In some countries, a practice called monoculture contributes to many food shortages while also heavily impacting the land it is used on. Having awareness of this topic is the best way to recognize the many causes food shortages around the world and why they happen.
What is Monoculture?
Monoculture is essentially the cultivation of a single crop in a given area, otherwise known as monocropping. This technique lacks biodiversity, an essential element that farmlands need in order to keep the soil healthy and the environment stable. Monoculture has swept the world by storm as the mass production of processed foods increases. In fact, only 9 plant species account for about two-thirds of the world’s crop production. This creates an overabundance of one crop , separates people’s reliance on rural foods and farms, and produces an over dependency on processed food rather than real, nourishing ingredients.
How Does Monoculture Impact the Environment?
Biodiversity is extremely important when farming crops in a given area. To understand it, we must first understand that the livelihood of these plants creates a stable environment and ecosystem that humans thrive on. Where there is plenty of biodiversity, the natural services that keep ecosystems healthy and productive come with it. This includes proper plant pollination, an abundance of essential nutrients that return to the soil, stabilized habitats for wildlife, and higher adaptability to environmental shocks such as climate change and natural disasters. When monocropping, almost all of these things go away and you are left with inadequate pollination, dry soil, and a plot of crops extremely susceptible to damage. It strips the land of the natural ecosystems needed for the landscape to survive. Along with that, monocropping uses lots of pesticides, chemicals, and fossil fuels to make the crops grow despite the lack of good soil and pollination. It is hazardous to the environment and endangers the well-being of the crops themselves.
How Does Monoculture Create Food Shortages?
With less nutrient-rich soil, harvests are not as plentiful or healthy due to the surplus in chemicals used to grow crops. Harvesting also dwindles due to less pollination. With more and more farms globally using their land for monocropping instead of biodiverse farming, people have less food locally grown and sourced to consume. In fact, overexploitation is the biggest threat to wild food species in the world. We have seen the disastrous effects of monoculture in world history and how quickly it causes famine and hunger. For example, the potato famine in Ireland in the mid 1800s; destroyed the soil and left the population hungry. This happensin countries all over the world. It ranges from the US mass producing corn, which has been commonly referred to a commodity crop, to a 30% global increase per decade of soy production used mainly in Europe as cattle feed. Monoculture is destroying the world’s farms and creates a hole in the food system that hundreds of millions of people are then impacted by.
What Can We Do?
The best thing we can do is always shop and support local farms and markets. Farms that uphold a diverse landscape are slowly becoming a minority around the world, but are essential to our survival. Take Miller’s Farm in Quarryville, Pennsylvania as an example. They are a proud biodiverse farm that believes in the value of producing real, nutrient-dense, farm fresh foods. There are also organizations that support biodiverse farming such as the National Young Farmer Coalition, where 81% of their members run biodiverse operations.
On the microlevel, we can do our part to influence our local farmers and make the change happen in our individual communities. Starting small can be the solution to correcting the damage done by monoculture across the world, and can help bring food security back one local economy at a time.