfield (1998-12-01) . Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Island Press. ISBN 1-55963-487-1.
- Adams, Ann (1998-12-01) . At Home with Holistic Management (2nd ed.). Albuquerque, NM: Holistic Management International. ISBN 978-0-9673941-0-7.
- Hudak, Mike (2015-02-01). Comments on Allan Savory’s Proposed Application of “Holistic Management” to Grasslands, Including Desert Grasslands, for the Purpose of Increasing Sequestration of Atmospheric Carbon. Revised 13 Nov 2013; 1 Feb 2015. Public letter to Sierra Club contains many online references critical of holistic agricultural management. 7 pages.