In nature, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the key to the success of any natural system is diversity. Diversity adds complexity to the farm system lending it greater stability. There are economic and productivity benefits too.
The concept of polyculture should not be limited to plants only but extended to cover the whole farm. This way, one system’s wastes and by-products are another system’s inputs, or one system is comprised of more than one component which allows for efficient use of available resources.
An example of such integration is : rice-fish/prawn systems where the fish/prawn mature in the waterlogged fields and are harvested before the water drains away (making use of available resources). They have a symbiotic relationship with the main crop in two ways – manuring and pest control.
A larger and more permanent example of integration could be : annual crops + tree crops + dairy cows + honey bees.
The animals and tree crops are benefited by the honey bees (pollination); crop residues and tree prunings are useful as cattle feed, green leaf manure and in composts; the dung from the cattle is useful at the bio-gas plant, after which the slurry finds use in the fields as manure and in the compost heap. With so many benefits, one almost forgets that this farm also produces food grains, fruits, vegetables, firewood, timber, milk and honey!
There is no limit to the extent and diversity of integration possible on a farm, however large or small it may be. It is important to remember that nothing on the farm is waste or useless. Greater integration or diversity also calls for better management.
We offer training and advise farms on how to plan and integrate their operations and use their resources better. To know more, please read the sections on consultancy and training and specialised areas of consultancy and training.