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'Polycultures': Potentially Revolutionary Theory
Concept Being Tested at University of Texas

Landscape architecture students at the University of Texas, Arlington, plant a "polyculture" garden on a strip of open land near the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs.

Right now, it's only a theory, but University of Texas at Arlington landscape architecture professor David Hopman believes his concept could someday prove beneficial for the environment.

He calls it "polycultures" -- landscapes that combine different species of plants together, creating an optimal setting for them to thrive. His theory is that the plants in a polyculture use "timesharing" to exist and grow. This allows multiple species to coexist in the same spot because they're not in competition with the same resources at the same time, according to Hopman.

In simple terms, polycultures produce beneficial fungi and bacteria that can have a positive effect on the environment by increasing oxygen production. Polycultures can also attract a diverse insect species.

Hopman worked on his polyculture concept at the Botanical Research Institute in Fort Worth during a semester of faculty leave. Now, Hopman is testing his theory on a patch of ground on the University of Texas campus.

"Polyculture is a better system for the plants and a better system for the people who planted those plants," Hopman was quoted as saying in a recent University of Texas website article.


Landscape architecture professor David Hopman is the man who invented the theory of "Polycultures," a concept that could someday lead to smarter, cost effective and improved sustainable landscapes in urban settings.

"By selecting species with similar growing requirements and different growing seasons, we can maximize the use of space and the aesthetic impact of the plants under cultivation," Hopman said.

Hopman is using a $5,000 grant from the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs to purchase plants, compost and mulch for the strip of land on the UTA campus.

Nan Ellin, dean of the College of Architecture, was quoted in the same story as saying she expects that Hopman's research will lead to smarter, more cost-effective planting for sustainable urban communities.

"Just as the sharing economy is transforming business, so Professor Hopman's sharing ecology can transform the environment, improving both productive and ornamental landscapes," Ellin said. "The benefits of this research are substantial, especially given the rapid pace of development in North Texas and the resulting decrease of biodiversity," Ellin added.

Hopman joined UTA in 2004 and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. His research interests include critical regionalism and landscape aesthetics, the interpretation and design of regional ecological communities in complex cultural landscapes and computer visualization. Hopman designed and installed the first extensive green roof in North Central Texas in 2008. It was placed on top of the UTA Life Sciences Building. He was also a principal investigator for the U.S. Green Building Council's Sustainable Sites Initiative certification at UTA's Green at College Park. In 2012, the green space became one of the first three projects worldwide to receive Sustainable Sites certification.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs. It is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity.

Source: University of Texas Arlington

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October 17, 2019, 7:07 am PDT

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