The Problem with Monoculture (Crop Specialization Farming)

Monoculture, also known as crop specialization, is a type of farming that plants and replants the same crop species year round, dedicating most or all available farm space to that singular crop. Monoculture practice excludes all other plant species and commits solely to growing one type of crop to maximize its production and profit. Crop specialization denies an ecosystem plant diversity (and other biological diversity) which ultimately degrades soil quality.

grid under dead grass

Negatives Associated With Monoculture

Crop specialization strategies have an array of drawbacks. The first disadvantage is that reusing the same soil for a single crop, instead of switching between a variance of crops, increases the chances of plant pathogens and diseases. Both plant pathogens and diseases may adapt to the soil and attack the crop. Over time, disease and pathogens alike degrade soil quality, making it less capable of producing vegetation. The nutrients in crops rely heavily on bacteria that are produced from multiple crops inhabiting the same area, also known as plant-biodiversity. Diversity in plants reduces crop resistance and overall health.

How Pesticides & Herbicides Contribute to Monoculture

Monoculture impedes plant diversity within a targeted crop. Without biological diversity in a a plot of crops, healthy functionality can be restricted. Diversity within vegetation provides nutrients because more bacteria and plant species defend crops against various pathogens and abiotic stress. Monocultures use pesticides and herbicides to replicate the the natural defenses and protection found in more diverse vegetation. Plant pathogens often cause degrade soil quality over time. In some cases, pesticides and herbicides contaminate soil, the crop and nearby water systems. These toxicants kill insects and weeds but can also be toxic to surrounding organisms- including birds, fish, beneficial insects (insects that provide supplemental aid to the targeted plant species), and non-target plants. This could cause adversity for the surrounding ecosystem and the quality of the crops.

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