The Impact of Monoculture and the Removal of Hedgerows on the Environment.
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The Impact of Monoculture and the Removal of Hedgerows on the Environment Modern developments in agriculture have had far-reaching effects on both economics of farming and the environment. I am going to focus on a discussion of monoculture and removal of hedgerows, and the impact these actions have on the environment. Monoculture is the devotion of a crop to a single plant species year after year. Monoculture was designed to increase the productivity of farmland by growing only the best variety of crop, allowing more than one crop per year and reducing labour costs. Monoculture however is a threat to a part of our environment. Worldwide, monocultures have increased dramatically. Fields which in the past have had a number of crops growing, or the only crop had a high degree of genetic diversity, are now devoted to a single crop where there is no genetic variation.
This is expensive and can pollute surrounding groundwater due to leaching. When rich nitrates reach the rivers, lakes etc. they cause eutrophication. Hedgerows have been a part of farmland since Anglo-Saxon times to mark boundaries and enclose livestock. Since the Second World War much hedgerow has been removed because of many reasons. Mixed farms have been converted to arable farms so hedgerows are not needed to contain animals. Hedgerows reduce space available for planted crops and their roots compete for nutrients in the soil; inter specific competition. Hedgerows harbour pests and are a reservoir for disease and weeds. The hedgerows also have to be maintained which costs money and takes time. Diverse hedgerows provide habitats for at least 30 species of trees and shrubs, 65 species of nesting birds, 1500 species of insects and 600 species of wildflowers.
Therefore loss of topsoil causes loss of valuable nutrients. The hedgerows provide habitats for pollinating insects; so removing them can indirectly reduce the populations of other local plant species. Conclusion The importance of hedgerows is now being recognised, and farmers can now receive grants to plant hedgerows. However it takes hundreds of years for new hedgerows to mature and develop the same diversity as the old ones. Some farmers are now returning to traditional crop rotations, where different crops are grown in a field each year. This breaks the life cycles of pests (since their host is changing); improves soil texture (since different crops have different root structures and methods of cultivation); and can increase soil nitrogen (by planting nitrogen-fixing legumes). Diversity of crops above ground as well as diversity of soil life below ground provide protection against the weather, as well as outbreaks of diseases or insect pests. Sarah English
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