Monocropping is the high-yield agricultural
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, in the absence rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 through other crops. Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 (corn), soybeans and wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 are three common crops often grown using monocropping techniques.

While economically a very efficient system, allowing for specialization in equipment and crop production, monocropping is also controversial, as it can damage the soil ecology (including depletion or reduction in diversity of soil nutrients) and provide an unbuffered niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

 for parasitic species, increasing crop vulnerability to opportunistic insects, plants, and microorganisms. The result is a more fragile ecosystem with an increased dependency on pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

s and artificial fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s. The concentrated presence of a single cultivar, genetically adapted with a single resistance strategy, presents a situation in which an entire crop can be wiped out very quickly by a single opportunistic species. An example of this would be the potato famine of Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 in 1845–1849, and according to Devlin Kuyek is the main cause of the current food crisis with monoculture rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 crops failing as the effects of climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 become more acute.

Monocropping as an agricultural strategy tends to emphasize the use of expensive specialized farm equipment — an important component in realizing its efficiency goals. This can lead to an increased dependency on fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

s and reliance on expensive machinery that cannot be produced locally and may need to be financed. This can make a significant change in the economics of farming in regions that are accustomed to self-sufficiency in agricultural production. In addition, political complications may ensue when these dependencies extend across national boundaries.

The controversies surrounding monocropping are complex, but traditionally the core issues concern the balance between its advantages in increasing short-term food production — especially in hunger-prone regions
Hunger is the most commonly used term to describe the social condition of people who frequently experience the physical sensation of desiring food.-Malnutrition, famine, starvation:...

 — and its disadvantages with respect to long-term land stewardship and the fostering of local economic independence
Autarky is the quality of being self-sufficient. Usually the term is applied to political states or their economic policies. Autarky exists whenever an entity can survive or continue its activities without external assistance. Autarky is not necessarily economic. For example, a military autarky...

 and ecological sustainability
Sustainable agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment...

. Advocates of monocropping tend to claim that in its absence many human populations would be reduced to starvation or to a degraded level of civilization comparable to the Dark Ages. On the other hand, critics of monocropping dispute these claims and attribute them to corporate special interest groups
Advocacy group
Advocacy groups use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion and/or policy; they have played and continue to play an important part in the development of political and social systems...

, citing the damage that monocropping causes to societies and the environment.

A difficulty with monocropping is that the solution to one problem — whether economic, environmental or political — may result in a cascade of other problems. For example, a well-known concern is pesticides and fertilizers seeping into surrounding soil and groundwater from extensive monocropped acreage in the U.S. and abroad. This issue, especially with respect to the pesticide DDT
DDT is one of the most well-known synthetic insecticides. It is a chemical with a long, unique, and controversial history....

, played an important role in focusing public attention on ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 and pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

 issues during the 1960s when Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson
Rachel Louise Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement....

 published her landmark book Silent Spring
Silent Spring
Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin on 27 September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement....


Soil depletion
Land degradation
Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by one or more combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land....

 is also a negative effect of mono-cropping. Crop rotation
Crop rotation
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons.Crop rotation confers various benefits to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals...

 plays an important role in replenishing soil nutrients, especially atmospheric nitrogen converted to usable forms by nitrogen-fixing plants used in fallow fields. In addition, it performs an important role in preventing pathogen and pest build-up. In a monocropping regime, farmers are less likely to rotate their crops and replenish such essential soil nutrients. In addition, artificial high-nitrogen fertilizers can "burn" the soil by creating an unfavorable environment for indigenous organisms, a phenomenon well-known to organic gardeners and farmers
Organic farming
Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm...

 (who avoid it), resulting in further disruption of soil ecology and dependence on further short-term fertilizer strategies. Lacking a stable ecology, in the absence of substantial irrigation and chemical "fixes" the soil can become dry and begin to erode. As the soil becomes arid and useless, the need for more land becomes an issue, leading to the destruction of even more land — a high-tech version of slash and burn
Slash and burn
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique which involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock...


Under certain circumstances monocropping can lead to deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 (Tauli-Corpuz;Tamang, 2007) or the displacement of indigenous peoples (Tauli-Corpuz;Tamang, 2007).

In order to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels the U.S. government subsidizes the monocropping of corn and soybeans to be used in ethanol production
Ethanol fuel in the United States
The United States became the world's largest producer of ethanol fuel in 2005. The U.S. produced 13.2 billion U.S. liquid gallons of ethanol fuel in 2010, and together with Brazil, accounted for 88% of that year's global production...

 (S, 2007). However monocropping itself is highly chemical- and energy-intensive, as studies by Nelson (2006) indicate. Such studies have shown that the "hidden" energy costs
Energy economics
Energy economics is a broad scientific subject area which includes topics related to supply and use of energy in societies. Due to diversity of issues and methods applied and shared with a number of academic disciplines, energy economics does not present itself as a self contained academic...

associated with producing each unit of bio-fuel are significantly larger than the amount of energy available from the fuel itself.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.