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monoculturein agricultural practice, the concentration of one crop in a given area. This is generally associated with the growth of commercial agriculture and of CASH CROPPING, and can be contrasted with mixed farming more characteristic of agriculturalists growing for their own consumption. Whilst monoculture may have benefits for some crops, there may also be disadvantages: certain forms of mixed cropping may control pests and preserve the fertility of the soil, whereas monoculture is generally associated with increased use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. For this reason monoculture is generally associated with large-scale organizations, such as PLANTATIONS, which can mobilize the resources for the necessary inputs and manage the marketing of the crop. Even then, problems for THIRD WORLD countries resulting from monoculture arise from dependence on a few crops for export earnings which are vulnerable to changes in world prices and demand, over which Third World countries may have little control. See also AGRIBUSINESS.
(1) The only agricultural crop raised in farming.
(2) Long-term, uninterrupted (repeated) cultivation of one species of plants on one sector (field or garden) without crop rotation (alternation of crops). Monoculture depletes the physical properties of the soil and decreases its humus content. In most cases the soil is depleted of a specific nutrient. For example, long-term cultivation of cereal crops on the same land deprives the soil primarily of phosphorus. Sugar beets and potatoes take away potassium, and legumes remove both phosphorus and calcium. In addition, soil erosion and other problems are associated with monoculture. All of these effects reduce yields sharply, usually by 1.5 to 2 times. The use of fertilizers only slows down the process of depletion. Monoculture creates conditions conducive to the spread of weeds, harmful insects, and pathogens associated with a particular crop.
In capitalist countries such as prerevolutionary Russia, the USA, and Canada monoculture was typical of certain farming regions during the initial period of the development of new lands, when a single crop, such as wheat, was planted in the same place for several years in succession. Subsequently, the fields were abandoned for many years. As agriculture became intensive, monoculture declined, and crop rotation was introduced.
REFERENCEZemledelie, 2nd ed. Edited by S. A. Vorob’ev. Moscow, 1972.
V. E. EGOROV