How can we get the biggest return from our crops?



  1. 0 Votes

    Interesting question, Jaxon. One answer to this question is to provide the crop with optimal amounts of nutrients (including Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and other micro nutrients), water, and sunlight. Combine this strategy with herbicides that reduce competition from any other plants and with the selection of plant cultivars for high yield, and you’ll get very high returns. This is basically what happened during the Green Revolution in the middle of the 20th century when new high yielding plant varieties combined with fertilizers and herbicides produced some of the highest yields recorded. 

    However, another approach is to think about total yield of the system, rather than just of a single crop. Because in the system described above, many resources are actually being depleted (e.g. the natural gas that produces the synthetic fertilizers) rather than being created. However,  on an acre of land you coul raise goats and chickens, they can convert grasses, leaves, branches, bugs, and seeds from things that we cannot eat into food that we can (e.g. milk and eggs) and create fabulous fertilizer in the process. On this same acre, say you have several fruit trees, under which you have berry bushes and fruit producing vines, and you also have a small vegetable garden.In this system,  you create all your own fertilizer and don’t have to rely on pesticides or herbicides or other fossil fuel based amendments.

    Obviously I am not using any precise numbers here, which are an important part of figuring out the highest yielding system. But the point I am trying to illustrate is that of the total yield of a system depends on where you draw the boundaries to that system. So, while to maximize wheat yields you may want to grow a monoculture of wheat, using synthetic fertilizers and a suite of herbicides and pesticides, this may not be the most effective or efficient use of energy and natural resources. Its worth considering how the total yield of this monoculture (outputs minus inputs) compares to the goat/chicken/fruit trees/vegetable garden system. 

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