Permaculture aims to model agricultural systems on natural ecosystems. However, one thing I haven't heard talked about is mimicking the evolutionary processes in natural ecosystems. I'm sure many permaculturalists are avid seed savers and even plant breeders, but is anyone attempting to model this after a real ecosystem? For instance, co-evolution is common in natural ecosystems and provides the basis for symbiotic relationships, which greatly increase the resiliance of the system. Has anyone ever attempted co-breading to develop new crop varieties that have symbiotic relationships with each other? I'm not even sure if this is possible or what it would look like. Possibly plant breeding work could be done from a set of plants growing together in a polyculture and through this breeding work new and beneficial symbiotic relationships may develop in the polyculture over the generations.
Also, fruit, nut and other tree crops are very popular among permaculturalists. However, many of these are grown from grafting/cuttings, which greatly reduces the genetic diversity and also eliminates the ability for the plants to evolve new defenses to pests. Is there anyone that is working toward completely seed grown food forests or orchards? I could imagine these being seeded densely, and then thinned to the best trees. As these trees are coming to the end of their lives, new seeds would be started under the existing canopy and be timed to grow into a productive state as the old trees were cut down. The new trees would again be planted densely and thinned to the best ones. I can imagine there would be problems with many species not breeding true, but I would think one could find a set of fruits and nuts to develop an all seed grown food forest from.
Hi Barefoot Good question, I believe what you are talking about is microbiology, taking the DNA from different plant species, combining and producing something new. Sometimes called Franken foods when they start splicing plant and animal DNA. The classic example is splicing jellyfish and monkey DNA to get a so called glow in the dark monkey.
Microbiologist have the same goal as most gardener or farmer, who want to improve the traits of any species of plant or animal. Traits that breeders have tried to incorporate into crop plants in the last 100 years include: 1. Increased quality and yield of the crop 2. Increased tolerance of environmental pressures (salinity, extreme temperature, drought) 3. Resistance to viruses, fungi and bacteria 4. Increased tolerance to insect pests 5. Increased tolerance of herbicides Microbiology requires expensive equipment and years of study that most home gardeners can ill afford. Instead I would suggest you take a trip to Santa Rosa Ca. And visit the Luther Burbank home and garden. Very inspiring for those of us that are not real scientists, but are interested in growing free and tasty fruit trees for our yards. It usually takes many years for a seed germinated fruit tree to mature, enough to start producing fruit. Most gardeners don’t want to invest years of time on a tree, whose fruit is only suited for the pigs. So Luther discovered a way of fooling a year old seed tree start into thinking it was older. Luther Burbank first selected and planted a number of fruit bearing aged trees that he planned to study. This gave him an outdoor laboratory to work. He didn’t need a tree for every variety of fruit tree, but only a select group that he could graft too. Pears and apples can be grafted on to each other and peaches, cherries, plums, almonds, and apricots can be grafted on to one another. Each Fall he would plant thousands of fruit seeds; he selected the healthiest new starts and would graft them on to his laboratory trees the next spring. Anything that was accepted by the mother tree was kept and any developing fruit was removed so that all the energy went into graft growth. The second year the grafts were strong enough to support fruit production. In the Fall the fruit from each graft was tasted and marked and recorded. Ill tasting fruit grafts weres cut off and mulched. Promising fruit trees were kept and sections of these grafts would be put on root stock the next year. The average gardener can visit their local Farmers market, select fruits they enjoy, collect and plant the seeds. Then graft them on to an older tree. It would be interesting to see if this method can be used in reverse, can an old fruit tree scion be grafted to new seedling starts. We would have to do an experiment to see if this is true, before we start spreading this thought as the gospel truth.