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 crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping.

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.

Polyculture is one of the principles of permaculture.

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