The picture above is taken from a mountain in the Philippines when we were hiking. As you can see, the once diverse natural forest has just become a coconut plantation.
In today’s modern world we want to clone everything and make everything the same. I believe this way of thinking comes from the mass production of industrialization where factories put out the same product one after another.
We want grafted trees that are the same as the mother tree; cloned bananas; chickens that all lay the same colored and same-sized eggs; vegetables that remain the same color and size with every seed. But god forbid we have some diversity. What a horror if we become surprised by something we did not expect.
Imagine if you look up at the night sky… And every star is the exact same brightness and all stars are perfectly lined up in rows equally distanced from each other.
How quickly would you become bored of that? That’s what modern farming is.
Imagine if you can see only 1 color your whole life, imagine if everyone wears the exact same clothing. Imagine if there was only 1 genre of music only… That is what loss of biodiversity looks like.
There are around 1000+ varieties of squash and pumpkin. Over 100 varieties of potato.
2000+ varieties of peppers. Hundreds of different kinds of beans, carrots, cucumbers, and eggplants.
And yet the local supermarket only sells 1 type of squash, 1 type of potato, 1 type of carrots, 4 types of peppers (if you are lucky), and 1 type of cucumbers.
Seed saving is riddled with a narrow doctrine of genetic purity. Like it is against the law to save seeds from an “unwanted” cultivar. But the way we save seeds and choose what plants to propagate is entirely done by unnatural egoist human desires. The worst of this is that genetic purity slows down evolution and hinders the flow of genes.
And hindering the free flow of genes will make it significantly less likely for immunity to diseases to develop in new generations of crops.
On Jihatsu Eco Farm I am doing the very opposite of the common seed saving doctrine. I save seeds from hybrid vegetables and replant them. I plant fruit trees from seeds. And I mix up different cultivars of vegetables and save seeds from them. For example planting long purple eggplants, short green eggplants, and tiny egg-like eggplants all next to each other and save seeds from them. I plant sweet yellow corn next to white corn and save those seeds. Before planting I mix up all the seeds from vegetables so that I no longer know which variety is which.
Farmers plant their fields with monocultures, not only monocultures of 1 species but even monocultures of only 1 variety of that species. This type of planting has resulted in huge famines causing havoc on entire countries throughout history. Some even say that monocropping is the main cause behind farmer suicides in Southeast Asia, and the main cause behind large fungal epidemics in crops.
For example one of the reasons for the Irish potato famine was caused by the planting of monoculture potatoes with only 1 variety of potatoes. When fungal diseases like potato blight spread through the potato crops it wiped out everything. On the contrary, in Peru people plant sometimes up to 20 or even 100 different varieties of potatoes in their small fields.
If a fungal disease would spread through such a field the crop loss would only be 5% to 20% and the rest of the potatoes would become more resistant to such diseases through reproduction.
Some tribes in Brazil grow up to 20 to even 50 different pepper varieties, while tribes in the Philippines grow up to 25 different varieties of banana in a single plot.
In the 19th and 20th century the US forests were threatened by a fungal infection called Pine Rust. The US government tried cutting down many diseased trees to save the forest and sprayed fungicides and newspapers were full of articles that the forests would become extinct because of this “evil” fungus. In the end, the efforts of the government were not effective, the disease spread to many forests.
But actually, the damage in the worst affected areas was only 40%. Then in the 21st century, the disease became less and less and the forests recovered. This restoration is attributed to the genetic diversity of the pine trees with the pine trees most resistant to the disease surviving and reproducing to grow stronger.
If the genetic diversity was low and tall pine trees were of the same variety as a monoculture then the damage might have been 100%. This would not only make the pine trees extinct but also the fungus that is causing the damage would go extinct. So by having greater biodiversity both the pine trees survive and the Pine Rust disease can survive too.
The Pine Rust fungus will continue to evolve and try to infect their hosts, while at the same time the Pine trees will keep evolving to resist the disease. This is the beauty of evolution.
Monocultures do not exist in nature, it is a completely human-made invention.
Even at what seems like a monoculture from a distance in nature is actually a polyculture up close.
For example, on Our Farm, there is a huge section where it seems like one vine has completely covered the area.
From a distance, you can only see this one vine and it looks like a monoculture, but when you inspect the area up close at least 5 different weeds are growing between the vines.