Disadvantages of monoculture

Agriculture is the backbone of many economies around the world. It is sustained using various farming methods, and amongst them, is monoculture. However, it is not without its downfalls. The disadvantages of monoculture vary and they include destroying the soil’s nutrients, it sometimes needs a lot of water for irrigation purposes, it may result in the use of dangerous chemicals, in some cases, it destroys the degradation and erosion of the soil, it may pollute groundwater supplies, may alter ecosystems and sometimes uses excess fossil energy.

All these are some of the disadvantages of monoculture and what it can do to the environment and the soil. But it’s not all dull and gloom. Monoculture does have its upsides and this is the reason why it is still widely used around the world. In this article we take an in-depth look at the disadvantages of monoculture, but not without also exploring why it exists in the first place. 

What is monoculture?

Monoculture is an agricultural practice in which one type of crop or breeding one type of animal in one area.  If you have a maize farm, and you grow only maize on the same piece of land, continuously, this is an example of monoculture.

What are the benefits of monoculture?

Monoculture is practised worldwide because it has a few things going for it. Efficiency is one of the key benefits that you get from monoculture. Since each plant is purposefully planted, and cultivated with the conditions that are most suited for them, the yield is higher and better. 

Also, it is simple and easy to understand. You prepare the soil and provide the best conditions for one particular plant species. It makes preparation, planting, and harvesting easy because you know what to expect and also what to do. You also know what type of chemicals you ought to be used for the soil and the plants. 

The monotony of planting also makes harvesting simpler. Your budget for inputs is also reduced because you are dealing with one type of crop or animal and so there is no need to diversify. For farming, you will not need extra land, animals can be rotated on the same pieces of land for grazing purposes and other farming activities.

What are the disadvantages of monoculture?

It can damage the soils’ nutrients

Whilst monoculture has all these great advantages, there are also some disadvantages. Let’s take a look at those. Monoculture involves the farming of one crop or rearing animal at the same time. This means that you may run the risk of tiring the soil as well as the risk of destroying the nutrients that are in it. 

The soil is made up of certain nutrients and that is what makes some soil types better for particular types of farming, whilst other soil types are not. However, when you continue to demand the same nutrients from the soil, you do not give it time to replenish and come back to life. 

Using the land for one purpose diminishes the microorganism variety in the area. Crop diversity will give way to insect and soil micro biodiversity. Monoculture will also eliminate the presence of bacteria and certain nutrients in the soil, thereby reducing the soil’s integrity. 

It may cause you to have to use chemicals that will harm the environment

Now that the soil has been made void of some of the important nutrients, you will need to find a way to still have them present so that you are not losing out on your farms potential. However, to reintroduce these chemicals in the sand usually means using fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. These often contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. 

Also, the chemicals will seep into the ground, and there are high chances of polluting an underground stream this way. The chemicals used are not only dangerous for the environment, but they are also dangerous for people. The chemicals are still present on the plants that will later be eaten by people, and they can cause health complications. 

It may encourage the presence of pests. 

Pests can get accustomed to the plants in an area, and this may encourage them to multiply in numbers. The natural ecosystem in the soil gets affected by inorganic chemicals being overused. 

Simply put, pests will thrive when they find a constant supply of what they fed on. and as such, they will come out in their numbers. It’s like knowing where to get a good hamburger, and consistently eating there because you know that you will find it. In no time you’re telling your friends about the place. In the same way, the pests tell each other about a constant supply of food on your land, because you are farming the same thing. 

It creates pesticide resistance.

Monoculture also means that you may need to use pesticides to control the pests. However, after some time, herbicides and pesticides can become almost useless as the pests grow a resistance to them. Monoculture means that you are growing the same crop which usually means that you also have to use the same pesticides. After a while, the pests know what’s coming and they build a resistance.

It needs a lot of irrigation

Harvesting crops planted using monoculture means that you also remove the topsoil along with it. This in turn means that you are removing the soils way of retaining moisture. You will then need a way to constantly keep the land replenished and make sure that it has the water that it needs. 

It may contribute to climate change

You may think that you can handle the other ways in which monoculture can impact your farm or your life, but you have no way of fixing the damage it may do to the climate. Runoff of chemicals, from monoculture farms, can affect aquatic life immensely altering the climate. Agriculture has also been named as one of the biggest contributors to climate change. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ar4-wg3-chapter8-1.pdf

One last thing

A lot of the world’s economies, no longer wait for the natural seasons to dictate which crops to grow and where. More and more countries are finding ways to farm all year round, and instead, create conditions that are tailored to the particular crop that they want to farm. This is usually done so that they can capitalize on harvesting all year round and being more efficient. All at the cost of the soil’s health and the well-being of the climate.

Monoculture has its advantages and disadvantages. We recommend choosing an option that leaves a legacy for future generations.

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