About twelve thousand years ago, humans hit on a bright idea. Why not grow food in our backyards instead of having to go look for it every time our tummies grumble? It was a masterful stroke of conscious evolution, but hardly a new one. Leaf-cutter ants tapped into sustainable agriculture some 50 million years before us. These busy little beasts spend their days harvesting leaves and trucking them, one-by-one, down, in the ground, to get out, of the rain. Boom boom. But instead of eating the leaves, leaf-cutters masticate them into a thick fluffy paste, spit it into their special growrooms, and fertilize it with their own feces. Before long, the domesticated fungus they adore sprouts forth. These hard-working farmers even evolved fungicides to keep marauding non-edible mushrooms out. Humans farms are pretty fantastic too. Somehow, we manage to feed the vast bloom of global humanity (more or less). But our agricultural techniques require endless inputs: water from far away, petroleum-intensive fertilizers and pesticides that accumulate in our water, soil, and bodies. Meanwhile, the endless rows of identical corn and wheat are dangerously vulnerable to climate change, and glaringly obvious to insects that want to eat them. What can we learn from nature about sustainable farming? Find out in today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual!
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