To see a world in a grain of sandWilliam Blake
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Monoculture involves the growing of a single crop using the majority or whole of the land. This method of farming is particularly popular in industrialized regions. This strategy benefits farmers by reducing costs, but when a single variety is grown, it can also endanger the farm by leading to widespread crop failure. An example would be the corn blight of 1970 which ruined more than 15 percent of corn crops in North America. This happened due to 70% of the crop being the same high yield variety, making the corn more susceptible to harmful organisms.
As a result, farmers have to protect the crops and the profit they make by using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, bactericides. These synthetic chemicals attempt to prevent crop damage from weeds, insects, and bacteria while providing enough nutrients for growth. However, chemicals leave traces on plants intended for consumption. They are also regularly overused leaving a large quantity of synthetic material in the soil after harvest. This will work its way through soil, polluting groundwater supplies.
Moreover, as organisms develop resistance to synthetics, farmers have to resort to an ever-increasing amount of chemicals to be applied to monoculture crops, which is having a devastating effect on natural ecosystems.
Monoculture in Wales
Half of Wales is grassland on which we raise sheep and cattle with a small amount of arable. This may look green and countrified but it is just another managed crop. Nearly every field is effectively a system of monoculture ie rye grass. Science has led to the production of new varieties of high sugar grasses for feeding livestock and these are used by our farmers to raise their meat yield. The University of Aberystwyth have been leaders in this field and their tireless work has given Wales a new and productive carpet. However, there is no room in this system for native wildflowers. This is factory production. It supports very little insect life with obvious consequences for birds and mammals. This lack of biodiversity has led us to the crisis we now face with many of our native species endangered.
Also did you know that Wales is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with the area of woodland just 14.7% of the total land area compared to an EU average of 37% per cent! Worse still only 7.5% is native woodland with the remaining half being coniferous farmed forest. Why is this important?
Consider this table. Our native trees support hundreds of different species of insect which in turn provides food for mammals and birds further up the food chain. Oak tops the list supporting 284 different species. At the bottom is rhododendron, a recent introduction that supports none. As for conifers you only have to walk through a plantation to realise that they are dead to much of our native wildlife with very few plants surviving under their canopy.