Guilds are highly important, not only in Permaculture but in any kind of food production scenario. Something we’re missing in today’s agriculture where the common practice is Monocropping.
Essentially, if we look how Nature does things, we can see that there is always bio-diversity of species growing together. Many of those support each other in many ways.
Some plants accumulate nutrients, some fix the nitrogen into the soil and make it available for other to use, some repell damaging insects while other attract the good ones, like pollinators. Some will cover the ground and suppress the grass and weeds.
As an example:
An Apple tree in an orchard, where only apple trees are found is often sprayed with all sort of herbicides, fungacides and more to stop pests and disseases.
One thing is that the varieties grown today are prone to those disseases as they are genetically weak plants selected for their size, quick growth, appealing look of the fruit etc.
Another thing is that if we decrease or literally destroy the biodiversity in an area it damages the whole system. Where previously we had predatory pests, ladybugs, myriad of bird species, frogs, wild geese or ducks, that would feed on the pests that could damage our crop, now we have a monoculture field with no biodiversity that would work together to keep everything in balance.
What we have though is the high concentration on pests that feed on our apple trees, free to roam in our orchard.
If we plant Garlic (or chives or any of the Alium family) next to our apple tree. It will detter rabbits, deer, pest insects, it will strenghten the immunity of the tree against some fungal disseases and provide additional crop. Daffodils would also be beneficial for their deer and rabbit repelling qualities.
Nasturtiums would also be beneficial as a plant that repell damaging insects. And yes, they are edible.
Dill and Fennel will attract beneficial insects, while Comfrey will suppress the grass and provide amazing nitrogen rich mulch.
Planting Yarrow will help an apple tree greatly while planting a Beans or Peas will fix the nitrogen into the soil.
Guilds are very important, and we better start realizing that before it’s too late.
We can’t claim to go into direction of sustainability while destroying biodiversity and praising the value of GMO’s, peticides and other damaging crap that only us, Humans, an unintelligent and blind species could come up with…