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How Mono-culture Hurts The Soil And Why We Should Diversify


Permaculture (the development of agricultural ecosystems meant to be property and self-sufficient) agriculture promotes diversity. It seeks to maximize the amount of productive species of plant among a plot, not solely to supply the farmer  a various and spirited range of crops to harvested for the kitchen, however conjointly,  the eco-system is itself  powerful, with totally different plants playing different functions so all will thrive. Permaculture seeks to avoid any factor – be it a species of insect, a ground cowl plant or associate extreme weather event – turning into too important on a site, to the loss of the other valuable elements of the eco-system. Mono-culture on the other hand is growth of just one crop over and over again.

In contrast, much modern agricultural production is based on the opposite premise – cultivating monocultures. Think of vast fields of wheat or barley, plantations of a single species of fruit tree, or furrowed fields of a single vegetable crop. Modern commercial agriculture often seeks to increase yield – and so profits – by cultivating a single type of plant. The theory is that the farmer need only provide for the needs of a single species, with its individual characteristics, in order to grow a successful crop. And the economy of scale allowed by cultivating a single crop (by, for instance, requiring a single automated harvesting method) boosts profits for the farmer.

Contrary, a lot of current agricultural production is based on the alternative premise – cultivating monocultures. Consider big lands of wheat or barley, plantations of one species of flowering tree, or furrowed  fields of maize. Modern industrial agriculture usually seeks to extend yield – and then profits – by cultivating one kind of plant. The idea is that the farmer want solely give  the requirements of one species, with its individual characteristics, so as to grow a successful  crop. and also the economy of scale allowed by cultivating one crop (by, for example, requiring one automatic harvest method) boosts profits for the farmer.

However, mono-culture agriculture has important negative impacts, impacts that has to be mitigated if the ecological systems of the world aren’t to be irreversibly broken.

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Mono-culture Eliminates Biological Controls

The lack of diversity in a mono-culture system eliminates all the functions that nature provides to plants and the soil. It means that there is no range of insect species in a location to ensure that a single population does not get too large and damage too many plants. It means that there are no varieties of plant that naturally provide nutrients to the soil, such as nitrogen-fixing legumes, or ground cover crops that can be slashed and left to improve the nutrient content of the topsoil. It means that there are fewer species of microorganism and bacteria on the soil as there are fewer nutrients available for them to survive on, and it undermines the integrity of the soil by not having a variety of plants with different root depths.

More Synthetic Material Use

Having eliminated the natural checks and balances that a diverse ecosystem provides, mono-culture production has to find ways to replicate some of them in order to protect the crop (and the profits from it). This inevitably means the use of large quantities of synthetic herbicides, insecticides, bactericides and fertilizers.

In attempting to prevent damage to crops by weeds, insects and bacteria; and to provide sufficient nutrients in the soil for the plants to grow, farmers use synthetic chemicals. Not only do these chemicals leave traces on plants that are intended for human consumption and so can enter the food chain, they are also routinely over-used so that a large proportion of the synthetic material remains in the soil, even after the crop has been harvested. Because of its inorganic mature, this material is not processed into organic matter by microorganisms. Rather it leaches through the soil, eventually polluting groundwater supplies, having the knock-on effect of altering ecosystems that may be at great distance from the original location where the chemicals were used. For instance, inorganic fertilizer runoff has contributed greatly to algal blooms in oceans and lakes, the growth of which starves water bodies and the organisms that live in them, of oxygen.

Furthermore, such chemical substances kill indiscriminately, meaning that all manner of wildlife, beneficial insects and native plants are affected by their use, depleting the vibrancy and diversity of neighboring ecosystems as well.

Changing Organism Resistance

Nature is, however, adaptable, and organisms are evolving resistance to these artificial insecticides and herbicides. Of course, the farmers want to continue to protect their crops, so new inorganic methods are continually being developed to combat the ‘threat’. More and more chemicals are being applied to monoculture crops and, in turn, affecting natural ecosystems detrimentally.

Soil Degradation

Besides the negative impact the overuse of chemical fertilizers has on the soil, mono-cultures are detrimental to soil health in other ways. Ground cover crops are eliminated, meaning there is no natural protection for the soil from erosion by wind and rain. No plants provide leaf litter mulch to replenish the topsoil, which would be eroded anyway. All of this combines to continually degrade the soil, often meaning that it becomes useable for agriculture. In some countries this means that forests are then cleared to provide new agricultural land, starting the damaging cycle all over again.

Water Use

With no ground cover plants to help improve moisture retention in the soil, and the tendency for land planted with a mono-culture to lack topsoil, which serves to increase rain runoff, modern mono-culture agriculture requires huge amounts of water to irrigate the crops. This means water is being pumped from lakes, rivers and reservoirs at great rates, depleting this natural resource and affecting those aquatic ecosystems. This is on top of the pollution of water sources by agricultural chemicals.

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Fossil Fuels

Due to their scale, many modern mono-culture farms are more akin to factories than traditional farms. Harvesting is generally performed by machines while, because the crop is intended for sale beyond the local area – sometimes nationally or even internationally – it requires large inputs of energy to sort, pack and transport it. These functions – along with the manufacture of packaging itself – use fossil fuel energy. In combination with the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the industrialized mode of food production is a major contributor to climate change. It is also an incredibly inefficient way of using energy to produce food, taking an estimated 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce just a single calorie of food energy.

At its simplest level, mono-culture agriculture means a system that works against nature. Permaculture, however, seeks to work in harmony with nature. By putting permaculture practices in place, we can help to combat the harmful effects modern mono-culture agriculture has on the planet.

At its simplest level, mono-culture farming suggests a system that works against nature. Permaculture, on the other hand seeks to figure harmonic with nature. By golf stroke permaculture practices, we are able to combat the harmful effects of modern mono-culture agriculture has on the world.

Rift valley farmers in Kenya should start diversifying if the ecosystem of this world will be maintained.