Harvest Season

Look: Pocket gophers farm like humans in one surprising way

But they’re not the only animals that know how to cultivate.

Veronica Selden

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So it might come as a surprise that some animals can also cultivate crops.

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Researchers recently discovered that a common mammal — one that can be a menace to human farmers — might have a habit of growing its own food, too.

Veronica Selden

Writing this week in the journal Current Biology, researchers explain that common pocket gophers cultivate food sources underground in a way similar to human agriculture.

Norm Douglas

But instead of destroying all the roots in their path, the gophers fertilize the ground with their poops, leading to better growing conditions.

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When the researchers removed gophers from their tunnels for up to 44 days, they saw that the number of roots growing within their tunnels declined.


Current Biology/Selden et al

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“If farming requires that crops be planted, then gophers don’t qualify,” explains study co-author Francis E. Putz in a press release.

“But this seems like a far too narrow definition for anyone with a more horticultural perspective in which crops are carefully managed — such as fruit trees in forests — but not necessarily planted.”

Veronica Selden