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"Polyculture 20"

Posts: 111
Location: Reno, NV
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On a podcast review of Sepp's book, Paul mentions 'petroleum free' and 'polyculture 20' (or polyculture 'x number of species') as marketing labels to relate the increased quality of the food. This following or related to a rant about the industrial food system breeding for quantity rather than quality.

I'm interested in trialing this and comparing results and methods and guild mixes with other folks on the forum. here's a flick from last years swale food forest development, not sure it will work since it's from facebook.

at least collards, peach, red orach, millet, hairy vetch, clover, strawberry, asparagus, comfrey, lovage, onion, siberian pea shrub, pygmy pea shrub, gooseberry, raspberry, amur maackia, autumn olive, buckwheat, clover, austrian winter pea, black mustard, lettuce, cilantro, and dill. I'm hoping to get more edibles in this year, but still need the support species to develop the desert sand. this is currently irrigated as it is the first year of planting.

Recently I saw research that demonstrated that a diversity of 8 species of covercrop was the minimum to get high levels of soil organic matter development.

a mix of at least 3 of the following categories...
1. cool season grass
2. cool season forbes
3. cool season legumes
4. warm season grasses
5. warm season forbes
6. warm season legumes

seems like a neat system for prioritizing diversity in polyculture guilds.

I will try and find the primary reference and post it here.

any other great polyculture experiences?

suggestions for experiments, etc?
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Posts: 28890
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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I'm curious as to why you would intentionally add grass.
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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I add grasses to my polyculture in the form of perennial bunch grasses for chop and drop mulch as well as nutrient accumulation. I also add grass in the form of grains, old world barley and wheat.

Right now I have an area that is polyculture 35. It includes grains, legumes, fruits, berries, a few fruit trees, veggies, herbs and more.

The coolest benefit is gopher control, the whole patch is riddled with gopher tunnels, yet no plants are lost to them. They have turned some previously hard and poor draining soil to some pretty fertile stuff.
neil bertrando
Posts: 111
Location: Reno, NV
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paul wheaton wrote:I'm curious as to why you would intentionally add grass.

good question Paul.

my reasons are:
1. As far as I can tell, grass is going to grow where I am. both native plant observation and 'weedy' species suggest this to me.
2. I would like to have food grasses and native bunch grass to supply animal forage rather than cheat grass and foxtail barley (trying to replace this with grain barley)
3. In particular, grasses like garlic, onion, and other bulbs are a consistent, easy crops for the high desert
4. reason for grasses as cover crop: different rooting pattern and depth, different canopy structure, grasses are carbon highways from sun/air to soil so they build OM in the soil rapidly

things i've noticed to be careful of and am now working to remedy:
1. only seed with a small % grass seed since they can take over
2. minimize grasses where annual vegetables are an intensive part of the polyculture
3. make sure to chop n drop grasses that aren't specifically for seed or crop harvest: this pulsing is important for soil generation and can be done by paddock shift too.

I'd love to hear reasons not to add grasses and how it changes the ecology
Posts: 698
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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I know this is an old thread but I think it's a great idea.

You could add a barcode on the label like the one I attached.

It would contain the names of the plants that have grown in conjunction with this product, so people can use their smart phone to find out more info about the polyculture the product was grown in.

BTW, if you want to fool around with this, you can go here to generate the bar code:

and here to decode it:
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