How soil is damaged by industrial agriculture

When crops are being grown, soil is the most important factor. Good soil health means better growing conditions and healthier food. Yet some modern farming methods lead to soil damage over time, requiring more extensive man-made interventions. Here are some ways soil becomes damaged by industrial agriculture:

Monocropping – This is the process of repeated growing of the same crop every year. This causes the soil to lose nutrients, organic matter and can lead to expansive erosion. Even a single rotation between two crops can cause problems which often must be rectified using synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

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Synthetic fertilisers – Long term use of synthetic fertilisers leads to soil deficient in microbiological diversity. It also alters this diversity to more pathogenic strains of microbes. It can also lead to an accumulation of acid, heavy metals and salts which are harmful to humans and animals. These problems exacerbate climate change and cause water pollution. For information on Contaminated Land Remediation, go to

Factory farm waste – Highly concentrated animal farming can lead to animal waste getting into soil. Pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and harmful microbes leach into the soil which can cause antibiotic resistant bacteria to grow on plants. Some antibiotics are also taken up by some plant types. Heavy metals from animal feed also get into the soil, including lead and copper.

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Tillage and erosion – Prolonged use of heavy machinery and tillage can lead to soil compaction and erosion. As 80% of carbon stored in ground ecosystems is found in the soil, the erosion of soil has serious implications for climate change.

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