The results indicated some remarkable success of this integration. I had almost no slug damage this past season, and the ducks proved to be remarkable foragers, eating significantly less grain than other poultry I've raised before.
I became intrigued also with the fact that a three way relationship was forming - a polyculture of a producer (sugar maple trees), consumer (ducks), and decomposer (mushrooms). An agricultural ecosystem was emerging!
I've started to explore the potential of these relationships in more detail, as illustrated below:
|click to see larger...|
While much simpler than a natural ecosystem, it benefits from some of the benefits resulting from inter-connectivity that are often major challenges in agriculture, including:
- economic incentive to manage forests for longer term yields (in this case, managing overstory trees for maple sugaring down the road while harvesting mushrooms/duck in the shorter term)
- balancing of pest populations (slugs)
- maintenance of intact fertility cycles (forest litter & organisms enhanced by foraging and fertilizing by ranging ducks)
- reduction of feed costs for poultry for meat production (ducks are more cold hardy, disease resistant and more efficient at utilizing feed vs. other poultry)
- buffering from extremes (forest ecosystems maintain more stable temperature, humidity, wind patterns, and are more drought tolerant)