Recent years have brought spikes in the frequency of strange weather patterns and severe storms, with many blaming the increase on human-caused climate change. If this new normal, as it's being called, is here to stay, it will have profound implications on food production.
There are two basic ways that this threat to food production is being addressed. One is to develop new crops and agricultural methods tailored to withstand increased heat and water stresses. The other approach is to look to the past for solutions, at crops and techniques used in regions that have historically endured this kind of weather. A new book by agricultural ecologist Gary Paul Nabhan, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, is a comprehensive exploration of this latter approach
……Crop diversity is central to Nabhan's concept of agricultural resiliency. Diversity offers options in case some crops fail, while agricultural polycultures—diverse plantings in the same area—can offer increased yields over the same crops grown separately.
One classic polyculture of the desert Southwest, known as the "Three Sisters," consists of corn, squash and beans. It's possible there are other polycultures that could prove valuable as well. "Few seed catalogs explicitly tell us which heirloom varieties have been selected and adapted for inclusion in intercrops or polycultures. We must do our own on-farm description, selection, and evaluation of annual seed crops to determine how we can put the pieces of the puzzle back together into a functioning polyculture," Nabhan writes.……