by Wayne Knight
In Holistic Management, we aim to think holistically. We endeavor to simultaneously consider profitability, ecological health, and quality of life to create balance in our business, now and into the future. We strive at improving the way we make decisions through clarity on short-term needs and long-term necessity by linking our decisions and actions to these balanced outcomes.
We use a set of Testing Questions to ensure that we are thinking holistically when we consider important decisions. Realizing that all parts of our lives are interconnected helps bring balance to our thoughts and decisions.
I am going to introduce you to the first question:
The question is, ”If you are dealing with a problem, does this decision or action deal with the root cause of the problem?”
In our day-to-day lives, we often unwittingly deal with the symptoms of problems, rather than taking the time to discover and deal with the underlying causes. Investing the time could save us so much effort and money not to mention the averted frustration often associated with symptom treatment. An internet search reveals dozens of examples of how to effectively locate the root cause of a problem.
There are many medical examples of broken limbs where the pills relieve pain temporarily, ignoring the cause – the fracture.
Or for example, a car problem. Say a dead battery may be the result of lights left on or the water level in the battery or a failed alternator because of a worn out fan belt. The root cause here is a routine maintenance failure.
I want to use an example of invasive plants.
This is a worldwide problem. Invasive plant “control” budgets run into millions of dollars annually. Instead of dealing with the symptoms, invasive plants, shouldn’t we be looking for the root cause of the problem – why is brush invading areas where it was not a problem a few decades ago?
Before the advent of fences, land ownership, and human population growth, massive herds of wildlife “managed” the grassy plains of our planet. Concentrated in large herds to evade predators and moving to keep their rumens full of nutritious grass, they meandered in large herds.
What has changed since then to produce the explosion of woody plants that we see growing in these former grasslands? We know that changes in soil microbiological balances will favor one plant type over another. More fungal dominate soils favor the germination of woody plant species. Soils with relatively more bacteria are known to favor the germination and growth of grasses and annuals. What about our modern human impact on land, and specifically soil microbial activity, that favors woody plant growth?
Getting back to the original question, “What is the root cause of invasive plant growth?”
Can we answer if treating the invasive plants using chemicals or mechanical means will effectively deal with the root cause of the problem?
We know the answer! Again and again, post-treatment, more seedlings germinate than before the treatment was done.
The root cause has not been dealt with!
An improved approach should be to discover the human management that needs to change in order to recreate the soil conditions that originally produced thriving, diverse grasslands. My personal experience is that changing the management will alter the soil condition enough that the problem plant is no longer a problem. It dies and is not replaced by more woody plants. Instead, perennial grasses flourish.
Theses photos are both examples of young invasive brush dying after the use of Holistic Planned Grazing. Simply using animal density and timing of exposure to animals improved soil conditions. Fire and chemicals were not applied.
- By spending time and effort on correcting the way we manage land and influence soils really does make an impact on the plants that grow there.
- By investing money on improving the underlying causes of invasive plant encroachment, not only can we improve our land and profitability, but the cause of the problem disappears.
- By treating the symptom we are not investing in what we want, and the problem persists.
Attend an HMI online Introduction to Holistic Management class to find out how changes in the way you approach a problem can improve your business and your life.
Investing money, effort, and time in the results you want, rather than the results you don’t want will be my next topic. Stay tuned!