monoculture plantations is being in the news for a while now, and this is because many researchers and agricultural scientists have claimed that monoculture plantations can prove to be the most effective method of farming. However at the same time, this method has been contradicted by many scientists too, thus it’s one of the most disputable farming methods. As the global food demand is escalating at a rapid pace each day and in such a situation, monoculture plantation seems to be a good option for boosting agricultural production. However, monoculture plantation has some pros and cons, which are discussed further in this article.
What is a Monoculture Plantation?
In simple terms, a monoculture plantation can be better understood as a cropping pattern that involves sowing only one type of crop at a time on agricultural land. It’s just the reverse of polyculture farming which involves sowing multiple crops at a time in a given proportion of the agricultural land. However, it also applies to farm animals, like breeding the same category of animals at a time for example only pig, cow, chicken, or sheep.
Punjab has an approximate cropped area of 78.30 hectares out which more than 60 hectares of land is cultivated with wheat or paddy
Advantages and Disadvantages of Monoculture Farming:
Advantages of Monoculture Farming:
- Space for technology: While growing only a single crop in the whole field, the farmers get time to implement some of the latest technologies to increase the yield. Many new technologies like drone monitoring, the use of ground sensors, and satellite mapping can be used to enhance the quality of agricultural products and increase productivity. Currently, many cropping monitoring software is available that suggest different cropping patterns and techniques increase for large and small farmlands.
- Increase in productivity: monoculture plantation makes the best use of the soil and the climatic conditions and helps farmers to choose the crops accordingly. As in monoculture framing, one kind of crop is being sown at a time, thus it provides farmers an option to choose the best crops according to the climatic conditions. For example, sowing crops like rice in rainy seasons requires wetlands and wheat in summer, which requires plenty of sunlight. In this way, the chances of crops being getting destroyed by bad weather reduce, and increases production.
- High revenue: Growing only one crop at a time allows you to sow crops on your whole agricultural land thus resulting in higher crop production. Farmers can also collaborate with some of the food processing industries and can grow only one crop they require, thus in this way they can generate higher revenue from their crops.
- Ease in farming: The monoculture plantation provides ease in agriculture as you need to look after only crops at a time, and crop management becomes quite easy. Using fertilizer for watering the crops also becomes quite easy there is only a single kind of crop in the farmland, thus the whole farm can be watered at once.
Disadvantages of Monoculture Farming:
- Loss in soil fertility: Growing a similar kind of crop all over the farmland repeatedly results in a loss of the fertility of the soil. Growing the same crop, again and again, consumes higher nutrients from the soil, and decreased the presence of bacteria and microorganisms resulting in soil infertility. In some cases, it has been observed that monoculture plantations also led to soil erosion.
- High use of fertilizer and pesticides: monoculture plantation attracts more pests, thus to protect the crops, a regular spray of pesticides becomes necessary. Also, it requires a higher amount of fertilizer to grow the crops, thus leading to infertility of the soil. Also, the continuous use of pesticides is also not good for humans to consume.
- Water management becomes difficult: Unlike the regular farming method or the polyculture farming pattern, the monoculture plantation pattern requires a higher amount of water to grow the crops. In monoculture, plantation plant is unable to retain more water under their roots, which often results in soil erosion.
India’s Outlook Toward Monoculture Plantation:
The monoculture plantation technique is not widespread in India, and there are only a few regions where monoculture plantation is practiced. The main reason behind the less popularity of monoculture plantations in India is the climatic condition and cropping pattern. In India, there are two more crops being sowed at a time to satisfy the demand for a variety of crops, and also as per the climatic conditions, it’s beneficial for farmers to grow 2 more crops at a time. So that if a crop gets damaged by bad weather the other crops help to bear the cost and earn and profit. However, monoculture plantation is practiced in some regions in India, like Kerala and Assam. As these regions receive heavy rainfall, it allows farmers to grow a single crop on the complete land.
Monoculture plantation turns out to be the main reason behind the water shortage during summers in the outskirts of punjab.
Impact of Monoculture Plantation on India’s Economy:
In India, monoculture plantations are being practiced in many regions, mainly in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. In these states, many farmers only sow wheat; thus, these two states stand out as the largest wheat producers in India. It also benefits the Indian economy as the agricultural sector contributes around 20 % of the total GDP of India. However, in many cases, it has also been observed that due to some shifts in global trends the demand for crops is unstable and increases or decreases. Thus only relying on the monoculture plantation won’t work out for the Indian economy, thus Government promotes monoculture farming in high-demand crops such as wheat, rice, and paddy.
Problem with the Monoculture Plantation in Punjab:
The monoculture plantation is mainly practiced in Punjab and wheat and Paddy account for more than 84% of the total crops produced in the farm fields of Punjab. Punjab is one of the other most agriculturally rich states of India and thus only growing a single crop in such large farmlands leads to soil erosion, reduction in the soil quality, and providing a lesser variety of crops to the Indian market. Growing the same crop again and again on the same field results in a decrease in the amount of nitrogen present in the soil. Also, the crops like wheat and paddy require much water for irrigation and cultivation, thus resulting in a shortage of groundwater levels in the summers.
Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009:
The Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, of 2009 was enacted to conserve groundwater by delaying the plantation of paddy crops in Punjab beyond June 10. This act was successful in bringing up the groundwater level in Punjab by 0.2 Meters. But on the other hand, this law also led to many other problems such as air pollution and increased smog in the nearby regions of Punjab. The delayed sowing of paddy crops led to their harvesting by the end of October or in November beginning. During harvesting the burning of left paddy straws and led to serious air pollution in nearby regions such as New Delhi, NCR, and Noida. Also, the moist air during the winter season absorbs the smoke and results in smog, which blurs vision and leads to road accidents.
Government of India’s initiatives to Deal with the Problems of Monoculture Plantation:
The government of India passed the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009, which clearly restricts the translation of paddy before May 15 and June 15. The main reason behind passing this act was to conserve the groundwater and maintain the level of nitrogen in the soil. However, this act allowed the plantation of paddy only in monsoon thus providing a lesser time for cultivation and leading to a delay in harvesting.