Archaeobotanists have found evidence that the dawn of agriculture may have come with the domestication of fig trees in the Near East some 11,400 years ago, roughly a thousand years before such staples as wheat, barley, and legumes were domesticated in the region.
Early cultures practiced polyculture, using multiple crops in the same space.
The diversity of crops avoids the susceptibility of monocultures to disease. For example, a study in China reported in Nature 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.
The greater variety of crops provides habitat for more species, increasing local biodiversity. This is one example of Reconciliation Ecology, or accommodating biodiversity within human landscapes.
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