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Effects of Corn Monoculture on Soils: Models for Change in American Agriculture

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Effects of Corn Monoculture on Soils: Models for Change in American Agriculture


According to writer and environmentalist Vandana Shiva, "the crucial characteristic of monocultures is that they do not merely displace alternatives, they destroy their own basis"(1993, p.50). If the self-destruction of a monoculture is really so simple, it seems that continuous cropping agriculture should long have been abandoned for a more suitable method. Unfortunately, the problem is far more complex. This paper will focus on the effects of corn monoculture on soils in general, the development of the monoculture in the United States and the effects this had on soil in this country. Through the exploration of other models, suggestions will then be made on how to modify the continuous cropping system in the United States into a more sustainable one.

The first piece of evidence that the continual cropping system is inefficient, is that it is the least productive growing system. In experiments done in Wooster, Ohio, it was found that a field where crop rotation was used could produce 27.62 bushels of corn per acre, a field with continual cropping produced only 13.33 bushels per acre, and where chemical fertilizer was used on a continuous cropped field, 30.53 bushels per acre were produced (Weir, 1936,p. 502). Though it interesting that these facts are fundamental enough to have been discovered before 1936, it should also be noted that a recent eight year study done at the University of Nebraska, where scientists compared thirteen cropping systems, "the results confirmed the findings of studies done in the first half of the century"(Committee on the Role of Alt. Farm. Methods, 1989, p.229). If continual cropping is the least effective method o...


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...ouncil, 1989, Alternative Agriculture: Washington, D.C., National Academy Press.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1980, China: Multiple Cropping and Related Crop Production Technology, report on the fao/undp study tour or the People's Republic of China, 25 June- 22 July 1979: Rome, United Nations Publishing.

Hudson, John C., 1994, Making the Corn Belt: A Geographical History of Middle-western Agriculture: Bloomington, Indiana University Press.

Miracle, Marvin P., 1966, Maize in Tropical Africa: Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.

Shiva, Vandana, 1993, Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology: London, Zed Books Limited.

Weir, Wilbert W., 1936, Soil Science : Its Principles and Practice Including Basic Processes for Managing Soils and Improving their Fertility: Chicago, J.B. Lippencott Company.


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