Monoculture is the act of growing a single type of crop at a farm. Monoculture became popular after world war 2. This method of farming is often done over large tracts of land and is usually mechanized. Monoculture gained popularity because it offered a few advantages, such as; higher yields, simplicity of the process, efficiency and profitability to the farmer.
As the industrialization of agriculture took place profitable monoculture farms were set up. As the global food supply chains were being established companies rushed to set up more farms. Disadvantages of this form of farming were discovered over the years only after the establishment of hundreds of thousands of monoculture farms across the world. Unfortunately, the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.
Depletion of Nutrients
Each type of crop or plant needs certain nutrients from the soil to grow. The problem with monoculture is that large farms which plant the same crop year after year use up all the nutrients which that crop requires from the soil. This ends up spiraling into a negative cycle for most large farms.
Risk of Diseases & Infestations
While diseases and pests can affect any farm, monoculture farms are at a much higher risk of having large portions of their crop wiped out by diseases or pests in one go. This is because the infestation can hop from one plant to the next uninterrupted. Once a disease or an infestation is discovered farmers usually try to save their remaining healthy plants by destroying or in some cases burning parts of their crop to create a space between the infected plants and the healthy ones.
Use of Pesticides
Each plant or crop attracts a unique set of pests. Monoculture have a large uninterrupted supply of a single crop that bacteria and pests can feast on. To save their crop, farmers are forced to spray chemical pesticides across their fields. Reliance on chemical pesticides are expensive and they destroy the soil’s biodiversity. Pesticides kill the pests but they also kill other organisms that contribute to soil health, such as earthworms, arthropods, nematodes, fungi and healthy bacteria.
Soil Erosion & Degradation
Biodiversity and organic matter in the soil are what help keep it breathing, full of nutrients and in good health. Organic matter is what holds the upper layer of soil together. Destroying this layer of biodiversity on a farm leads to soil degradation and often causes soil erosion.
Contamination of Water Supply
Pesticides can also leech into the ground water and contaminate the entire water table, completely throwing off the natural ecosystem of the area. This can affect the entire region not only the farm that used pesticides in the first place. The long-term health of the entire area suffers.
Polyculture is a much healthier and safer option for farms in the medium to long term. It is a practice in which multiple crops are grown at the same time on a plot of land to try and replicate natural ecosystems. Some forms of polyculture are integrated agriculture, cover cropping, intercropping and permaculture. Polyculture ensures that nutrients in the soil aren’t depleted and pests and diseases don’t sweep across the entire farm in one go. They also help maintain a healthy biodiversity and mimic natural systems. Most importantly they are essential for soil health.
Monoculture farms face rising pest problems, pesticide use, soil degradation and reliance on fertilizers and external nutrients to rejuvenate their soil. Intelligently designed polyculture farms maintain organic matter and biodiversity which keeps the soil healthy and able to maintain nutrient rich crops year after year without relying on external pesticides and fertilizers. All our farms are built using the best polyculture based integrated farming models.