The Role of Polyculture in Sustainable Agricultural Development and Prevention of Land Degradation

The Role of Polyculture in Sustainable Agricultural Development and Prevention of Land Degradation

Milan Marković, Ivana Marjanović
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8459-0.ch007
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The aim of the chapter is to show the possible impact of policulture farming on some determinants of sustainable agricultural development, especially from the point of view of economic viability, biodiversity, and land degradation. Increasing the area under polyculture is one of the main solutions to the present environmental problems. The key constraints are economic pressures due to the question of the cost-effectiveness of such a mode of production and the need to provide sufficient food for a growing population, especially in developing countries. The results of the research show that policulture (organic agriculture) should be favored, while monoculture farming must be adequately directed and put in the function of achieving ecological goals of sustainable development as much as possible. In addition, on the example of European countries, it was assessed that there are good conditions for further “greening” of agriculture, bearing in mind the movement of the analyzed indicators.
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The agricultural sector faces many challenges. The main one is the need to specialize production without disturbing the ecological balance. Soil pollution, biodiversity loss and land erosion are leading problems, especially in monoculture production (Alcon, 2020). Therefore, economic and environmental goals should be harmonized through the principles of sustainable development.

At the global level, the risk of biodiversity loss, abandonment of agricultural land and its degradation has become one of the important issues of sustainable agricultural and rural development. Also, a responsible attitude towards soil fertility is important for overall sustainable economic development. Without the major resource on which agriculture is based, its long-term sustainable development will not be possible. Soil erosion and excessive use of chemicals are particularly dangerous for the preservation of agricultural land. Land is a renewable natural resource. However, restoration is much slower than land degradation and fertility loss (Kelam, 2016).

Monoculture is a form of production that is often seen in collision with the principles of sustainability. This is the practice of growing the same culture in the same field, from year to year. The risks of monoculture farming arise because the obtained products are used mainly in industrial production. Intensive agricultural practices such as monoculture and simplified two-crop rotation systems threaten ecosystem services essential for crop production, reduce agricultural productivity and cause adverse effects on the environment (Wang et al., 2021). Furthermore, monoculture represents one of the practices of intensive agricultural production, which endangers land quality and leads to land degradation. Due to the industrialization of agricultural production, which includes mechanization of farms, intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers, specialization of farms and improved transport network, there has been a spatial concentration of certain types of crops and loss of crop diversity (Crossley et al., 2020). This production depletes nutrients from the soil making it less productive, reduces organic matter in the soil and can cause significant erosion. In addition to soil degradation, monocultures have a detrimental effect on surface and groundwater, as they can cause contamination due to runoff of nutrients and agricultural chemicals (Wang et al., 2021). Monoculture production is in conflict with certain economic principles too. It is clear that above-average profitability can be achieved in this way, but it is not in line with the principles of risk diversification.

The aim of the chapter is to provide insight into the possibilities of polyculture production in achieving the goals of sustainable development and preventing the loss of land quality. The secondary goal of this paper is to point out the potential shortcomings of monoculture, and to provide potential solutions so that it would not be considered an alternative to polyculture farming. The chapter provides answers to some open questions and discussions in the scientific literature related to this topic. At the same time, data at the level of the European Union are used to assess sustainable agricultural development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Economies of Scale: A term used to denote the cost-effectiveness of increased production volumes, where as production volumes increase, unit costs decrease.

Risk Diversification: One of the key economic principles based on risk reduction through the production and sale of various outputs.

Monoculture Farming: A form of production in which only one crop is selected to be planted, or only one type of livestock is raised, usually on a larger agricultural area. The choice of plant production is made in accordance with the basic climatic predispositions of the soil, the type of soil and its position.

Polyculture: A method of production that includes the diversification of cultivated crops, harmonized with the principles of biodiversity, organic or ecological agriculture and preservation of soil fertility.

Sustainable Development: Economic development that will not have negative consequences for the environment and people's quality of life in the future.

Agrobiodiversity: Diversity of living world (microorganisms, bacteria, parasites) necessary for sustainable agricultural production and conservation of soil quality.

Land Degradation: The comprehensiveness of processes related to the reduction of soil fertility, land erosion or the reduction of useful living world in arable land.

Organic Agriculture: A traditional agricultural practice that involves the use of as many natural preparations as possible in the production process in order to preserve the quality of food, food nutrients, as well as human health in the final instance.

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