Changes in agriculture

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Changes in agriculture

Many of today's farm systems are a direct consequence of farming practices originating hundreds of years ago. There have been numerous changes in other areas. One significant change in recent years has been the movement to organic farming.

We can define organic farming, as:

"Farming that does not use industrially produced chemicals as pesticide, herbicide, fertiliser. Nor does it use drugs to increase the size / yield of its livestock."

Changes in agriculture

Organic farming has increased for two reasons:

  • It has been led by farmers with smallholdings who feel a deep commitment to the environment.
  • It is also consumer led as people are concerned about the chemical content and safety of many foods. The BSE crisis has furthered the demand for organically grown food.

Yields are lower and costs greater but people are prepared to pay more for organically produced food.

Many people believe that organic farming is a return to more traditional farming method. This does seem to be the case for many practices.

For example, there has been a return to crop rotation and fallow periods and manure and crop residues are being used instead of chemical fertilisers. A greater diversity of crops is grown - often in the same field so that if a pest does strike it will not affect the whole crop.

All of this has clear benefits for the environment and is an example of increased sustainability in agriculture.

There are however some concerns. Converting a farm to be officially organic is a lengthy and very expensive process. It can take five years for a farm to be recognised as organic. In the meantime the farmer is paying extra costs for a lower yield with no extra revenue.