How Have Changes in Farming have altered the rural environment?

Farming has experienced many changes related to biological, chemical, mechanical and environmental developments. It has also developed because of new policies introduced and these development shave had a large impact on rural environments.

One of the general ways agriculture has developed is by agribusiness. Agribusinesses are farms owned by large companies usually trans-national. These farms are very large with high capital investment and use modern technologies to increase crop yields. With these farms profit is the most important and often at the expense of social and environmental factors. An example of an agribusiness is Unilever who invest heavily in the developed and developing world. They employ over 120,000 people in the developing word in plantations and in factories for low wages. The impacts are mainly negative for rural environments because wages are likely to be lower and the local people have little control over farming, however jobs are secure which is needed as farming jobs falling by 14% in the 1990s..

Farming has also changed because of CAP. CAP is the Common Agriculture Policy and is a EU policy designed to stop or slow the movement of rural workers to the city. The aims of CAP were to ensure a good standard of living for farmers, give farmers a guaranteed market for their crops, provide grants for set aside farming and to increase productivity through technical progress. CAP is also one of the main reasons for the growth of agribusiness. One of the effects CAP had was the removal hedgerow. In the UK 377,000 km of hedgerow were destroyed between 1947 and 1990. Hedgerows were removed to make fields larger to make it easier for large machines to operate. Other reasons for the removal of hedgerows are they are a habitat for pests, which damage crops, and they need maintaining. However hedgerows provided homes for a lot of wildlife, they acted as a windbreak reducing soil erosion and they are part of rural heritage.

Another impact of CAP and Chemical advances is the use of fertilisers. These are used because they increase the nitrogen in the soil in the soil, which encourages plant growth. However there are two main problems with the use of fertilisers they reduce humus in the soil which promotes erosion and if too much fertiliser is used it can get into the water supply causing eutrophication. Pesticides have also been used on farms these protect crops by killing pests, which mean an income is secure. However there are around 2 species in danger of extension because of the use of pesticides and claims that they can cause health risks for humans. The use of chemical on farms have had positive effects for farmers because it improves and secures the income from the crops however there use has had many negative effects environmentally and socially.

Intensive farming has also had many impacts on rural environments. Intensive farming is when a high level of input is used to achieve a high yield per hectare. In MEDCs this has been achieved by mechanical developments or in LEDCs by a large labour force. The mechanisation of farming includes the developments of combine harvesters, tractors and aircraft. The advantages of using these machines are it speeds up the processes involved in farming and farms have a lower labour cost. This has had a negative impact on rural environments because it has dramatically reduced the number of people employed in rural environments causing large number of people to be unemployed and rural to urban migration.

Biological developments have also had a great impact on farming. Farmers have taken advantage of selective breeding for cattle (hybridisation) and high yielding variety seeds. Genetic engineering modification has also had an effect on farming; this is where DNA is transferred from species. The advantages of this are they can create beneficial characteristics like resistance to disease. However the same disease or pest because of there similar characteristics could destroy the whole crop. The developments of biological farming have been beneficial for the farmers because a high-yielding variety can be produced, however these would have had a negative effect on rural environments because the traditional methods would be lost and genetic modification has social and ethical issues concerned with its use.

Irrigation is an environmental way farming has changed it means supplying the water artificially. The advantage of using irrigation is it can increase yields however it can cause environmental problems. These problems are creating dam floods large areas and river flow I affected, pollution by fertilisers and pesticides can reach rivers by the run-off water from fields. The water table can also drop if abstraction levels are high. Glasshouses are also used to create higher yields because they reduce the limiting factor of light, which increase the growth of plants. `Battery` farming also works in a similar way and is designed to create the best conditions for farming.

I think overall the changes in farming have been positive for the farmers because the introduction of CAP and mechanisation of farming means a lower labour force is needed increasing profit and developments in chemical, environmental and biological activities have meant that a high yield can be produced. However I think the impact on rural environments has been mainly negative with the mechanisation of farming decreasing the number of jobs, which would cause rural- urban migration. Also there have been mean negative environmental impacts in these areas with the loss of habitats from hedgerow removal and pollution cause by the use of chemicals such as fertilisers.

Share this Post!