With the tech advancement, the agriculture industry has not been left behind either. The introduction of monoculture farming and monoculture crops has been revolutionizing the agriculture industry to meet future challenges. Honestly, the modern agriculture industry is a disputed topic, especially when we talk about complex genetic technologies taking over farming practices. As the global population keeps increasing, the food demands keep rising, and various farmers have started depending on monochrome farming to meet the future challenges of food demand.
According to farmers, monochrome gardening and monochrome farming are popular as a simple solutions for meeting the growing food demands. Since this new technology can directly influence our livelihood, it’s crucial to dig deeper into the concept. With this article, we are sharing all about monoculture farming along with the pros and cons!
What Is Monoculture Farming?
This agriculture technology revolves around growing only one specific crop at one time and within a particular area. The concept of monoculture farming implies not only plants and crops but also farm animals. That’s because some farm owners do breed only one animal species on a specific farm, ranging from cows to sheep and chicken to pigs.
Whenever monoculture crops are concerned, it’s essential to state that if a field grows a new culture on the same field the following year, it is still rendered as a monoculture. Some farmers confuse it with a polyculture system, which is about sowing and growing two or more plant species in a specific field. However, it will remain a monoculture system if farmers grow a different crop the following year.
Commercial farms use monoculture farming since farmers tend to grow only one plant or crop on a specific field for a year or two. The farmers can harvest the same plant for two years, but they have to rotate these crops the third year (yes, that’s necessary). Monoculture farming can also be defined as the continuous growing of the same seeds or crops throughout a year without any change.
At this point, we do want to tell you that monoculture farming is also known as continuous monoculture or monocropping. However, monoculture is not only concerned with crop cultivation but also with animal agriculture.
Advantages of Monoculture Farming
Higher Efficiency & Productivity
With monoculture farming, the utilization of climate conditions and soil is maximized and is made efficient. In the majority of cases, the farmers choose the crop that would suffice and survive the best in a specific locale. For the most part, monoculture farming poses the most positive impact on rice crops and wheat since these crops need a particular climate to grow.
If farmers have to implement monoculture farming on a broader scale, the crops and plants that can thrive and resist the severe weather conditions (yes, the extreme temperatures, severe winds, and droughts) are chosen and have become the focus. However, it’s important to state that traditional farmers need to implement a strict schedule of maintenance and planting, but it yields higher productivity.
New Arena for Upcoming Technologies
When it comes to growing monoculture crops, the farmers need to have access to additional financial resources and time to work on advanced technologies to improve agricultural productivity and performance. Some of these advanced technologies include drones, satellite-focused data, farm accounting software, and ground sensors.
In addition, satellite tools are the most efficient and innovative technology that can be utilized to monitor the fields (yes, even if they are complicated). In addition, it can help manage different phases of growing and sowing. That being said, the utilization of monoculture farming can open avenues for utilizing these advanced farming technologies.
When it comes down to commercial monoculture farming, it allows the farmers to focus on a specific crop because they tend to deal with similar problems and issues that can come out during the growth process of the crops. It can improve the profits while minimizing the costs since there is no need for additional machinery (unless you are working with a specific crop and its machinery needs).
In addition, when farmers sow one crop in the field, monitoring through satellite will be convenient. For the most part, satellite monitoring is dependent on ReCI, NDVI, NDRE, and MSAVI, and all of them are applicable at different stages of growth and development.
To begin with, some crops tend to yield better outcomes (cereals) whenever they are sown and grown through the implication of monoculture farming. That being said, these maximized yields are only possible by rotating the crops after every two years. Moreover, utilizing the EOS crop monitoring software will enhance the productivity maps for the identification of field plots with higher performance. In addition, these maps empower the farmers to plant seeds with higher precision, promising maximum yields.
When it comes down to cultivating monoculture crops, they are easy to manage compared to other farming techniques. This is primarily because fewer resources, knowledge, and efforts are required to plant one crop rather than change everything for different crops. For instance, there will be a reduced need for machinery to prepare the soil and implement pest control and irrigation.
With the growth of monoculture plants, the farmers experience higher profits. For instance, growing a single crop type suitable in specific climatic conditions allows the farmers to gain better crop yields, promising higher income for the farmers.
Disadvantages of Monoculture Farming
Management Of Pests
The farmers who stick to the monoculture farming technique tend to struggle with pest infestations on the crop field. The pests are extremely copious on the fields because they get only one crop type grown over every year. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that every pest and parasite has a favorite crop and if those crops keep growing in their proximity, the reproduction will increase.
Similarly, when it comes to protecting the fields from parasites, monoculture planting doesn’t boast plant diversity (it is available with polyculture farming). In addition, with polyculture farming, some unique plants are sown and grown for repelling the pests. That being said, there will be a natural barrier to pest infestation development on the field.
More Utilization Of Pesticides
The monoculture crops are always more vulnerable to pests and blight because these threats are likable to move quicker through the area because of lower biodiversity. As a result, the farmers will apply more herbicides and pesticides to protect the crops. As a result, these chemicals will get absorbed into the ground, which contaminates the groundwater and soil as well.
Secondly, monoculture farms are generally concentrated with pesticides, and some pests will develop resistance and survive these pesticides. Even more, this resistance is delivered to their offspring that will propagate the specific fields because they have a food source.
Loss Of Fertility & Degradation Of Soil
Monoculture farming impacts the soil’s natural balance because growing excessively, the same plants in the field will suck up all the nutrients. In addition, it will reduce the availability of microorganisms and bacteria (some of them are essential for maintaining the soil’s fertility). That being said, the production and growth of similar crops will negatively influence the soil structure. This is because growing one crop will result in moisture tapping, which ultimately results in soil erosion.
Higher Utilization Of Fertilizers
As we have already mentioned, growing the same crop repeatedly on a field leads to soil erosion, requiring more fertilizers. It is pretty evident that growing the same crop will exhaust soil resources and deplete them because there is no biodiversity. For this reason, the farmers are required to improve the fertility of such fields by using chemicals fertilizers.
Contrary to usual belief, artificial nutrients will adversely influence soil’s natural composition, damaging the ecosystem. Moreover, when the same crop is grown for too long on a specific field, more chemical fertilizers will be required because the soil will wear out with each passing year and deplete the nutrients faster.
More Water requirement
When only one crop or plant is harvested in a specific field, it’s essential to note that the root system of the plants won’t contribute to maintaining the structure of the soil. Consequently, it will result in water loss, which also leads to soil erosion. For the same reason, the soil around such crops will be barren of topsoil.
Keep in mind that it will result in a water retention imbalance. To cope with this issue, the farmers need to use more water, which will eventually dry up the water reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. In simpler words, the water resources will be overused, which can adversely impact the ecosystem.
When we talk about nature, it is known for biological diversity, which means the agricultural sector doesn’t have to be different. This is because when more bio species are available, the ecosystem will be more prosperous and more substantial. However, monoculture farming can adversely influence biological diversity. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that different animals, plants, and insects can help control plant diseases and pest proliferation. When this diversity is disturbed, it will cause issues in soil fertility.
The Effect On Pollinators
This is yet another lousy side of monoculture farming; it can adversely influence the natural reproduction of bees as well as other pollinators. The increasing utilization of herbicides and pesticides used for maintaining soil fertility and crop growth can damage the overall health of pollinators. Even more, it can kill those pollinators.
With the implication of monoculture farming, some plants are stretching for miles as far as you can see. As a result, the pollinators will receive only the same food territories, which results in nutritional deficiency because there will not be enough diversity in their diet. Moreover, it can lead to a deficit of bacteria that is positive for health. Not to forget, it can result in quick food deterioration, which leads to a food shortage for pollinators and bees.
With monoculture farming, the farmers tend to invest all their harvest in one crop. That being said, if there were a mistake in crop development, it would destroy the entire crop. In simpler words, if one plant is damaged, the entire field will be damaged, and farmers will end up losing income and resources of that specific season, so it’s not economically reliable.
Environmental Outcomes Of Monoculture Farming
Crops are responsible for feeding local communities or families. With monoculture farming, the crop and plant are grown and harvested for commercial purposes, which results in an abusive aspect of the whole process of using fields to grow the monoculture stuff. Even more, some farmers also utilize unsmart tactics with monoculture farming.
When the crop is reaped, it will need to be transported over farther distances to multiple destinations. In various cases, the selling markets are foreign countries, which increases the transportation and shipping costs. In addition, it will consume more gas and oil, which results in environmental pollution. Therefore, monoculture farming can also result in more carbon footprint.
Can We Reduce The Effects Of Monoculture Farming?
For the most part, the outcome of monoculture farming is dependent on the intensity, which is about extending the time period in which the same crops are grown on the same field. For instance, if one crop is grown on the field every year without adding diversity, it is the worst agricultural practice that negatively influences the ecosystem and soil. However, there are various ways to reduce the negative aspects of monoculture farming, inclusive of the following;
Using Crop Rotation
Even if you have to implement monoculture farming, you need to start sowing and growing different crops every year on the same field. That’s because it will reduce the influence on soil’s structure. In addition, it will interrupt the pest’s reproduction cycle, and soil will have more balanced nutrients. So, research some crop rotation techniques and implement them.
Smart Fertilizer Consumption
The application of chemical fertilizers on the monoculture fields is horrendous, which results in harm to ecosystems. With the latest technologies, you can smartly use the fertilizers because every acre has variating fertilizer needs. For instance, you can use AI drone crop monitoring technology that, with its zoning feature, promises streamlined and smart fertilizer application wherever needed (not everywhere). In addition, the farmers can create a vegetation map to determine the need for fertilizer according to crop growth.
Rational Use Of Pesticides & Herbicide
It’s pretty obvious that increased utilization of herbicides and pesticides will adversely impact the ecosystems and farmers. However, the negative impact of overusing these chemical products may be fixed by opting for rational use of the products. In addition, there are organic herbicides and pesticides available, which are less harmful to the environment.
Efficient Use Of Water
Water is a natural resource, and efficient utilization is crucial in the farming industry, particularly in monoculture farming. For this purpose, it is best to choose the field where water bodies are nearby because it reduces the need for water, and the soil will absorb runoff water, so you do not have to use additional water.
Is Monoculture Sustainable?
The short answer is no; monoculture farming is not sustainable because it has the capacity to damage the natural soil balance. That’s because planting the same crop in the same area will eat up the soil’s nutrients which also impacts the soil’s fertility. In addition, the crops that can work with monoculture farming are limited and causes reduced biodiversity. As a result, fertilizer pollution and pesticide use will increase.
Is Monoculture Bad For Soil Health?
Yes, monoculture farming is highly ineffective for soil health because it can diminish the soil’s nutrients, and the soil will eventually get less productive. Consequently, the soil’s organic matter will be reduced. Not to forget, it can disrupt the soil’s natural balance. In addition, this will rob the soil’s nutrients, and crops might not even grow properly.
Alternatives To Monoculture Farming
Polyculture is an agricultural practice where more than one crop species is grown in natural ecosystems. The approach is the complete opposite of monoculture and has become an extremely popular agricultural trick worldwide. It is known for its health and ecological benefits. Even more, there are different types of polyculture, such as permaculture, cover cropping, and intercropping.
Polyculture has the capacity to control weeds and pests, and there is no need for extra chemical usage. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that polyculture is a sustainable option. In the section below, we are sharing information about different practices associated with polyculture farming, such as;
- Intercropping – it is about growing more than two plants and crops in temporal and spatial overlaps. It is a highly beneficial practice with limited land, and legumes are the most common example.
- Cover Cropping – it is about growing crops along with other plants. To illustrate, legumes and grass are typical examples of cover cropping and are suitable for preventing the chances of soil erosion. In addition, it improves water retention and suppresses weeds.
- Strip Cropping – it is about growing different plants in interchanging rows. It doesn’t intermix different plant species but streamlines the nutrient cycling and reduces the chances of soil erosion.
There are different functions of polyculture, such as better disease control because it reduces the chances of plant diseases since lesser pesticides are used. Secondly, it helps with pest management because they are less predominant in such fields. Not to forget, polyculture helps with better weed management. To summarize, polyculture is extremely effective and sustainable!
Using Sewage Sludges
With this alternative, you have to use sewage sludge as a fertilizer for the crops. This is because sewage sludges have different human waste materials, which actually provide nutrients to the plants. Using sewage sludge improves circularity, and farmers can collaborate with cattle farms to source the waste material.
For instance, you can provide them with clover and grain and receive their manure. In addition, waste can be used to generate the power required to operate the machinery. Not to forget, it will successfully replace diesel (diesel can harm the environment).
The prime aim of farmers should be reducing raw material consumption because it can lower the agricultural impact on the current living niche. It will improve the earning power of the farmers while reducing the chances of toxic emissions into water, soil, and air. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that circular agriculture will improve biodiversity while making everything ecologically and economically efficient.
However, this circular agriculture has to become systematic because it has a different perspective regarding crop harvesting and growth.
Utilization Of Robots
While technology is advancing, robots are playing an essential role, and they can be designed to work on farms. The utilization of robots will eventually help with crop care, soil cultivation, and harvesting. Not to forget, it can improve weed removal while enhancing the sowing capacity.
AI Drones have become highly sought-after technology in various fields; it is time to start using drones for agricultural purposes. The drones can be integrated with artificial intelligence to outline the pests and diseases to ensure on-time spraying and weeding. However, all these functions have to be implemented in a few milliseconds, and 5G networks are required.
The Bottom Line
To sum up, monoculture farming isn’t the most ethical or sustainable approach towards farming and gardening, even though it may be the need of the hour to ensure the food safety of an ever-growing global population. Sure, there are some ways to reduce the adverse outcomes of monoculture farming, but the world will eventually need to shift to new yet more effective techniques to implement sustainable precision agricultural practices while simultaneously ensuring global food safety.