Polyculture is one of the principles of permaculture that follows the practice of using multiple crops in a specific land. It includes intercropping, companion planting, multi-cropping, alley cropping, crop rotation, and beneficial weeds. This method can be used on a farm with crops or even just a simple organic garden.
Polyculture is the exact opposite of monoculture by which it only dedicates an agricultural land to grow a single crop. A wheatfield for example is monoculture while your organic garden is a polyculture.
Before this method was introduced in organic agriculture, most farming method used was monoculture. But the problem with this technique is that a farmer would need huge amount of land to accommodate each variety of crops. Aside from that, they would also need to use a more complex irrigation system to feed the crops.
In comparison with polyculture, it has a single space that has all the crops in one place which would need a smaller land and at the same time it is easier to water the crops following a cost-effective irrigation system. Meaning, it can produce higher yields and consume less water.
Polyculture make best use of the soil throughout the growing season whereas in monoculture the space on crops would stay idle for half the season at most. Plants can grow stronger if multiple crops are grown in soil. Studies revealed that crops planted near other varieties are able to fight off microorganisms faster than plants in monoculture land. With plants near each other, the immune systems for the plants also increase.
The root sizes and shapes of plants grown in the same land make full use of the soil than a monoculture would. The plants engage in a competition over the soil and that the roots of plants and vegetable can grow thicker trying to absorb as much soil as possible. This would allow the crops to grow more and generate a higher yield than a single crop can produce.
Planting a number of crop species in the same space can also avert the susceptibility of a single crop to disease. A study shows that growing multiple varieties of rice in a land can increase yield mainly because of the significant decrease in the occurrence of diseases. Crops grown through monoculture are at risk to diseases and infestation and needs an increased amount of pesticides which can harm the crops.
Polyculture also increases local biodiversity since planting different kinds of crops can provide habitat for more species. Biodiversity plays a vital role in sustaining the health of the environmental system. Areas with higher levels of biodiversity are able to adjust to changes such as climate, introduced species and diseases.
Polyculture is a more practical and economical way to raise farm products than monoculture. It provides a helpful contribution to a wide array of global problems and the answer to feeding the world’s huge population with the slightest ecological footprint. With the increase in diversity, it comes with a number of advantages. It is a model for lucrative, eco-friendly and sustainable development.