Agricultural Diversity and Sustainability: General Features and Bangladeshi Illustrations
2. Materials and Methods
3. The Scope and Measurement of the Concept of Agricultural Diversity
- The extent of agricultural diversity at different geographical scales, e.g., on-farms, locally, regionally and nationally, as well as globally;
- The diversity of different types (species) of crops and categories of livestock;
- The extent of genetic diversity within each species of crop and within each species of livestock, that is the extent of variety of each type of crop and livestock breed; and
- The degree of variation in the types of agroecosystems used.
4. Increasing Reliance of Agriculture on Off-Farm Inputs and Its Consequences
4.1. Increasing Dependence of Agriculture for Its Sustainability on Off-Farm Resources
4.2. Increased Availability of Off-Farm Resources Tends to Reduce Agricultural Diversity
5. The Three-Pillar Concept of Sustainability and Its Application to Diversity and Sustainability in Agriculture
5.1. Different Aspects of Agricultural Sustainability
- Ecological sustainability;
- Social sustainability; and
- Economic sustainability.
- Should agricultural development be such that each of these goals are satisfied?
- What if it is impossible to achieve these goals simultaneously?
- If this is the case, what trade-offs should be made?
- To what extent is it ever acceptable to forgo any of these goals?
5.2. The Treadmill of Agricultural Scientific and Technological Advances
5.3. Reduced Agricultural Diversity in Production and Sustainability Problems
6. The Development of Markets as Well as Technologies and Their Impacts on Agricultural Diversity and Sustainability
- Fosters greater specialization in agricultural production and less diversity in this production ;
- Results in the increased adoption and development of agricultural technologies, the application of which is specific to particular crops and the specific purposes for which livestock are used; and
- Changes the economic environment in ways that ‘force’ farmers to reduce the diversity of their farming operations in order to meet market competition or prosper economically.
6.1. Market Development and Reduced Agricultural Diversity
- Crops and crop varieties (as well as breeds of livestock) that supply more marketable commodities than others crowd out those that are less suitable for this purpose. This favours the conservation of those agricultural organisms which enable the production of commodities which have the following qualities: possess greater buyer acceptability than others, are more easily transported without damage, have a longer shelf-life and are superior in appearance.
- The growing importance of supermarkets in many countries reinforces this trend. They have a strong demand for agricultural produce that is standardized and which can be supplied regularly in large volumes. Consequently, crop varieties and crops that are more varied in their attributes and for which the volume of their supplies is small and quite variable in volume tend to disappear.
- Changes in the tastes of consumers (which affect market demand) can reduce agricultural genetic diversity. For example, the increased demand for low fat pork has adversely affected the commercial conservation of some pig breeds, for example, in Vietnam.
- The increased availability of substitute agricultural products reduces the demand for some agricultural commodities. Hence, their production can become unprofitable and they may disappear, thereby reducing the genetic stock. For example, some varieties of millet have disappeared in northern China due to the increased availability of substitutes (such as rice, wheat and maize).
- International specialization in economic production can also add to agricultural biodiversity loss. The development of cocoa plantations in Ghana has, for instance, has resulted in the disappearance of a breed of small-sized cattle because of changed agricultural land use.
- The regional introduction of higher yielding varieties of crops and breeds of livestock from other parts of the world can also be instrumental in the disappearance of heritage varieties of crops and breeds of livestock.
- The abandonment of some farming areas for economic (or ecological) reasons can contribute to the loss of heritage agricultural biodiversity. For example, varieties of crops, which are specific to marginal agricultural areas, are likely to be lost.
6.2. New Agricultural Technologies Favour Monoculture
6.3. Increased Capital-Intensity Contributes to Less Agricultural Diversity
6.4. Increased Farm Incomes Due to Technological Advances Do Not Last
6.5. Once Embedded in the Market System, Individual Farmers Have Limited Ability to Escape from It and Reduce Their Economic Vulnerability
6.6. The Consequences of the Above-Mentioned Forces for Agricultural Diversity and Sustainability
- Agricultural ecological sustainability is at increasing risk;
- The rural social environment is inevitably altered; and
- Maintaining agricultural economic sustainability becomes more challenging and dependent on forces external to individual farms.
7. Linking the Two Parts
8. Background Information about Bangladeshi Agriculture
8.1. General Features
- Bangladesh more than tripled its grain (rice plus wheat) production to 37.4 million tonnes in the year ending June 2018 from a meagre 11 m tonnes in the early 1970s. This represents an increase of food grain production by about 240%. In this period, its population increased by about 136% (from 70 m to 165 m). In feeding its increasing population, Bangladesh has relied almost exclusively on increasing intensification of agriculture mainly by relying on dry season irrigation to produce rice. At the beginning of the Green Revolution, Bangladesh had a cropping intensity ([Gross cropped area (including multiple cropping)/Net-cropped area)] × 100.) of less than 150% . This increased to about 195% in recent years , mainly due to an increase in annual multiple cropping, which has significantly contributed to the process of agricultural intensification in Bangladesh. Information from BBS [25,27] suggests that between the early 1970s and 2018:
- Fallow land in Bangladesh declined from 0.7 m ha to about 0.2 m ha—less than a third of what its level was 47 years ago.
- The area single cropped declined from about 5 m ha to <2.4 m ha.
- Area under multiple cropping registered a spectacular increase. The area double cropped increased from 3 m ha to 3.8 m ha. Of greater significance is the quadrupling of the area under triple cropping (from ≤0.450 m ha to ≈ 1.8 m ha).
8.2. Increasing Dependence on Groundwater
8.3. Rising Use of Agrochemicals
8.4. Changing Seasonal Patterns of Rice Production in Bangladesh
9. Lack of Crop Diversification and the Measurement of Crop Diversity in Bangladesh
9.1. Current Diversity of Crops Grown in Bangladesh
9.2. An Index of Aggregate Crop Diversity and Trends in It in Bangladesh
10. Land Sparing and the Intensification of the Cultivation of Bangladesh’s Rice Crop. Is this Process Sustainable?
10.1. The Relative Contribution of Land Use and Yield to the Total Output of Rice in Bangladesh
- zt − zt−n = change in the level of production of crop between year t and year t − n.
- xt − xt−n = change in the area of the crop between year t and t − n.
- yt − yt−n = change in the (aggregate average) yield of crop between year t and t − n.
10.2. Trends in Rice Yields
11. Declining Biodiversity of Rice
11.1. Background Information
- HYVs of rice are grown over 87% of all rice lands in 2017–18 compared to less than 25% in 1994–95. By 2004–05, the spread of HYVs grew to more than 66% and to more than 84% by 2014–15. Spread of Aus and Aman HYVs of rice broadly reflects the pattern for overall rice—slower pace of adoption in the first two and half decades of the Green Revolution (up to mid-1990s) followed by a rapid pace since.
- Adoption of Boro HYVs proceeded at a very rapid pace. By the mid-1970s, it reached 50% even though the total area under this rice crop was just over a m ha. Subsequently, however, both area and HYV adoption rate expanded. By the mid-1990s, Boro rice was grown in about 2.7 m ha of land of which more than 90% was under HYVs. By 2017–18, Boro rice cultivation expanded to about 4.9 mha almost all of which were planted with HYVs.
- Growth in rice output and yield of three rice crops followed a path similar to that of their area under cultivation. Penetration of HYVs propelled rice yields, which further propelled overall rice production. The combined effect of these changes resulted in tripling of overall output and more than tripling the yield of rice.
11.2. Narrow Genetic Base of Modern Rice Varieties
11.3. HYV Adoption and Lack of Diversification of Rice Varieties
12. Discussion and Conclusions
- The extent of crop diversification in Bangladesh is very low, mainly because of its extremely high dependence on rice as a food source. Nevertheless, by applying a novel index of crop diversity and additional analysis, we discovered that crop diversification has increased in Bangladesh since the Green Revolution. This has occurred partly because higher rice yields and changes in the seasonal cultivation of rice have resulted in land sparing. Land sparing has provided extra land for growing crops other than rice. Furthermore, as incomes have risen in Bangladesh, this has increased the demand for foods other than rice.
- Despite this development, Bangladesh remains heavily dependent on rice for its food supply. Indications are that new technologies are less able to sustain the growth in Bangladesh’s rice yield than in the past given that cultivation of HYVs of rice creates significant environmental damage . The rate of growth in its rice yield has tapered off and these yields appear to be approaching a stationary or a near stationary state. One cannot rule out the possibility that they will decline in the near future because of ecological and environmental factors.
- The most important rice crop (Boro) is critically dependent on two varieties, BRRIDhan28 and BRRIDhan29 with >60% land area (3 m ha) under cultivation that typify its shrinking genetic rice-resource base. Any outbreak of any plant diseases and/or pest epidemics can result in a significant loss or collapse of the rice crop output similar to the collapse of Bangladesh’s wheat output between the late 1990s and early 2000s, and then again in 2016 [52,53].
- Bangladesh’s high dependence on its Boro rice output has resulted in the over-use of its underground water supplies. Its use of underground water exceeds its recharge in many areas of Bangladesh. Its current water use is, therefore, unsustainable. Consequently, given the high dependence of Bangladesh on rice for its food supplies, its future food security is under threat. While we recognise that the issue of water use requires further investigation, it is beyond the scope of this paper. This issue has been investigated in some detail by Alauddin and Sharma , Hasan et al.  and Shah .
- In addition, a very high proportion of Bangladesh’s farm families depend heavily on rice for most or all of their incomes. Consequently, their income levels are threatened given that the ecological and environmental sustainability of rice yields are in doubt.
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|Type of Crops||Area (m ha)||Proportion of Gross Cropped Area Allocated to Crops|
|Oilseeds (9 crops)||0.464||0.0302|
|Vegetables (40 crops)||0.410||0.0267|
|Spices (6 crops)||0.404||0.0263|
|Fruits (28 crops)||0.302||0.0197|
|Pulses (10 crops)||0.368||0.0240|
|Total cropped area||15.357||1.000|
|Year (July–June)||Percentage Share of Total Crop|
|Aus Crop||Aman Crop||Boro Crop|
|Time Period (July–June)||Gross Cropped Area (000 ha)||Output (000 tonnes)||Yield (kg ha−1)|
|Changes between 1971–75 and 2014–18|
|Percentage change in rice output due to|
|BR3||IR506-1-133/Latisail *||Boro||1973||Primarily local|
|BR22||Nizersal */BR51-46-5||T. Aman||1988||Primarily Local|
|BR23||DA-29 */BR4||T. Aman||1988||Local|
|BR28||B6/Purbachi *||Boro and Aus||1995||Local|
|BRRIDhan34||Selection from Khaskani *||T. Aman||1997||Local|
|BRRIDhan49||BR1543-9-2-1 */IR13249||T. Aman||2008||Primarily Local|
|BRRIDhan51||IR81213/Swarna */IR67684B||T. Aman||2008||Primarily Exotic|
|BRRDhan62||Jirakatari */BRRIDhan39||T. Aman||2013||Primarily Local|
|BRRIDhan87||Amol */BRRIDhan28||Boro||2017||Primarily Local|
|Variety||% Coverage (area m ha)||Variety||% Coverage (area m ha)||Variety||% Coverage (area m ha)|
|Boro Crop||Aus Crop||T. (Transplanted) Aman Crop|
|BRRIDhan28||34.80 (1.691)||BRRIDhan48||17.28 (0.186)||BRRIDhan49||11.41 (0.648)|
|BRRIDhan29||26.25 (1.275)||BRRIDhan28||14.98 (0.161)||BR11||7.11 (0.404)|
|BRRIDhan58||2.14 (0.104)||BR26||6.86 (0.074)||BR22||4.21 (0.239)|
|BRRIDhan50||1.78 (0.086)||BR21||4.74 (0.051)||BRRIDhan34||4.04 (0.229)|
|BR16||1.25 (0.061)||BR27||3.81 (0.041)||BRRIDhan52||3.11 (0.177)|
|BRRIDhan43||2.69 (0.029)||BR23||2.75 (0.156)|
|BR2||2.00 (0.022)||BRRIDhan51||2.08 (0.118)|
|BR2RIDhan55||1.69 (0.018)||BRRIDhan41||1.66 (0.094)|
|Other BRRI||3.76 (0.183)||Other BRRI||11.93 (0.128)||Other BRRI||11.39 (0.647)|
|Total BRRI Boro||69.98 (3.400)||Total BRRI Aus||65.98 (0.709)||Total BRRI T. Aman||47.76|
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Tisdell, C.; Alauddin, M.; Sarker, M.A.R.; Kabir, M.A. Agricultural Diversity and Sustainability: General Features and Bangladeshi Illustrations. Sustainability 2019, 11, 6004. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216004
Tisdell C, Alauddin M, Sarker MAR, Kabir MA. Agricultural Diversity and Sustainability: General Features and Bangladeshi Illustrations. Sustainability. 2019; 11(21):6004. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216004Chicago/Turabian Style
Tisdell, Clement, Mohammad Alauddin, Md. Abdur Rashid Sarker, and Md Anwarul Kabir. 2019. "Agricultural Diversity and Sustainability: General Features and Bangladeshi Illustrations" Sustainability 11, no. 21: 6004. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216004