Traditionally farming involves low levels of labor in relation to the land farmed. Here the inputs like seeds, man hours, organic fertilizers, and other farming allied resources as well as the output (yield) is relatively low as compared to intensive farming. Traditional farming methods like organic farming or extensive agriculture work on the premise to ensure health of the farm land in terms of its longevity, and a high natural nutrient value. The concept of resting the land after each harvest to give it time to recuperate itself through natural processes is also a major feature of sustainable agriculture. With a changing scenario in the population curve that has just been climbing upwards and the need to support them through a large yield, traditional farming practices were forced to make way for intensive farming.
Intensive Farming Facts
The concept of intensive farming is not new, its indiscriminate use is. By 5000 BC, the Sumerians, who were highly practiced in the art of conducive agriculture had developed agricultural techniques that involved intensive farming, methods such as animal driven land cultivation, mono-cropping, organized irrigation, domestication of wild crop into edible ones, etc. The Middle Ages saw the use of hydraulic and hydrostatic principles for irrigating land; water-raising machines, dams and reservoirs, along with the three field system of crop rotation. A rapid rise in industrialization saw the Green Revolution in the late 19th and 20th centuries, where machines like the tractor were introduced to speed up the agricultural process.
More the progress in the field of agricultural science, the more the use of mechanics and enhanced productivity by the way of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and farm subsidies came fore. The beginning of the 21st century almost wiped out all traditional framing practices. The ever increasing population combined with the concept of providing cereals at a low cost, and for growing bio-fuels, bio pharmaceuticals and bio plastics has witnessed intensive farming methods at its best; high inputs of capital, labor, heavy usage of technologies to farm the land, use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, genetically modified grain's seeds to an extremely high yield. However, this high yield has come with price, a heavy price; the biological intricacies of soil and nature has been lost.
Intensive Farming Advantages and Disadvantages
Intensive farming has gone beyond agricultural farming, such as fish farming and animal farming. Intensive livestock farming (factory farming) and intensive aquaculture use the same concept of intensive agricultural farming to increase produce. Intensive farming issues revolve around the use of modern technology to increase yield; crop, or meat and milk production. And as in all technologies, intensive agriculture carries with it pros and cons. For those in favor of intensive farming vouch by its help in increasing yield per acre, ensuring a proper and stable food supply for the growing population, while organic produce is expensive to achieve, hence only available to a few. Advocates also stress on the use of less land needed for a high yield, which in turn they say actually saves forests from making way for farmland. And as less land is used, it can be used for other purposes like setting up infrastructure. Transmission of diseases, or pest resistant crops reduce the incidence of damage and lower production.
Alteration of the soil's and animal's biological mechanism is seen as a major cause of worry by those who strongly oppose intensive farming. Land that uses excess fertilizer and pesticides loses its valuable microorganisms that keep the soil fertile. Overuse of land also renders it useless, and has turned many a large tracts of land barren, and lakes or water tables too have also gotten polluted with the use of excess nitrogen based fertilizer. Besides the soil, the birds and animals that rely on it or its crops have also declined. A drop in the numbers of bees so essential for natural pollination has been now well researched over the decade. The input has to be in large amounts to produce large outputs. Intensive livestock farming too has come under fire for the excessive use of growth hormones, and the cramped quarters in which animals are bred and slaughtered. The incidence of animal meat disease transmission is also on an all time high. Intensive farming disadvantages list is definitely longer that its advantages. Read more on the advantages and disadvantages for intensive farming.
Intensive farming needs to balanced with efficient farming techniques to maintaining a healthy natural balance that will not hurt the eco-system. Growth and modernization should not come at a price that cannot be reversed. Growth that does not sustain, will not enhance the quality of life in the longer run.