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Science

Farming

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Intensive farming practices include growing high-yield crops, using fertilisers and pesticides and keeping animals indoors. Food production is increased but there are unwelcome side effects.

Organic farming bans chemical inputs and has a less harmful effect on the environment but often produces less, more expensive food.

Hydroponics is the production of food using nutrient-rich solution rather than soil.

Intensive farming

Modern fields can be very large

Food production in this field has been increased by growing high-yield crops, removing other plants and pests and adding fertiliser to the soil. Other intensive farming practices include keeping animals indoors, often in restricted spaces. Many of these practices have unwelcome side effects.

Intensive farming

ActionTreatmentExplanationSide effect
Remove competing plants from the crop growing area Herbicide sprayAllows more energy to be transferred to the cropReduces biodiversity. May have harmful effect on health.
Remove animals that feed on the cropPesticide sprayPrevents energy being transferred from the crop to consumersReduces biodiversity. May poison helpful organisms.
Keep animals indoors‘Battery’ farmingReduces energy transferred to environment so more energy available for growthIncreased risk of disease. Lower quality product. Ethical concerns.

The effects of insecticides

Insecticides like DDT don't break down quickly. It's been responsible for a large reduction in bird numbers since intensive farming became widespread. DDT accumulates in food chains - as consumers eat large numbers of prey containing the insecticide. High levels of DDT have been found in birds of prey.

Alternatives to pesticides

Biological control is an alternative to using pesticides. By releasing a natural predator into the crop growing area, the number of pests can be reduced. This can have unforeseen consequences as the numbers of different organisms in the food web are changed. There have been examples of the predator becoming a more serious pest than the original problem.

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