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Development Of Modern Farming In The United States

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Various agricultural techniques have advantages and disadvantages. For some, the positives outweigh the negatives but others pose significant problems for the farmers or the environment. The United States is in the midst of an agricultural crisis and it is possible for these methods to help revive the agricultural industry. Farmers could continue with today’s accepted method, modern farming or revert back to old style or traditional farming. New practices like hydroponics or aeroponics could be the future of farming but still have kinks that need to be worked out. Without change there cannot be improvement using a combination of these techniques many aspects of United States agriculture can be improved.

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Farming is an evolving industry and many practices have gone out of style and have been replaced with new, profit-oriented methods. “Old-style” farming aims to produce food and livestock in the most natural way possible, it’s farming in harmony with nature. It doesn’t disrupt the biodiversity of the ecosystem or destroy natural resources. Unfortunately it is not as profitable as modern farming so it is less profitable for the farmers. For this reason the amount of traditional farmers has decreased substantially. Traditional farming often uses cover crops to keep the soil alive and healthy and rotates crops to not prevent crops like corn from taking all the nutrients out of the soil and killing it. Farmers who use this method also generally do not till the soil which also promotes soil health. Some of the best crops to grow with traditional farming include tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, and potatoes. There are many advantages of traditional farming such as its positive impact on the environment since it doesn’t use pesticides, improved soil fertility and sustainability, and higher levels of vitamins and minerals in animal meat. There are many disadvantages as well which include that farmers are dependent on the weather, the farms have expensive start-up costs, and it takes a while before farmers can begin making a profit. Some of the positive parts of traditional farming are easy to implement like crop rotation or cover crops and can be incorporated into modern farming to make it a more sustainable, environmentally friendly practice.

Modern agriculture has replaced traditional agriculture as the main method food and livestock are grown and raised. Modern farming tills the soil and fertilizes to help the crops grow faster, use pesticides and genetically modified plants to keep the plants from dying via pest or disease, and generally only grow one type of crop (monoculture). This allows farmers to get high yield which leads to greater profit. These types of farms are less expensive to start up than traditional farms and are also much easier to maintain. Farmers will get more crops and consequently will be able to sell the crops for a lower cost which helps the general population. However, using this method is less environmentally friendly than traditional farming. Monoculture destroys the soil because the one crop takes all the nutrients out of the soil, the use of pesticides can pose a health risk, and the chemicals these farms use damage the ozone layer. Growing profitable crops like lavender, flowers, or bamboo are good for this method of farming because it maximizes the possible profit per acre. Growing one type of crop per season is a simple way to maximize farmer’s profit while still allowing them to rotate the crops each season and keep cover crops to prevent soil erosion.

Hydroponics and aquaponics are two alternative methods of farming that don’t require an ecosystem or even soil. Hydroponics is growing plants when the roots are submerged in a nutrient water solution. This allows the long-term cultivation of almost any crop and is a relatively simple system. Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics except instead of buying expensive chemical nutrients fish waste is used. Fish and plants are raised simultaneously, and, once started, the system is self-regulating. Various commercial growers use these methods such as Schuyler Greens and Good Life farms, which both use hydroponics and grow greens and herbs. Good Life Farms additionally grows tomatoes. Nelson and Pade and Ouroboros Farms both are companies that use aquaponics to grow greens. Generally, greens and tomatoes are the best crops to grow with hydro and aquaponics so it is not surprising that these growers are focused primarily on these two products. These are not perfect systems, hydroponics uses a lot of water and the chemical nutrients are very expensive to buy. Aquaponics is not much better, it takes a long time to start up, even a small increase in ammonia (which is produced through the fish waste) can kill the fish, a build-up of fish waste can also cause an e coli outbreak, and the fish tanks are so large that they are immobile.

United States agriculture is complicated problem with significantly more weaknesses than strengths that need to be addressed. On the positive side, United States agriculture is known for its high yields which translate into profits. However, in recent years farms have seen a 50% on average drop in net farm income. This is partly due to higher interest rates which lead to farmers having to pay more back from loans that they take out to start up their farm or purchase new farm equipment. The price of goods is also factor. Competition from foreign markets have driven the prices of domestic agriculture down. All of this leads to more stress on farmers and the suicide rate among farmers has been climbing the past few years. Many people conjecture that new methods of farming might be able to turn around the United States’ agriculture issues. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems are economy related. Right now prices are down for reasons like high interest rates and prices of goods going down because other countries can produce the same goods. Because old farming practices are more expensive and time-consuming than conventional farming they probably wouldn’t help farmers. More things can also go wrong with them which won’t help farmer’s suicide rates. It is unclear whether aquaponics is scalable and based on the amount of companies that use it as their main method of growing, it is likely that it isn’t. Hydroponics might be able to work but since the economy and interest is the main problem changing up the type of farming probably won’t help much.

No technique is perfect and all of these methods have problems that may or may not be able to be resolved. As of right now hydroponics seems to be a more viable technique than aquaponics. There are countless ways to kill the fish and aquaponics is an immensely complex system. Increased complexity results in increased fragility making this system unreliable. Although hydroponics is more expensive it is much simpler and more reliable, making it less risky to grow plants. Although conventional and traditional farming are both flawed on their own, a combination of the two methods could prove to be a good option for both profit-oriented farmers and the environment. For example, a combination of crop rotation and monoculture can allow farmers to grow the same plant each year so they can maximize profit but change that crop up every year to preserve the soil. Taking aspects from both traditional and modern farming can allow farmers to take the positive features and leave the negative ones. This will let us preserve the soil and promote sustainability while still making a profit and getting high yields. Hydroponics would also be able to help grow in areas where there isn’t as much space since hydroponics plants can be grown either horizontally or vertically. Consumers can also help the United States’ agricultural problems. By buying domestically they can combat the foreign competition United States’ farmers are facing to sell their goods.

Although United States’ agriculture seems to have a multitude of issues new and old farming techniques can help restore it. No method needs to stand alone, they can work together to create a healthy future for farming. The economic problems of farming can be overcome by taking care of the ecosystem. A healthier environment equates to higher yields which in turn translates into profits. By implementing just a few traditional farming techniques into large, modern farms many of the soil and environmental issues can be resolved. Hydroponics can allow farmers to grow more plants in less space and doesn’t use soil. Aquaponics is a good way to create nutrients inexpensively and in an ecologically friendly manner. Agriculture in the United States can be revived but it will take cooperation between farmers to implement methods that will make farming a profitable and environmentally friendly enterprise again.

10 December 2020

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