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8064Re: The Native American Three Sisters

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  • Jeff
    Oct 2, 2008
      > My point, which you and Jeff may have missed, was that I doubt that
      > the underlying principle of the three sisters companionship is that
      > "a staple, oil seed, and legume" are included, as Jeff and the
      > Manitoba researchers consider. This possible principle is not
      > included under "The Scientific Foundations for Companion Planting",
      > and it doesn't convince me, as it doesn't seem to take notice of how
      things work in the field.

      While I generally agree with your assessment- that the success of the
      three sisters is more than likely a result of the particular 'field
      geometry'... (I'll concede that this is the major influence in yeilds)

      However, I have been doing a lot of reading on the subject of
      polycrops and polycultures for northern climates in the last week...
      and I have been summarizing what i consider the most succuessful of
      the trials and tribulations I've read...

      For example....
      in mexico and the arid southwest United states..
      the three sisters combination yields LER (Land efficiency ration)
      of 1.5 to 2.5
      where as the manitoba example listed is in the range of 1.2-1.4
      and typical polycrops (small strips instead of arranged) are on teh
      order of 1.1
      (LER= poly yield plant one/mono yield plant 1 + p yield p2/py2 etc)

      one really interesting note is that in the mexican (the best data set)
      examples, the corn yeilds are almost doubled, and the bean and squash
      yields are way down, (LER= 1.1-2.1 (corn) + .2 beans + .2 squash)
      so most of the LER advantage is the firtilization (and possibly
      moisture) effects of having a legume in the mix and no bare soil on
      the corn.. the beans and squash in this instance is considered a freebie..

      whereas in the other (northern) examples...
      each crop is reduced by 10-60%...
      but in a three crop rotation.... .4 + .4 + .4= 1.2 LER
      the biggest savings however according to an organic farmer in
      was the $20/ACRE savings in reduced fertilizer costs (manure and or
      compost), in addition to higher quality legume crop (field peas)

      apparently while the peas don't necessarily 'climb' the wheat and
      canola (rape), the sourounding crops do support it enough that the
      seed is cleaner and gets a higher premium price...
      apparently soil (dirt) is a common contaminent in field peas that
      reduces the selling price....

      I suspect the aim of the researchers (and indeed the organic farmer)
      was to look at the orginal three sisters as providing complete
      nutrition balance in terms of vegie oils, carbohydrates and complete
      amino acid protein profile.

      and providing this in one field....
      thus when the organic farmer feeds his (limited) hogs, he doesn't mix
      a bunch of different stuff (including synthetic aminos in conventional
      production) he feeds them what comes off the field...

      although he did say that storage time (shelf life)is dramatically
      reduced unless you process them an extra step to separate them...

      he found that generally it takes an LER of greater than 1.11 to break
      even with the extra labor...

      but I did allude to geometry as a factor when I mentioned some of the
      various oil crops like flax, seasame and sunflowers...

      and in a final note..... the link Bob gave is .. each of the three
      tribes evaluated included sunflowers on the north side as well...
      so perhpas its three sisters and a cousin??
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