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Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from minimal labor. However, monocultures can lead to the quicker spread of diseases, where a uniform crop is susceptible to a pathogen. 'Crop monoculture' is the practice of growing the same crop year after year.[1]

The term is frequently borrowed for other uses, such as raising one species of livestock in a factory farm, or even in fields other than agriculture to describe any group dominated by a single variety, e.g. in the field of musicology to describe the dominance of the American and British music-industries in pop music, or in the field of computer science to describe a group of computers all running identical software.


Land use

The term is mostly used in agriculture and describes the practice of planting crops with the same patterns of growth resulting from genetic similarity. Examples include wheat fields or apple orchards or grape vineyards. These cultivars have uniform growing requirements and habits resulting in greater yields on less land because planting, maintenance (including pest control) and harvesting can be standardized. This standardization results in less waste and loss from inefficient harvesting and planting. It also is beneficial because a crop can be tailor planted for a location that has special problems - like soil salt or drought or a short growing season.[citation needed]

Monoculture produces great yields by utilizing plants' abilities to maximize growth under less pressure from other species and more uniform plant structure. Uniform cultivars are able to better use available light and space, but also have a greater drain on soil nutrients. In the last 40 years modern practices such as monoculture planting and the use of synthesized fertilizers have greatly reduced the amount of land needed to produce much higher yielding crops.[2]


In forestry, monoculture refers to the planting of one species of tree.[3] Monoculture plantings provide great yields and more effective growth and harvesting than natural stands of trees. Single species stands of trees are often the natural way trees grow, but the stands show a diversity in tree sizes, with dead trees mixed with mature and young trees. In forestry, monoculture stands that are planted and harvested as a unit provide limited resources for wildlife that depend on dead trees and openings, since all the trees are the same size; they are most often also harvested by clear cutting, which drastically alters the habitat. Also the mechanical harvesting of trees can compact soils, which effects the under story growth.[4] Single species planting of trees also are more vulnerable when infected with a pathogen, or are attacked by insects,[5] and by adverse environmental conditions.[6]

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