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Difference Between the Monoculture and Polyculture Farming Techniques

Difference Between the Monoculture and Polyculture Farming Techniques
Many tend to get confused between the two agricultural practices, monoculture and polyculture. This piece helps you out by providing some information about the two as well as a comparison between them.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
An example of how monoculture can lead to disaster is the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. The severity of this famine was mainly due to the lack of genetic variation in Irish potatoes, resulting in death because of starving of one in every eight people in Ireland for 3 years.
Monoculture and polyculture are two types of practices or techniques that are employed in agriculture. It is necessary to know what these terms mean, in order to be able to differentiate between the two farming techniques.
What is Monoculture?
Soybean field
It is an agricultural practice which involves the cultivation or production of a single crop over a wide area for several consecutive years. It is utilized to a great extent in modern industrial agriculture, making it possible to obtain large harvests with minimal resources.
What is Polyculture?
Organic garden
It is an agricultural practice which involves the cultivation of multiple or mixed crops in the same area or a given space. It is known to imitate the diverseness of natural ecosystems. Multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting, beneficial weeds, and alley cropping are a part of polyculture. This technique makes use of the given space, nutrients, and energy in a balanced way.
Monoculture Vs. Polyculture
Monoculture

◼ Involves the cultivation or production of a single crop in a given area

◼ Requires less labor

◼ More susceptible to diseases and pests due to involvement of only a single plant species, that can result in crop failure

◼ Does not increase biodiversity as there is no variety

◼ Lower yields obtained

◼ Causes soil degradation by depleting its nutrients and water content

◼ Increases soil erosion

◼ Causes the contamination of water

◼ Causes elimination of soil microorganisms

◼ More use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides due to its increased susceptibility to diseases

◼ Paddy cultivation is an example of this type.

Polyculture

◼ Involves the cultivation of multiple or mixed crops in a given area

◼ Requires more labor

◼ Diverseness in the crops lessens the susceptibility to diseases and pests, thus, also reducing the risk of total crop failure.

◼ Variety in crops increases local biodiversity, providing habitat to more species

◼ Higher yields obtained

◼ Enhances soil health

◼ Decreases soil erosion

◼ Does not cause contamination of water, thus, there is clean water run-off

◼ Does not cause elimination of soil microorganisms

◼ Lesser or no use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides

◼ Mixed vegetable gardening is an example of this type.
Advantages
Monoculture
  • The knowledge of only a single plant species being grown is required.
  • Easy marketing
Polyculture
  • Risk of complete crop failure is very low as pests may attack one plant species leaving the others sustained.
  • Crash in profits of one crop will not cause total market loss.
Disadvantages
Monoculture
  • Complete crop failure can be caused due to attack of pests on single plant species.
  • Crash in profits of the crop can cause total market loss.
Polyculture
  • The knowledge of multiple plant species being grown is required.
  • Marketing can be difficult at times.
Both these agricultural practices have their advantages and disadvantages. However, polyculture methods are more advantageous than monoculture methods as they promote food security, self-sufficiency, and economic growth.