Living Off the Land: Ancient Agricultural Practices vs Modern Industrial Farming

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Popularly, two forms of agricultural practices can be seen around the globe – ancient agricultural practices and modern industrial farming.

Farming accounts for 4% of the global gross domestic product (GDP), wherein the agricultural sector forms the economic base for many nations. It contributes nearly 25% to 50% to their GDP. And the farming techniques have evolved over the years with the advent of new technologies.

Let us explore the evolution of farming practices, their advantages and disadvantages and the debate around these two practices. Get ready to understand how we evolved from ancient techniques to modern methods. 

Characteristics of the Ancient Agricultural Practices

The world has been living off the land for centuries. Living off the land means to earn a living through natural resources and agricultural practices. In simple words, it refers to making money through farming. Traditional agricultural practices include old food production techniques without the use of modern tools. Some of the prominent features of ancient agricultural practices are –

  • Subsistence farming: Ancient practices were meant only for self-consumption. If they had a surplus, then it was sold in the markets. There was no commercialisation of produce.
  • Traditional knowledge: These practices came through generational knowledge. Ancestors passed their knowledge, inducing a culture of farming in the future generations. Moreover, people observed the surroundings and learned accordingly.
  • Biodiversity: Ancient farming practices promote biodiversity. It was focused on growing crops that were sustainable & were better suited for the environment.  Methods such as composting and crop rotation were used instead of chemical fertilizers and artificial methods.
  • Labor-intensive: Farming was done by manual labor rather than advanced machinery. People usually worked on their own lands, instead of hiring labor.

Advantages of Ancient Agricultural Practices

The advantages of ancient farming prove that old is gold. There are numerous benefits associated with traditional farming methods, such as –

  • Preserving traditions: Traditional agriculture helps preserve traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. In some parts of the world, even today, families practice ancient methods of agriculture.
  • Environmental benefits: There is a lower ecological impact. It also promotes biodiversity. It uses cow dung and vermicompost as manure. Organic farming is done without the use of harsh chemicals.
  • Economical: The production cost is way less than in modern agriculture because no machinery is used. Moreover, there is no investment in fertilizers, modern seeds, preservatives and technology.

Disadvantages of the Ancient Agricultural Practices

Traditional farming methods have their own drawbacks. The disadvantages of ancient agricultural techniques are –

  • Growing population: Traditional farming methods fail to meet the demand of an increasing population. Since traditional farming was practiced for subsistence, it does not provide for the needs of the people.
  • Deforestation: Primitive farming involved slash-and-burn agriculture. It was a popular method and led to high levels of deforestation. Leading to consequences that are harmful for the environment.
  • Lack of crop diversity: People cultivated only crops suitable to the local climate. There was no diversification of crops due to which their diet was limited to what was available.

Characteristics of the Modern Industrial Farming

The field of agriculture is evolving. The agricultural sector has seen a boost with the advent of the Green Revolution and modern farming methods. Prominent features of modern industrial farming are the following –

  • Profit-oriented: Modern farming is focused on generating revenue through commercializing farming. It focuses on maximizing crop yield.  Modern farming uses advanced irrigation systems, machinery, chemical inputs, and genetically modified crops.
  • Monoculture: Modern techniques focus only on high-yield crops and livestock, which earn monetary profits. It does not focus on the diversity of crops.  Modern farming methods use water and other energy sources in massive amounts.
  • Environmental impact: Modern industrial farming is concerned with using fertilizers and pesticides. This causes soil degradation, water pollution, climate change, etc.

While it meets the demands of food for the increasing population, it leaves stress on the environment. Which is why finding a sustainable bridge has become the need of the hour.

Advantages of the Modern Industrial Farming  

Why did people shift from ancient agricultural practices to modern industrial farming? This is because of the amount of benefits associated with modern farming. The various advantages of modern farming methods are –

  • High yield: Modern farming leads to higher yields. This helps in meeting the demand of the growing population.  With the growth of technology in agriculture, farmers produce crops even in those areas where farming was impossible.
  • Profits: There is the commercialisation of farming which leads to profit. People can earn from this sector. It is not just a source of subsistence.

Disadvantages of the Modern Industrial Farming

There are two sides to every coin. Likewise, modern farming has its cons, such as –

  • Environmental degradation: The use of fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals which deplete the environment. Soil erosion occurs due to machines’ use on farming land. Moreover, the land cannot recover its nutrition because farming occurs all around the calendar. There is no shift and burn agriculture.
  • Expensive: Modern farming methods require investment in machines, high yielding variety of seeds, chemicals etc.

Summing up

The debate between the Ancient vs. Modern is an ongoing one. Traditional ways have benefitted for generations. On the other hand, modern ways are the need of the hour. Experts have been advocating for the formulation of an integrated approach. Such an approach would constitute the benefits of both types of farming methods.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Which type of farming method uses more inputs?

Modern industrial farming uses more inputs and generates more output than traditional farming.

  1. What were the popular ancient agricultural practices?

Some famous traditional farming methods were – crop rotation, intercropping, cover cropping, crop animal farming, slash-and-burn farming, agroforestry, organic composting, and polyculture.

  1. Which type of farming is best to deal with a growing population?

Modern farming techniques are best to deal with growing populations. These are commercialized. These methods are not only for subsistence. They also produce food to sell and earn.

  1. Who is the father of the Green Revolution?

Norman Borlaug is known as the father of the green revolution in the world. He also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

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