First, What is Intensive Agriculture?
Intensive farming is type of farming method in which extensive manpower and machinery are employed to produce the best yield and get maximum output from the land being used. This type of agriculture allows farmers with a small land to produce high yield crops without the consumption of greater resources and higher costs.
Intensive farming is characterized by the use of insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, medications, growth hormone and much more. Intensive farming appears to be the future; with many countries, most notably the developing countries of the world appearing to have stopped using the traditional farming techniques in favor of the intensive farming techniques. This is probably due to the fact that traditional farming methods are no longer sufficiently meeting the demands of the ever growing population of our planet and hence a different approach is required in order to feed the population. This is where intensive farming comes into play.
Although intensive farming is paving the way for the future; it does have number of pros and cons. Here we’ll elaborate the various advantages and disadvantages of intensive fruit farming.
Advantages of Intensive Farming
1. High Crop Yield
Farmers are able to produce a higher crop yield consistently as compared to traditional farming. Produce such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk and meat are all readily supplied to restaurants and supermarkets to meet the demand of the growing population of the world. The farmers are able to meet the high demands of the population by constantly supplying high yield of products to the population without using great land or space in the process.
2. Variety of Food
Intensive farming gives us the luxury to cultivate a wide variety of food. Intensive farming requires a lot of skilled labor, resources and capital which allows variety of livestock products, fruits and vegetables to be produced with ease. However, this process is profit-driven and many a times farmers focus on crops with high profits.
Intensive farming is more efficient than the traditional farming methods which were previously being employed. Intensive farming requires less land, space, machinery and equipment, and produces a greater output than predicted with a lesser initial input as expected.
The traditional farming techniques required a greater land to produce lower yield which reduced the profits that the farmers were able to generate from the production of their crops. On the other hand; not only is intensive farming efficient, it also helps to generate a lot of profits for the farmers.
Intensive farming provides food at an affordable rate. This has helped solve hunger and famine issues in various parts of the world, especially in the developing countries. These affordable rates are due to the fact that intensive farming requires less land and less input to produce a highly productive output making it overall a less expensive process for the farmer. This makes the farmer sell his crop at a lower rate, making it cheaper for consumers. The practice of intensive farming is hence a very good initiative in countries facing high inflation rate and poor economic situations.
6. Helps in regulated farming
Intensive farming has had the advantage of it being regulated by various regulating bodies which are governmental, NGOs and even agricultural institutions. All of these aim to protect the land from being excessively damaged from intensive farming which can hamper the livelihood of the farmer. These regulating bodies have made specific rules and regulations regarding the use of land, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, growth regulators, hormones and medications such that the procedure of intensive farming can carry on without any damage to the health of the farmer or the population which may consume the crops.
7. Sustained Food Supply
Every day, we are facing a widespread shortage of food supply across the world. This is due to the increasing population of the planet and the lack of ability to meet the demand of the population sustainably. This is somehow being controlled by intensive farming, which is providing a sustained food supply to meet the demands of the population. Intensive farming is able to achieve this goal of high yield by using smaller land than the traditional farming method which helps in battling the escalating food demand around the world.
Disadvantages of Intensive farming
1. Poor conditions and hygiene for livestock
Although intensive farming yields a lot of benefits for us, it is often criticized for being extremely cruel and harmful to the livestock. Intensive farming leads to poor hygiene and conditions of the livestock due to them being constantly subjected to chemicals, growth hormones and medications that may yield adverse effects. The livestock are kept in an excessive number as well, this not only yields a very unhygienic environment for the livestock but it increases the susceptibility of disease transmission in the livestock and even the farmers are not safe from catching these diseases.
With the recent eruption of the Corona virus, the animal-human transmission of disease has again proven to be deadly. This is the reason that any and all animals we come in contact with should be in good hygiene, vaccinated and taken care of properly.
2. Excessive use of chemicals
We have already mentioned that the process of intensive agriculture requires use of a vast number of different chemicals. These chemicals are highly important to carry out efficient intensive farming to deem the best results. However, these chemicals are also a source of pollution to the crops on which they are applied to protect and grow. This happens if they are aggressively used at a greater dose than they are required. These chemicals may also kill innocent animals and insects which are of no danger to the crop and lower their population as well as the biodiversity of the region. The farmers are also susceptible to respiratory and other systemic diseases by the use of these chemicals and need to wear protective clothing (personal protective equipment) at all times while handling these chemicals. Another major disadvantage of using excessive chemical fertilizers in intensive farming is cultural eutrophication. Other environmental effects are discussed ahead.
3. Alteration of the environment
It has been indicated that intensive farming has had a negative impact in the surrounding ecosystem in which it is being carried out. Agricultural practices have required the clearing of vast majority of lands and regions to carry out cultivation of crops and this has led to deforestation and soil erosion. These negative effects on the ecosystem have led to habitat loss of many animals, birds and plants which will surely cause a decline in their population.
4. Risks to health of Humans:
The food grown through intensive farming has high concentrations of chemicals which were intended to grow these foods in the first place. These chemicals may be toxic and become a source of poisoning to people who eat the food grown from intensive farming. Humans may become susceptible to a wide variety of diseases and also develop lethal allergies.
It is also claimed that the populations feeding on food derived from intensive farming are at a greater risk of developing various types of cancer. This is mostly due to the chemicals utilized in the farming which may cause mutations and defects in the DNA of humans leading to the development of malignant tumors. These damaged genetics (DNA) may be passed on to the children who may be born with congenital birth defects such as down syndrome, cleft lip palate and more. What’s more is that it may carry on for generations.
5. Soil Erosion
The excessive use of chemicals and intensively growing the same (highest-profiting) crop in every cycle seriously affects the quality of the soil. Along with that, with increased inputs of water; leaching of nutrients from the soil may occur along with waterlogging of the soil on the farmland.
6. Poor quality of food
From a corporate point of view, intensive farming intends to produce maximum amount of yield with an extended shelf life keeping it viable for longer periods than the normal food grown through traditional farming. However, in order to meet the demands of the increasing population; the nutritional values and the caloric values of the food products are ignored. This leads to products which may look and feel similar to their species which are grown from traditional farming but may have a significantly lower caloric benefit to people who consume them.
7. Decreased Biodiversity
A major concern of intensive farming is decreased biodiversity since the farmers are growing the same crop year after year. Other than that, intensive livestock farming also leads to similar concerns. These practices lead to invasive reductions in biodiversity. Considering the number of animals being endangered and going extinct lately, biodiversity should be given its due priority. If all the farmers and herders will focus on growing and caring for ‘profit-oriented’ species, the endangerment rate of species would be very high!
8. Loss of Jobs
Traditional farmers who still haven’t accepted the vision of intensive farming due to a number of reasons are severely affected by the widespread use of industrial farming being carried out. This has led them to altogether quit farming and adopt new jobs which may be difficult for them as they lack the sufficient skills and experience needed for such jobs. In addition, intensive farming doesn’t intend on creating more job opportunities for people as it requires less space and land and hence, reduced labor.