Most agronomists look to their laboratories, greenhouses or research farms for innovative new cropping techniques. But Jane Mt. Pleasant, professor of horticulture and director of the American Indian Program at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., has taken a different path, mining her Iroquois heritage for planting and cultivation methods that work for todays farmers.
Mt. Pleasant studies what traditionally are known as the "three sisters": beans, corn and squash. These staples of Iroquois cropping are traditionally grown together on a single plot, mimicking natural systems in what agronomists call a polyculture. Though the Iroquois technique was not developed scientifically, Mt. Pleasant notes that it is "agronomically sound." The three sisters cropping system embodies all the things needed to make crops grow in the Northeast, she says.
She presented her work today (Feb. 15) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle. The talk, "Polycultural Cropping Systems From an Indigenous Perspective: Using Iroquois Worldview to Understand the Three Sisters," was part of a symposium on research methods in native science. This is the second year that such a symposium has been held at the AAAS.
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