Here is a great excerpt from an article on sustainability. Check it out and then you can read the full article at the link given at bottom of this post.
Multi-species Systems – the Wave of the Future?
Agroecologists are increasingly convinced that research should focus on the synergies inherent in multi-species systems. These new production strategies will evolve out of an ecological – in contrast with a technological – paradigm. Instead of using one-dimensional, single-tactic approaches to solving production problems – an approach that requires farmers to continually buy new technologies to solve evolving production problems – this approach will redesign natural systems that are more self-regulatory and synergistic and that are far less likely to have negative environmental impacts.
One example is the integrated duck/rice system developed by Takao Furuno, a farmer in southern Japan. Instead of producing rice in a monoculture dependent on fertilizers and pesticides to achieve acceptable yields, Furuno developed an elegant, complex, species-interdependent system that has increased his rice yields while producing a full range of other food products, without relying on any exogenous crop inputs.
Right after Furuno sets his rice seedlings out into his flooded rice paddies, he puts a gaggle of young ducklings into the paddies. The ducklings immediately start to feed on insects that normally attack young rice plants. Furuno also introduces loaches, a variety of fish that is easily cultivated and good to eat, and azolla, which conventional rice farmers consider a weed.
The ducks feed on the insects and later on the golden snails that also attack rice plants. Both ducks and fish eat the azolla, keeping it under control so it does not compete with the growing rice. The azolla adds nitrogen and, along with the droppings from the ducks and fish, provides all of the nutrients needed for the rice.
Furuno grows figs on the periphery of his rice paddies. He rotates his integrated rice/duck crop with a crop of vegetables and wheat. He harvests duck eggs, which he markets along with the rice, fish, duck meat, vegetables, wheat, and figs.
Furuno’s rice yields in this system exceed the yields of industrial rice systems by 20 to 50 percent. This natural systems design makes Takao Furuno’s six-acre farm one of the most productive in the world. Farmers in many regions of the rice-growing world are now adopting this system.
The concept, Furuno writes, “is to produce a variety of products within a limited space to achieve maximum overall productivity. But this does not consist of merely assembling all of the components; it consists of allowing all components to influence each other positively in a relationship of symbiotic production.” (The Power of Duck, 2001)
Meanwhile, consumer demand continues to grow for sustainably produced foods. Farmers, processors, and retailers now have many opportunities to cooperate in developing new food systems that reward farmers for sustainable farming practices.
TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE GO TO: A Brief History of Sustainable Agriculture – March 2004