Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping. It is the raising at the same time and place of more than one species of plant or animal.
Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has several advantages over monoculture:
- The diversity of crops avoids the susceptibility of monocultures to disease. For example, a study in China reported in Nature showed that planting several varieties of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%, largely because of a dramatic (94%) decrease in the incidence of disease, which made pesticides redundant.
- The greater variety of crops provides habitat for more species, increasing local biodiversity. This is one example of reconciliation ecology, or accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes. It is also a function of a biological pest control program.
Polyculture is one of the principles of permaculture.
- (August 17, 2000.) Genetic Diversity and Disease Control in Rice Nature 406, 718 - 722.
- Crop rotation and polyculture
- Polycultures in the Brazilian drylands
- Polyculture and disease prevention
- PolyCultures: Food Where We Live
- Integrated Polyculture Farming System