Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from minimal labor.
Monoculture- Industrial agriculture derives its profits from economies of scale that is achieved through practicing monoculture. Monoculture is the procedure of growing a single crop year after year. It reduces the production costs significantly and thus help the farmer to earn a higher share of profit.
It is well known that cultivated plants grown in genetically homogenous monocultures do not possess the necessary ecological defense mechanisms to tolerate the impact of outbreaking pest populations. Modern agriculturists have selected crops for high yields and high palatability, making them more susceptible to pests by sacrificing natural resistance for productivity.
The need to subsidize monocultures requires increases in the use of pesticides and fertilizers, but the efficiency of use of applied inputs is decreasing and crop yields in most key crops are leveling off. In some places, yields are actually in decline. There are different opinions as to the underlying causes of this phenomenon. Some believe that yields are leveling off because the maximum yield potential of current varieties is being approached, and therefore genetic engineering must be applied to the task of redesigning crop. Agroecologists, on the other hand, believe that the leveling off is because of the steady erosion of the productive base of agriculture through unsustainable practices
The technologies allowing the shift toward monoculture were mechanization, the improvement of crop varieties, and the development of agrochemicals to fertilize crops and control weeds and pests. Government commodity policies these past several decades encouraged the acceptance and utilization of these technologies. As a result, farms today are fewer, larger, more specialized and more capital intensive.
Colin Tudge, who established the Oxford Real Farming Conference, said small mixed farms are being replaced by "ultra-commercial monocultures".
The chairman of the 66th main event, Cedric Porter, said small-scale agriculture played its part.
But, Mr Porter said: "We do operate in a world... of large-scale production."
Polyculture is an agricultural technique, commonly practiced by Native Americans from both the East and West, utilizing a single hill of land to plant multiple species. Referred to as the "Three Sisters" model, a traditional polyculture hill contains corn, beans, and squash or pumpkin. Although not planted in the same hill, sunflowers were considered the fourth sister. The method of planting in polyculture is commonly practiced in Asia and South America today, and was practiced by Native Americans in the United States during the early 19th century.
According to Dr. Vandana Shiva, humans evolved by eating about 8,500 species of plants and today we eat about 300. Among these, various kinds of grains formed a large part of our diet. In India, millets have formed the core of the everyday diet for millenia. However after the Green Revolution, subsidies for wheat and rice, and the food distribution system millets are slowly dying out.
Winter tomatoes are grown as a chemically dependent monoculture in Florida, picked green and then gassed into a state of ripeness. Part of the difficulty is that not all green tomatoes are the same: One picked close to redness will gas-ripen into something palatable. One that is younger won’t.
Historically, the explanations for the yield decline with crop monoculture have fallen into three groups: a) growing the same crop species in the same soil year after year leads selectively to a deficiency in one or more plant nutrients not limiting to other crop species; b) the crop plant builds up a toxicity to itself; and c) growing the same crop species in the same soil year after year enriches for soilborne pathogens of the roots of that crop.
For high-value fruit and vegetable crops, yields are maintained with monoculture using soil fumigation or soil solarization. Soils can also be sanitized by flooding, which may account for the success of paddy rice monocultures.