Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chemical Agriculture 203: Ecological Diseases

A number of ecoloogical diseases have lead to undesirable consequences in agriculture. This was a surprise to some as it was thought that monocultures would not negatively affect society.

The technical terms for these diseases are "diseases of the ecotope" and "diseases of the biocoenosis".

Diseases of the ecotope include:

  1. Erosion
  2. Loss of soil fertility
  3. Depletion of soil nutrient reserves
  4. Salininzation
  5. Alkalinization
  6. Water pollution
  7. Loss of crop lands to urban sprall
Disease of the biocoenosis include:

  1. Loss of crop variety genetics
  2. Loss of wild plant genetics
  3. Loss of animal genetic resources
  4. Elimination of natural enemies
  5. Pest resurgence
  6. Genetic resistance to pests
  7. Chemical contamination
  8. Destruction of natural control mechanisms
Under the intensive management of a monoculture such diseases may require so much energy invested to exert control that the desired production surpasses the energy harvest. 

This negative energy balance is unsustainable even with cheap oil. Currently $40 billion investment saves about $16 billion is crops. Why doesn't this implode under its own weight? Government subsidies.

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