The concept of polyculture in agriculture has become significantly more popular over the past few years. Growing awareness of the harmful effects of fertilizers and a trend towards a more natural way of growing food has meant that the idea of polyculture has infiltrated not only farming techniques but also homegrown food growing.
Polyculture agriculture is a technique that encourages lots of different plant types to be grown together. This mimics the way they would naturally flourish outside a farming environment. What is interesting when this is applied to farming is that it can have significant positive effects on productivity.
When different species of compatible plants grow alongside each other, they reduce the need for fertilizer. Having differing plants thriving together means that a little ecosystem is created and this environment will self- regulate more than a monoculture. This means that there is more natural pest control and the soil is also more nutritious as the different plants require different levels of minerals and moisture from the soil.
Since the industrial revolution, monoculture became the trend in farming. This method of farming is perhaps the one we are most familiar with. Monoculture dictates that only one species will be planted together in a field and this species will then be tended according to its own specific requirements.
The problem with this is that it drains the soil of nutrients and pests are attracted to the crop in swathes as there are rich pickings to be had. In a polyculture farming environment, this is not the case. Different species, when compatible, protect each other and thus reducing pest and weed problems.
Technology has also supported polyculture.
Firstly, one of the challenges with this type of farming is harvesting different kinds of crops alongside each other. Advances in technology within machinery mean that this is now much simpler and quicker than it used to be but still not as rapid as harvesting monoculture.
Secondly, although a polyculture is more self-regulating in terms of moisture, technology can also yet further enhance the process. Using sensors to monitor moisture then, in turn, can work with irrigation systems to deliver the right amount of water at the right time in the right place. This leads to a better use of scarce water resources and an increase in profitability for the farmer.
Thirdly, weather tracking through satellites adds to the planning for polyculture crops. Just imagine if a farmer can accurately predict the weather, he/she can also plan to protect, water or harvest far more accurately. These advances in technology have led to better crop planning and the reduction in surprise weather changes means the yield from polyculture crops is ultimately greater.
Interest in polyculture has also infiltrated into home gardening. With many people seeking a more sustainable way of living and an expediential surge in eating homegrown produce, polyculture is becoming more and more popular even in domestic use.
This method affords a really good use of space as it allows for different crops to be planted together, pests and weeds are more controlled naturally and the product is of a better quality and taste.
If this article has inspired you to give polyculture a go, please visit this site for a wonderful array of examples you and your family can try in your very own garden, no matter how big or small.