Some of the crop fields that feed the world seem to stretch to the horizon, this is the footprint of intensive agriculture and its impact on our planet
In a landscape dominated by modernity, asphalt and cities, wild nature still manages to enchant us with its dazzling beauty and enormous dimensions. But other times it’s not nature, but human hands. We are talking about the extensive fields of cultivation that represent the essence of agriculture, the basis of our food and an ancient practice that has evolved to change the face of the earth.
The vertiginous advance of science and technology since the 20th century has led humanity to enter the era of intensive agriculture. In the 1970s, the need to increase food production to serve a growing global population led to a more systematic and efficient approach to agriculture. This involved the mechanization of planting and harvesting, the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the selection of high-yielding crop varieties.
With this transformation, small farms began to disappear and vast tracts of land were transformed into colossal fields of cultivation, which offer us products ranging from basic grains to the most exotic crops. Let’s take a look at some of these agricultural giants around the world.
The Wheat Empire: United States
Wheat, a basic grain of human nutrition for millennia, found a vast empire in the American Midwest. Stretching from Montana to Texas, the Great Plains are home to the largest wheat fields in the world. Wheat fields span an impressive 18.3 million hectares.
Specifically, durum wheat (great for making bread and pasta) is widely grown in North Dakota. Americans have grown wheat since the days of the first colonies, but the current westward expansion in the 19th century allowed for the development of extensive wheat fields.
The Soybean Sea: Brazil
Brazil, the world’s second largest soy producer, has transformed its landscapes into vast seas of this legume. Soybean cultivation in Brazil began in the 1960s and exploded in the 1970s, thanks to tropical soybean varieties developed by the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária. Today, the state of Mato Grosso is the largest soy producer in the country.
The birthplace of rice: China
China, with its immense appetite for rice, has an impressive 30 million hectares dedicated to this crop and is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rice. The Chinese have cultivated rice for at least 8,000 years. The impressive landscapes of rice terraces in Yunnan and Guangxi are testament to the historical importance of this culture to Chinese civilization and have earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They represent only a small fraction of that number, but their unparalleled beauty makes them especially remarkable.
The sea of plastic: Almeria, Spain
In the province of Almería there is a white sea that, seen from the air, looks like an immense field of ice. However, this is nothing more than a reflection of the greenhouses that cover more than 30,000 hectares dedicated mainly to tomato cultivation. The adoption of modern greenhouse technologies allows the cultivation of tomatoes throughout the year, positioning Almería as the main tomato producer in Europe. However, the Plastic Sea also poses environmental challenges, with illegal exploitation of aquifers being the most common environmental crime.
These vast fields of crops not only reflect our ability to alter natural landscapes, they also symbolize human achievement in its effort to feed an ever-growing global population. However, we must remember that intensive agriculture also raises many questions in terms of sustainability and environmental conservation. It is up to us to learn to balance our need for food with respect for nature.
Quo Science Trips section sponsored by hyundai