Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, providing crop diversity in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture. It includes multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping. It is the raising at the same time and place of more than one species of plant or animal. Polyculture is one of the principles of permaculture.
Polyculture, though it often requires more labor, has two main advantages over monoculture.
Polyculture reduces susceptibility to disease. For example, a study in China showed that planting several varieties of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%, largely because of a dramatic (94%) decrease in the incidence of disease, which made pesticides redundant.
Polyculture increases local biodiversity. This is one example of reconciliation ecology, or accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes. This may also form part of a biological pest control program.