The term “dynamic accumulator” is often heard in Permaculture circles and is used to describe plants that have long tap roots that allow them to draw up nutrients and minerals from deep in the ground. These nutrients and minerals are stored in the leaves of the plants which are later “chopped and dropped”  or naturally die back or fall to the ground around the base of other plants, allowing them to release the stored nutrients as they decompose, making them available to other plants.

After doing some basic investigation, I came across some Permaculture articles that suggest there is no scientific evidence of dynamic accumulators and “proof” is purely anecdotal. Take a look at one of these articles, from The Permaculture Research Institute:

As a physician, I strive for scientific accuracy. I understand the scientific method and the world of academia. I know, beyond doubt, the benefit this arena has provided for the world. However, I also know, beyond doubt, that there is a lot of truth that has not been proven in a lab. This may be due to many factors. To name but a few: the topic has not yet been studied, there are flaws in the design of the study, or the topic is too complex for reductionist evaluation.

Although he didn’t develop the concept, I think we can safely blame Robert Kourik, organic gardening/landscaping author for bringing the term “dynamic accumulators” to the forefront of our minds. In 1986, he wrote Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape—Naturally. On page 269, he created a list of “dynamic accumulators”. This list was compiled from a number of sources including: Weeds: Guardians of the Soil (Joseph Cocannouer), Practical Organic Gardening (Ben Easey), Stalking the Healthful Herbs (Euell Gibbons), Weeds as Indicators of Soil Conditions (Stuart Hill and Jennifer Ramsay), Weeds and What They Tell (Ehrenfried Pfeiffer), and The Organic Method Primer (Bargyla & Gylver Rateaver).

This list of plants was a good-faith attempt to provide guidance about what gardeners were throwing into their compost piles. Robert Kourik now openly admits that he regrets including that list in his book. He realized that the list was mainly based on informal and anecdotal reports, but this realization came too late. Pandora’s box was opened. Since then, many authors have shared the information from this chart (I am guilty as well!). Some authors added additional information based on even more informal or anecdotal information. We can now find reputable authors sharing these “scientific facts” with trusting readers.

– Read the Fill Article at Permaculturenews.org

Ok so there you have the findings of He could not locate research he felt could prove, scientifically, that dynamic accumulators actually work. But that still begs the question, “can all that anecdotal evidence really all be wrong?”.

The way I see it: biodiversity is always a good thing. Science has been known to confirm the long standing claims of anecdotal “facts” and just because it isn’t “scientifically proven” yet, it does not automatically mean that it is not true or as in this case, beneficial.

If the idea of dynamic accumulators and adding biodiversity to your space excites you, then go ahead and give it a bash. Why not? Just do your research and choose plants that are suitable for your environment and the plants you have already.

If you are interested in which plants are thought to be dynamic accumulators, here is a list from PermaWiki:

  • Arrowroot
  • Borage
  • Buckwheat
  • Carrot leaves
  • Chicory
  • Clovers
  • Comfrey
  • Daikon
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marigold
  • Mint-peppermint, spearmint
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Strawberry leaves
  • Yarrow

Till Next Time,

Happy Accumulating (or not)!

Shireen and Kathy

 

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