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its_ean t1_j5a75oj wrote

Clickbait Title.

  • Not a discovery.
  • Not a fluke.
  • Ancient in origin, but still in use.

Planting more than one type of thing in the same field is an established practice with various benefits. Established, like, probably around the invention of agriculture established.


Cereal species mixtures: an ancient practice with potential for climate resilience. A review

>[…]the sowing of maslins, or cereal species mixtures, was formerly widespread in Eurasia and Northern Africa and continues to be employed by smallholder farmers in the Caucasus, Greek Islands, and the Horn of Africa, where they may represent a risk management strategy for climate variability.


techresearchpapers t1_j5anzrb wrote

Certain crops can have a symbiotic relationship, making a polyculture produce larger yields.

This is especially true for any plant with the ability to fix nitrogen using it's roots


RobfromHB t1_j5bc0jr wrote

Three sisters planting is not higher yielding than rotating the same crops on the same land and it is massively labor inefficient by modern standards. I wouldnt even recommend it at small scale.

Edit: Follow the science downvoters.


dontpet t1_j5bvffo wrote

Could you cite source for your claim? The wiki article included only a positive affirmation of the approach. "Food Yields and Nutrient Analyses of the Three Sisters: A Haudenosaunee Cropping System"


Busterlimes t1_j5ca6b9 wrote

I think it was MSU that did a study with field crops gaining water retention and nutrient retention by taking 10% of the farmland to grow indigenous plants and flowers. Monocultures are terrible and less efficient in the long run if you aren't looking at a pure profit motive.


RobfromHB t1_j5f1oqk wrote

We can prove it with some light math. 20 lbs protein per bushel and the average yield for top ~15 states is about 50 bushels per acre. Converting that to kg protein per ha: 20x2.2x50x2.5 = 5,500 kg of protein per hectare using straight soy. That's more that 10x higher than the research mentioned in that article. The main reason for their result is the horrendously low yield on their control group.


Aardark235 t1_j5ickug wrote

Divide by 2.2 instead of multiplying. Gives 1100 kg of protein per hectare. Article is off by a factor of two. Not surprising for this kind of “study”.


RobfromHB t1_j5jmxnb wrote

Shame on me. I'd like to blame being on a phone for that, but I'll eat it. Thanks for the correction and pointing out it's still reasonably higher.


Aardark235 t1_j5joo9j wrote

It happens. Root cause is the world (USA) should move on from pounds and switch to SI. I am so tired from the headaches these dual systems create.


footinmymouth t1_j5aea64 wrote

In other words, modern focused monocropping especially in grains is counter to previously learned farming practices that were more sustainable.


ubermeisters t1_j5ad1l0 wrote

any article in this subreddit that starts the word 'fluke' automatically is going on the "do not click" list for me. It's an unscientific term and to start out with it is an obvious giveaway to the clickbait intent.

> scientists hate these top 10 ways ancient people were better at graining than you


_smooth_talker_ t1_j5ae4x7 wrote

When people are pushing GMO mono-crops as the key to food stability I can’t help bit think that this is the real answer.

Obviously, this type of farming is not as easy to automate but most small farmers I know prefer this approach to the idea of driving over mono crops…

Our small organic co-ops manage to keep us fed but we’d need a whole lot more to meet the needs of the whole country.


TK-741 t1_j5cch0p wrote

The reality that “efficiency” isn’t as important as reducing the distance food travels from farm to table.

So really, we shouldn’t even be predominantly relying on centralized agriculture, but food grown in our own backyard/community.

That isn’t to say the farmland should therefore be developed into highways and cities, but that we can do more from within our cities than we are currently allowing ourselves to do.


sfzombie13 t1_j5h2hm8 wrote

having a general idea of how much wheat it takes to make a loaf of bread and how much bread i eat in a year tells me this is not possible given the size of most cities and the fact we eat more than just bread. it could supplement our diets, but never sustain us.


sciguy52 t1_j5dhlil wrote

Yeah I had read this article thought it was interesting and read some scientific publications regarding agriculture, especially large scale. First and foremost, polyculture is not new, in fact it has been studied quite a bit. For large scale ag it results in overall lower yields. They have tried this stuff in a variety of ways and so far, it does not work best. Where it might work better is small scale subsistence farmers from which this is based. And that was not due to better yields, it was better for getting SOME crop rather than NO crop when weather was not good. A very different thing. They may well figure out a system that works for large agriculture, but so far this just results in less production. Also learned some other interesting things that conflicts with posts below as well.


its_ean t1_j5duzsi wrote

At scale, crop price doesn't reflect the actual cost. It could be a net benefit to give up some production density / yield for stuff like improving resource efficiency, reducing polluted runoff, decreasing pesticide use, prolonging pesticide effectiveness, and even nutritional quality. Without subsidization though, the impact of increasing food prices is regressively disproportionate. Also, getting the industry to behave itself is a goddamn nightmare.


nastyn8dawg316 t1_j5afbsy wrote

Ummm so the three sisters then that native Americans planted?!?!


pretendperson1776 t1_j5aiywu wrote

Can it be useful with current farming equipment though? I wonder if adaptations can be made to the equipment.


matt05024 t1_j5bbsd7 wrote

Theres plenty of intercropping practices that could be adopted (doing an undergrad thesis on one)

As far as ones meant for automation, look into row intercropping (especially with trees), silvopasture, Cover cropping, or intercropping methods where the main cash crop and beneficial secondary plants are at different heights (like sunflowers with clover understory)


TheSunflowerSeeds t1_j5bbtse wrote

If there are no Bees around, or other pollinators, self-pollination is an option. It isn’t ideal for the gene pool, but the seeds in the center of the flower can do this in order to pollinate. So having the ability to be both male and female at least ensures greater survival of the sunflower.


pretendperson1776 t1_j5bgsne wrote

I'm crazy for clover. I wish it was used on public grounds more. Thank you for the suggestion, I'm looking forward to falling down that rabbit hole!


matt05024 t1_j5bh3c6 wrote

Honestly there are so many great practices that fall under the term "regenerative agriculture". Not all of them are fully scalable (like food forests) but they can work at a range of scales and all increase biodiversity and land health, reduce input costs and lead to better food


RobfromHB t1_j5bc6dd wrote

None of the species related to three sisters planting are relevant here. This article is about cereal grain variety and species mixing.


xPlus2Minus1 t1_j5bseni wrote

Did they just discover polyculture?


RobfromHB t1_j5bcieg wrote

TL;DR sometimes mixing two or more cereal crops can have benefits in various areas if stress conditions are at play and if those cereals have similar maturation times. Responses are highly dependent on locality and varieties.


Academic_Coyote_9741 t1_j5bxmka wrote

The click bait title is unfortunate because it's a really interesting study. TLDR: It's different to a polyculture, where species complimentarity is the aim. Basically, different cereal species and varieties are sown in a mix. They all have slightly different growing requirement/preferences, making the overall productivity of the system more stable in the face of seasonal climatic variability. Modern grain handling, and different end uses for species/varieties, makes such a system impractical. However, planting multiple pasture species is (or should be) standard practice for exactly this reason.


RobfromHB t1_j5f2n3r wrote

Surprisingly to many, this has been standard practice for many GMO seed mixes. BT corn bags often have a 5-10% content of other corn varieties to act as an attractor for pests. This gives, say cutworms, a habitat plant within the acreage and reduces the evolutionary pressure that would make them resistant to the BT toxin over time.


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EddieSpaghettiFarts t1_j5c2t9e wrote

Companion planting. I do it in my garden. It’s a good way to pack things in. Not sure how it would be accomplished with mechanized farming. There’s also no-till methods which help build healthy soil instead of letting it erode. Keeps the soil biology alive which in turn feeds the plants. Reduced fertilizer and water burden. There are a lot of various farming/gardening methods outside of the mainstream that work as well or better than buying fertilizer and pesticides and spraying it on everything.


Twisted_Cabbage t1_j5u4sqw wrote

Future headline...

"Both ancient crop techniques and genetic modification fail to match the fury of climate change induced heat domes and droughts"


mind_the_umlaut t1_j5b484w wrote

Oh, this headline isn't clickbait-y or anything. "How to repel a reader in three easy steps".


Anon_user666 t1_j5dpa6j wrote

I'm pretty sure the first time I saw this article the title was "Farmers Hate This Simple Trick".