Intensive agriculture has slowly been consuming the very resource base which sustains the human society. The agriculture of today depends heavily on the following factors:

1. Fertilizer and chemicals used in agriculture.

2. Large amounts of energy inputs.

3. New varieties with high yield and other useful traits.


Fertilizers boost productivity by providing large amounts of nutrients while chemicals like pesticides, fungicides etc. minimize damages caused by pathogens, insects and pests. We have to use high-yielding, fast-growing varieties capable of responding to the use of high levels of chemical nutrients. No doubt this has caused a rapid rise in food grain production.

However, the consequences of widespread adaptation of intensive agriculture have been detrimental to our soils and traditional genetic resource base of the plants which we cultivate on large scale. The disadvantages of intensive agriculture stem from damage which it causes to the biotic community of the soil and the exclusive use of modern high-yielding varieties which adversely affect biological diversity.

The chemicals used in agriculture are costly. At present in a number of countries, Governments provide generous subsidies to farmers to promote the use of chemicals in agriculture and raise production. If these subsidies are withdrawn, the use of chemicals in agriculture may decline and with it overall grain production as well. The prices of fertilizers are bound to rise as our oil wells start drying up since it is the petroleum crude which provides much of the basic raw material for their manufacture.

With the depletion of fossil fuels energy crisis is likely to appear within a span of fifty or sixty years, if we fail to develop an alternative source of energy. With energy crisis everywhere our agriculture shall also suffer from its shortage. As far as water is concerned, so far we have been successful in increasing the total world area under irrigation considerably.


Total world’s harvested area under irrigation was about 40 million hectares in 1900 A.D., it grew to about 94 million hectares in 1950 A.D. and by the year 1985 A.D. it had risen to about 271 million hectares. However, much of this expansion was based on heavy over-drafts on ground water and surface water resources, any further addition to which shall be enormously difficult and costly.

Though we have plenty of fresh-water at present, an acute water crisis is likely to develop by third or fourth decade of next century. Naturally agriculture is going to receive top priority, yet the shortage of water all around could affect irrigation adversely.

The disappearance of traditional varieties caused by heavy dependence of modern agriculture on new, synthetic, high-yield-varieties has been reducing the broad genetic resource base of plants we cultivate to feed ourselves. The expected changes in global environment which we are likely to face within a century or so may require drastic adjustments in agricultural technology. So in the face of an unknown future of world agriculture the loss of traditional varieties, which may contain traits likely to be valuable in future, is something which mankind shall regret in years to come.

Fertile soils, rich in organic matter and thriving with life, are the basis of all productivity in world’s terrestrial systems. It is a precious thing, as few centimeters of fertile top soil form in thou­sands of years. Intensive cultivation has been weakening the very basis of its fertility and other useful traits which help it to tolerate incessant battering of wind and rains and loose little nutrients to erosion. We are now losing about 7 million hectares of fertile land every year (UN-FAO Report, 1980). This is something which the mankind cannot afford. The consequences shall be drastic.