During the last two centuries and up until the Second World War, farming meant a mixture of animals and crops. Cattle and pigs were fed on grass and root crops grown on the farm and their manure was used later for fertilizing crops grown for human consumption.
From an ecological point of view, this was an ideal system as it was nearly a closed system and self-sustaining. The system was labour intensive and used little or no pesticides. In many ways, this is a model for the principles of modern organic farming.
Changes to Agriculture:
- After the Second World War, farming changed dramatically and became more intensive.
- It changed because of the need for farmers to maximize production.
- Farms became specialist such as growing cereals and little else.
- This was made possible with the advent of cheap inorganic fertilisers, pesticides, new high yielding varieties and improved mechanization.
- Yields improved dramatically (Wheat yields in the 1950’s were about 2 tonnes per hectare and now in excess of 10 tonnes).
- Food has also become much cheaper.
Effects of intensive agriculture:
This is dealt with in detail in the Biodiversity section >>
The benefits and the main problems are summarized in the following table:
- High yields – greater productivity
- Cheaper food
- Higher quality food
- Many people in Britain are not happy with many aspects of modern farming. Organic farming is one possible solution and is regarded as a much more ‘sustainable’ and environmentally friendly method of farming.
- Organic farming may not be the complete answer as it is less productive ( we may have to import more food) and more expensive.
- There is also the problem of pest control and adequate supplies of fertilizer: inorgain fertilizer and pesticides cannot be used in organic farming.
Organic farming part 2