GOAT logo

Join the conversation! The forum activity is now at GOATeach.org!  We are working to cross pollinate our conversations. Document and share tools at farm hack and talk at GOAT!  Also join GOAT riot and introduce yourself and your projects!

Another face of companion planting

Topic Type: 
Idea

Hi all, Companion planting strategies tend to be focused around one of two ideas. - The presence and cultivation of one plant creating conditions that benefit another - Inter-planting to maximize use of available resources There is a lot of literature on techniques to achieve one or both of these goals, and some these techniques are truly useful and effective. But what about inter-planting with a support crop, that physically nourishes your target crop? Sure you can kill off a cover crop that is planted with something else, but I'm talking about a host-parasite relationship, where there is a direct pathway of nutrients from one living plant to another. In theory this is possible via mycorrhizal fungi, and developing techniques to facilitate this could significantly benefit production. I've seen some evidence that such a relationship exists for sweet potatoes and okra, and I encourage anyone growing those crops to try inter-planting some, because the worst that is likely to happen is a slightly reduced okra yield versus planting separately. (There is an interesting article on this in the African Journal of Biotechnology, where they show this is a great technique for maximizing available resources) However, with the right AM fungi colonization, you will see little okra production but an unprecedented yield of sweet potatoes. This year I am doing an inter-cropping of sweet potatoes and okra on a much larger scale than last year, and I will try to maximize the effect of the mycorrhiza by replacing okra that perish. I will let you know how that goes this fall. I would love to hear from anyone who tries this as well. Also, I would encourage anyone experimenting with inter-cropping and/or inoculation to keep an eye out for possible plant-plant parasitic relationships, because they could be really useful. Below are links to the AJB article and a letter to Dr. Kristine Nichols at the Rodale Institute which describes the background for this hypothesis in more detail.

http://www.academicjournals.org/journal/AJB/article-abstract/CCEAFEA7129 https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dVEDrTcyZylrL9aQwU7GfhJm-M55Y2YBCWZ7Mug4XH8/edit?usp=sharing