There are many reasons why polyculture is gaining a following in these days of corporate mega-farms, mono-crops, and the resultant Frankencrops— the genetically modified organism known as GMO.
Farmers used to till their fields and rotate their crops from harvest to harvest. For example, they would plant a nitrate vampire like corn one year and then rotate it with a nitrate miser like beans the next, thus reducing their dependence on synthetic fertilizers filled with way too much nitrate for yummy, or rather yucky, plant food.
This practice coupled with great diversification of plants throughout nature and natural selective breeding techniques reduced the risk of an insect or fungus infestation decimating the family’s food supply and livelihood. Only when intense mono-cropping started to gain popularity did we see the dangers of putting all your potatoes in one basket.
The Great Potato Famine between 1845-1852 was a result of just that. However in the case of Ireland, laws were forced upon the Irish Catholics for political reasons as they were sequestered to extremely barren soil where only the hardy cross-eyed Mr. Potato Head could grow, but the resultant exposure does not know economic or political barriers.
Fortunately, North America became their greener pasture and mass migration westward ensued, providing our continent with a rich influx of hard-working good people. Yay!…and green beer.
Today, farmers are still aware of the dangers of reducing the genetic pool but are doing so through artificial means. With the disappearance of the family farm and the proliferation of mega-farms, corporations focus on the bottom line which in the farming business equates to crop yield minus the costs of harvest. It is much easier and cheaper to process large fields of identical crops with the same equipment and fewer humans year in and year out than to rotate the crops, let alone create a symbiotic environment for them to grow through polyculture.
So what’s their solution?
Create GMO monsters with patented new releases every season (just like a flu shot…interesting) and contracts to sue farmers who dare keep seeds for their next harvest.
This time it’s corporations restricting the rights of farmers. That way the money just keeps on flowing under the guise of keeping ahead of the pests so that a mass crop collapse is “delayed”, not “avoided” because it is a game of Russian roulette— sooner or later the fatal bullet will hit.
Take corn for instance. There is an unnatural amount of corn growing all over the world and most of it comes from a very limited lineage.
We’re talking Hillbillies!
If the Cob Family didn’t visit the GMO dentist every year, the star of your summer corn roast would be missing a few kernels. She may look pretty on the outside, but she’s still inbred and a very poor dinner guest— she likes to dump crap inside your genes.
The lack of corn biodiversity puts more than fajitas at risk here. Pretty much EVERYTHING processed that you eat (I abstain from processed foods but do have the occasional non-GMO tortillas) has corn in it. Even what you don’t eat and where you would not expect to find it is riddled with corn pellets.
Check out this Forbes article for 12 such surprises.
So what are some sustainable solution?
Switch your foods to sources that don’t contain mono-crops and if you have a little backyard yourself, find a polyculture enthusiast to create and maintain both of your food supplies.
Oh! And strap on those sexy heels. What you’ll find is that Polygamy Rules!
What are other solutions can you think of on a grander scale?