A Community Of Plants Animals And Their Surroundings Is Called Monoculture Farming – Disadvantages And Negative Effects On The Environment

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Monoculture Farming – Disadvantages And Negative Effects On The Environment

The term monoculture in agriculture it refers to growing a single crop over a large area. Monoculture is the norm in most large-scale commercial agriculture in the US and many parts of the world. Monoculture has certain short-term benefits, mainly in terms of economies of scale and automation of the production process (and thus reduced labor costs). However, in the long run, the disadvantages of monoculture are great – this agricultural method has many negative effects on the environment, and moreover, these negative effects tend to be amplified in the long term. This article weighs the pros and cons of this kind of uniform approach to farming and shows some alternative practices that are more sustainable, both environmentally and economically, and therefore superior in all respects in the long run. .

The pros and cons of monoculture farming: what are its advantages?

It is immediately clear that I am not a fan or advocate of monoculture. But there are some straightforward and compelling reasons that people engage in this destructive practice. Before we talk about why this practice is so harmful, I find it fruitful to first consider its benefits or advantages.

The main advantage is the economy of scale, mainly through automation. Especially in the US, labor costs are very high, so anything that can reduce the use of labor in agriculture will most likely result in cost savings. This is often true even when automation reduces yield per acre. For example, if a crop is grown, it can often be harvested in different ways, with different levels of automation. Greater automation in harvesting can result in greater waste, such as grain left in fields, but if it requires less labor (such as a person driving a large machine that covers the ground very quickly, (compared to a few people driving smaller and slower machines, or many people harvesting by hand) may be superior in a cost-benefit analysis, even if it results in greater losses.

Disadvantages of monoculture farming:

The most compelling disadvantage of monoculture farming is that it is not adaptable. Wild ecosystems are diverse, and wild populations of plants and animals are also diverse. An ecosystem contains many different species, each with unique adaptations to its environment, and distinct strengths and weaknesses in response to changing conditions. Similarly, the natural population of a plant or animal species has genetic variability, and each individual plant or animal has slightly different traits. Furthermore, each population, and the ecosystem as a whole, is constantly changing, adapting to changing environmental conditions and conditions imposed by other populations and species in the system.

Monoculture mitigates this variability, destroying diversity and replacing it with, at best, a single species, and at worst (as is the norm in the US), a single cultivar—rows and rows of genetically engineered crops. identical, essentially cloned, reproduced through cuttings or genetically engineered seed stock.

Susceptibility to pests:

The ecological landscape of monoculture is that there is a massive range of genetically identical plants, against a background of wild pests, which include fungi, bacteria, insects and many other organisms. These pests each have a wild population with its own biodiversity, and their populations are constantly changing and adapting to be able to eat crops or take advantage of the presence of whatever crop is growing. Monoculture crops, however, do not change and are unable to adapt because they have no genetic variability and are not allowed to reproduce naturally. Plant pests, weeds, also adapt, planting in crop fields, taking advantage of the extra sunlight, since most monoculture crops pass abundant light and are not fully utilizing the sun’s energy.

The only way to control pests in this structure is to spend ever greater energy and resources on chemical control, either through spraying pesticides, fungicides or bactericides on crops, or through genetic engineering of crops to enable they produce these chemicals. themselves. But without natural adaptation, pests will eventually evolve to resist any of these defenses. The installation of monoculture is essentially doomed, as it works against the natural ways in which ecosystems function. It is completely unsustainable in the long run.

Negative environmental impacts of monoculture:

Because monoculture agriculture requires ever-increasing levels of chemical inputs, the negative impacts on the environment are also steadily increasing. Although people often prefer to use safer chemicals when they are available, and use them in as low a concentration as possible, any safe chemical will eventually stop working. Many of the chemicals used in commercial agriculture are known to be toxic and/or carcinogenic, or have other adverse effects on humans. But even chemicals that are safe for human consumption or exposure can have negative impacts on the environment; for example, sumac, a widely used herbicide, is much more toxic to amphibians than to humans.

Other negative effects of monoculture:

In addition to negative environmental effects, monoculture also destroys our culture. Monoculture and large-scale factory farming is largely responsible for or associated with the alienation of Americans from the practice of agriculture and the movement from an economy in which a large proportion of people were directly involved in agriculture to a society in which people they see food as an industrial product to be bought in a store, with little idea of ​​where it comes from.

Beyond monoculture: how you can help protect the environment, food and agriculture:

The empire of factory farming and large-scale monoculture is thankfully crumbling. You can do your part by learning more about gardening, experimenting with growing some of your own food, even if you have a small city yard, or even growing some indoors or on a porch or balcony if you don’t. a yard. You can also explore farmers’ markets with locally grown foods and encourage small-scale local production with diverse farming methods, using your money to support these farmers. As we return to diversified agriculture, we will become more connected to our food and help protect our environment as well.

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