[permaculture] Breeding plants in diverse communities may lead to more productive plants

mIEKAL aND qazingulaza at gmail.com
Wed Nov 12 11:47:57 EST 2014

for anyone on facebook there is this group that is pretty active, and
sometimes inspiring:

Plant Breeding For Permaculture


On Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 2:27 PM, Alia Tsang <alia at dietrick.org> wrote:
> This article was interesting (though I'm still working on digesting
> it). It suggests that the offspring of plants that have been growing
> in a diverse setting for generations (8 years in this experiment) are
> more productive (as measured by above ground biomass) than plants that
> have been growing for generations in monoculture. The probable
> mechanism is greater niche differentiation, or specialization, which
> reduces competition. The implications for plant breeding could be
> interesting to think about. Would experiments on intercropping, for
> example, show even greater benefits if the plant varieties tested were
> bred in an diverse ecosystem rather than monoculture? Are standard
> garden catalog variety seeds suitable genetics for permaculture?
> The study doesn't look at what's going on belowground, unfortunately.
> (And they used a really artificial agricultural soil + sand + perlite
> mix to test the plants on.)
> Article link and abstract below, I can send a PDF to anyone interested.
> Alia
> Selection for niche differentiation in plant communities increases
> biodiversity effects
> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v515/n7525/full/nature13869.html
> In experimental plant communities, relationships between biodiversity
> and ecosystem functioning have been found to strengthen over time1, 2,
> a fact often attributed to increased resource complementarity between
> species in mixtures3 and negative plant–soil feedbacks in
> monocultures4. Here we show that selection for niche differentiation
> between species can drive this increasing biodiversity effect. Growing
> 12 grassland species in test monocultures and mixtures, we found
> character displacement between species and increased biodiversity
> effects when plants had been selected over 8 years in species mixtures
> rather than in monocultures. When grown in mixtures, relative
> differences in height and specific leaf area between plant species
> selected in mixtures (mixture types) were greater than between species
> selected in monocultures (monoculture types). Furthermore, net
> biodiversity and complementarity effects1, 2 were greater in mixtures
> of mixture types than in mixtures of monoculture types. Our study
> demonstrates a novel mechanism for the increase in biodiversity
> effects: selection for increased niche differentiation through
> character displacement. Selection in diverse mixtures may therefore
> increase species coexistence and ecosystem functioning in natural
> communities and may also allow increased mixture yields in agriculture
> or forestry. However, loss of biodiversity and prolonged selection of
> crops in monoculture may compromise this potential for selection in
> the longer term.
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