Monoculture: definition, disadvantages and better alternatives

Monocultures are common because this kind of production allows for effective field cultivation. People, as well as animals and the environment, are affected.

Environmentalists have long condemned monocultures. Many farmers, however, are reliant on the growing method since they would otherwise be unable to make a living.

Monocultures are areas where just one variety of plant is grown for a number of years. Agriculture (e.g. maize) and forestry both have monocultures (e.g. spruce).

Monocultures are commonly used by farmers because they would otherwise have to purchase multiple harvesting machines for each crops. Furthermore, they can focus on the plant that grows best in the area, rather than the second and third best. Furthermore, they can profitably market a larger harvest than tiny numbers. However, there are a number of drawbacks to this form of production.

“Monocultures can be managed effectively, but they are not sustainable,” a research from the University of Zurich concluded.

Monocultures only consume one side of the soil’s nutrients. There will soon be too little of one material and too much of another.
Because a soil nutrient is quickly depleted, the farmer must fertilise heavily. However, if he uses too much fertiliser, he endangers both the soil and the groundwater.
Pests are more attracted to monocultures. As a result, farmers are becoming increasingly reliant on pesticides and herbicides.
Monoculture fields are more prone to soil erosion and require more ploughing.
Many animals are unable to obtain food in fields that have only one side sown.
Monocultures are typically employed for either biomass production (on the plate rather than in the tank) or international food production (read: Why shopping regionally is worthwhile ).
Monocultures, which drastically restrict bee habitat and food diversity, can also be blamed for some of the bee deaths.
The University of Zurich’s research team concluded in 2014 that plants growing in communities with other plants produce more than monocultures ( study ). Switzerland’s experts were also able to determine this for forest biodiversity in a 2018 study ( study ).

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Monoculture alternatives

Monoculture is not the only option; mixed culture is also common. (Photo courtesy of Utopia/Sven Christian Schulz)
A mixed culture is a vegetable bed that contains a variety of various sorts of vegetables. The plants must, however, be compatible so that they do not fight for nutrition. Strawberry or pumpkin plants in the bottom of the pile provide a natural barrier against soil drying out.
Agroforestry is a term that refers to the practise of growing Agroforestry is a combination of agriculture and forestry. The trees are spaced just far enough apart for the farmer to drive his tractor through. The treetops have a lot of open space and retain the morning dew on the field for longer. According to a study, this not only boosts revenue but promotes biodiversity.
Permaculture is a type of gardening that focuses on being as near to nature as possible. Agriculture should be able to survive indefinitely with this form of cultivation by self-regulating as much as possible, similar to a natural garden.
Aquaphonics: This technology integrates fish and plant husbandry into a single system. Water from an aquarium is used to water the plants, which contains many essential nutrients. Because it is a closed system, water use is minimal.
Aquafarming refers to the practise of keeping fish and plants in the same water.

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