A Woody Perennial Polyculture (WPP) is an assemblage of plant species that aims to mimic the structure and function of natural ecosystems to sustainably produce an agricultural yield while simultaneously restoring ecosystem services. Rather than perpetuating the separation of nature and humans, this system attempts to break down the dichotomy between ecological restoration and agriculture.
This past week, the WPP Research Site had its first harvest of the year! As always, the red currants on the site started fruiting early and were the first to ripen up. All of the red currant plants on the site are a single uniform variety, leading to an amazingly synchronous ripening and the opportunity for us to harvest all the berries in just one morning with the help of our new student harvest crew. Despite the harvesting crew’s limited experience, the harvest went off without a hitch, resulting in about 200 pounds of red currants off of the diverse 2 acres in only the project’s third year!
Most of the currants will be juiced and turned into a variety value added products. These products range from sorbet and gelato to wine and jam. All products are intended to help determine what new ways currants can be used in the Midwest.
The raspberries and the black currants are racing to see which fruit ripens next. The black currants only fruit once per year, while the multiple raspberries will be harvested several times throughout the growing season. Along with the summer- and fall- bearing varieties, the site also has ever bearing raspberries that will continue to fruit all year.
The long-term research initiated here will study the agricultural and ecological characteristics of a WPP system in relation to the conventional corn-soybean rotation (CSR). Read more about how we're addressing this great need on our Research page.