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Friday, September 19, 2008

Intensive farming-capital, fertilizers, labour

Intensive farming or intensive agriculture is an agricultural production system characterized by the high inputs of capital, fertilizers, labour, or labour-saving technologies such as pesticides relative to land area. This is in contrast to the concept of Extensive Agriculture which involves a low input of materials and labour with the crop yield depending largely on the naturally available soil fertility, water supply or other land qualities.

Modern day forms of intensive crop based agriculture involve the use of mechanical ploughing, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, plant growth regulators and/or pesticides. It is associated with the increasing use of agricultural mechanization, which have enabled a substantial increase in production.

Intensive animal farming practices can involve very large numbers of animals raised on limited land which require large amounts of food, water and medical inputs (required to keep the animals healthy in cramped conditions). Very large or confined indoor intensive livestock operations (particularly descriptive of common US farming practices) are often referred to as Factory farming and are criticised by opponents for the low level of animal welfare standards and associated pollution and health issues.


Intensive agriculture has a number of benefits

* Significantly increased yield per available space than extensive farming.
* Often leads to cheaper priced products because of better general production rate for the cost of raw materials.
* Not much space for the animal(s) to move therefore less energy used up; so less food supplied to the cattle, which leads to cheaper products.
* Many people feel it's necessary to use intensive farming for better profits and economy


Intensive farming alters the environment in many ways.

* Limits the natural habitat of some wild creatures and can lead to soil erosion.
* Use of fertilizers can alter the biology of rivers and lakes environmentalists attribute the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico as being encouraged by nitrogen fertilization of the algae bloom.
* Pesticides can kill useful insects as well as those that destroy crops.
* Generally not sustainable.
* Often results in an inferior product.
* Use of chemicals on fields creates run-off, excess runs off into rivers and lakes causing pollution.
* Animal welfare is significantly decreased compared to organic, animals are kept in tight living conditions, over-fed and only have a small life span before being slaughtered.

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