Intensive agriculture and Climate change

Intensive agriculture, also known as intensive farming and industrial agriculture, is a type of agriculture, both of crop plants and of animals, with higher levels of input and output per cubic unit of agricultural land area. It is characterized by a low fallow ratio, higher use of inputs such as capital and labour, and higher crop yields per unit land area.

Most commercial agriculture is intensive in one or more ways. Forms that rely heavily on industrial methods are often called industrial agriculture, which is characterised by innovations designed to increase yield. Techniques include planting multiple crops per year, reducing the frequency of fallow years, and improving cultivars. It also involves increased use of fertilizers, plant growth regulators, and pesticides and mechanised agriculture, controlled by increased and more detailed analysis of growing conditions, including weather, soil, water, weeds, and pests. This system is supported by ongoing innovation in agricultural machinery and farming methods, genetic technology, techniques for achieving economies of scale, logistics, and data collection and analysis technology. Intensive farms are widespread in developed nations and increasingly prevalent worldwide. Most of the meat, dairy products, eggs, fruits, and vegetables available in supermarkets are produced by such farms.

Some intensive farms can use sustainable methods, although this may necessitate higher inputs of labor or lower yields.

Intensive animal farming involves large numbers of animals raised on limited land, for example by rotational grazing, or in the Western world sometimes as concentrated animal feeding operations. These methods increase the yields of food and fiber per acre as compared to extensive animal husbandry; concentrated feed is brought to seldom-moved animals, or with rotational grazing the animals are repeatedly moved to fresh forage.

Industrial agriculture uses huge amounts of water, energy, and industrial chemicals, increasing pollution in the arable land, usable water, and atmosphere. Herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers accumulate in ground and surface waters. Industrial agricultural practices are one of the main drivers of global warming, accounting for 14–28% of net Greenhouse-gas emissions. Many of the negative effects of industrial agriculture may emerge at some distance from fields and farms. Nitrogen compounds from the Midwest, for example, travel down the Mississippi to degrade coastal fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. But other adverse effects show up within agricultural production systems—for example, the rapidly developing resistance among pests renders herbicides and insecticides increasingly ineffective. Agrochemicals have been implicated in Colony collapse disorder, in which the individual members of bee colonies disappear. (Agricultural production is highly dependent on bees to pollinate many varieties of fruits and vegetables.)

Intensive monoculture increases the risk of failures due to pests, adverse weather and disease.

â—„ Previous article
Inequality (2010)
Section index:
Next article â–º
Go to top