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What is the difference between organic and syntropic agriculture? I watched a few of videos on the latter but couldn't get the gist of it. Is it like planting crops among trees or something?

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The two concepts overlap somewhat but the main focus and way of thinking is different.

With syntropic agriculture degraded unproductive land is transformed into healthy productive land by planting trees and shrubs and pruning them. Pruning rejuvinates trees and since the pruned branches are left to decay on the ground, it also returns organic matter (nutrients) to the soil, increases biodiversity and sequesters carbon. So basically it's like creating an organic food forest from the ground up by setting up a new ecosystem. The main difficulty is selecting the right plants and trees and spacing them in such a way that it benefits the entire ecosystem. The method was developed by a Swiss farmer named Ernst Gotsch who moved to Brazil in 1980s and applied it to poor land for which people saw little use.

The main focus of organic agriculture is to produce food with little or no chemicals and keeping animal welfare in mind.

So the differences are:

  • Syntropic agriculture focuses on restoring unproductive lands, organic farming generally uses already productive land.
  • Once setup the syntropic forest should be self-sustainable with no outside inputs. This is usually not true for organic agriculture.
  • In organic agriculture there are rules what substances are allowed or not to fight pests, in syntropic agriculture pests are accepted as being part of the local ecosystem and/or as hints to fix human mistakes in the setup of the forest.
  • In organic farming weeds are usually removed, in syntropic agriculture all plants fulfill a role.

BTW in this post Ernst Gotsch himself answers the question about the differences between organic farming and syntropic farming.

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  • But if organic matter aerobically decays, it releases not sequesters carbon, doesn't it? Jan 1, 2022 at 5:47
  • But organic farming also employs biodiversity, not chemicals to fight pests, doesn't it? Jan 1, 2022 at 5:51
  • @SergeyZolotarev When organic material decays, the larger part of the carbon is released but part is taken up in the soil. Since syntropic farming focuses on increasing the amount of fertile soil on (previously) barren lands, the net effect is carbon storage.
    – THelper
    Jan 1, 2022 at 17:50
  • Generally speaking organic farming tries to not do harm to biodiversity. For pest management using natural predators is usually prefered, but some chemicals (like copper) are allowed. Syntropic farming actively tries to increase biodiversity and chemicals are a big no. As mentioned before, there is some overlap of ideas, especially when it comes to biodiversity.
    – THelper
    Jan 1, 2022 at 17:53

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