Monoculture vs. Polyculture - Economics of Agricultural Practices

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This presentation compares the pros and cons of monoculture agriculture versus polyculture agricultre from an economic perspective.

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Monoculture vs. Polyculture - Economics of Agricultural Practices

  1. 1. Monoculture vs. Polyculture <br />Economics of Agriculture Practices<br />Anna Guyton <br />ECON 4410<br />December 3, 2008<br />
  2. 2. Natural Systems Agriculture<br />Taking advantage of diversified (polyculture) ecosystem services<br />Pest defenses<br />Habitat provided for natural predators<br />Certain plants repel certain pests<br />Soil productivity<br />Reduced erosion<br />Farmer’s insurance<br />Minimum tillage<br />Preserves root systems<br />Reduces costs of farm equipment<br />
  3. 3. Monoculture<br />Reduced genetic diversity<br />Varieties are uniform<br />Usually only one plant species on a farm<br />Food supply composed of small number of crops<br />High demand for corn, wheat, rice, and potatoes<br />Subsidies <br />
  4. 4. Externalities of Monoculture<br />Loss of genetic diversity<br />Natural pest deterrent <br />Pesticide resistance<br />Need for more potent pesticides<br />Pesticide pollution/contamination<br />Soil degradation<br />Necessity for chemical inputs, fertilizers<br />Soil erosion<br />Increased need of farm equipment<br />Emissions<br />Loss of wildlife habitat<br />
  5. 5. Pesticide Resistance<br />Marginal social benefits of pesticide use much less than marginal private benefits<br /><ul><li>MSB reduced due to externalities
  6. 6. Pesticide resistance
  7. 7. Pesticide contamination</li></li></ul><li>Pesticide Resistance cont. <br />Prisoner’s Dilemma<br />Costs lower with no pesticides but higher if one farmer uses pesticides and the other suffers from stronger pests<br />Best for both farmers to diversify <br />But both will defect in their own self-interest<br />
  8. 8. Soil Productivity<br />Can be modeled as a renewable resource <br />S1 = S0 + ∆QS + ∆NS<br />S1 = Future “stock” of soil productivity<br />S0 = Current “stock” of soil productivity<br />∆QS = economic change in soil productivity<br />- Demanding crops<br />- Plowing, tilling = increased wind erosion<br />- Herbicides<br />+ Fertilizer/nutrients<br />∆NS = natural change in soil productivity <br />- Wind/water erosion<br />- Climate change<br />+ Species biodiversity: plant & animal <br />
  9. 9. Challenges<br />Currently cost prohibitive in short run<br />Guaranteed markets for monocrops<br />Monoculture requires less knowledge and capital than polyculture<br />Studies show decreased crop yields = decreased revenues<br />
  10. 10. Conclusions<br />Monoculture creates higher yields but has many unsustainable externalities <br />Most of these externalities are social costs rather than private costs<br />
  11. 11. Conclusions cont.<br />As tech improves and NSA becomes more streamlined, yields can be expected to increase<br />Private costs associated with monoculture can be expected to increase <br />More inputs needed to maintain soil quality and pest control<br />Pollution offsets, clean-up efforts<br />Can expect a switching point in the future to polyculture<br />

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