Monoculture refers to the cultivation of a single crop — sometimes of a single species of that crop — in one geographical area. It's been extended to describe (usually to criticize) a culture which lacks variety.

The Irish potato famine serves as a dramatic example of the peril of monoculture. Not only were the vast majority of Irish fields devoted to potatos, they were devoted to one variety. And that variety proved susceptible to the potato blight that swept Ireland in the 1840s. Had the Irish planted a variety of crops, or had they planted even a variety of potatoes, some of which would have had more resistance to the blight, the famine might not have been so severe.

Of course, the word monoculture has been extended from agriculture to describe other things. Many blame computer viruses on the "Microsoft monoculture"; Microsoft software is "so dangerously pervasive that a virus capable of exploiting even a single flaw in its operating systems could wreak havoc." (Warning: Microsoft 'Monoculture', AP, February 15, 2004)

But is monoculture entirely bad? If you plant your entire acreage in corn, you need to have only one kind of seeder, one kind of harvester, one kind of herbicide and pesticide. If you have a thousand acres of a standard "supermarket tomato", you need only one kind of harvester, and you can easily pack your crop for shipping.

Related links

Monoculture and the Irish Potato Famine: Cases of missing genetic variation
Understanding Evolution: An Evolution Website for Teachers, a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education.

Monoculture: Just As Bad an Idea in Computing as in Agriculture
Daniel R. Tobias, created 15 Dec 2002 and last modified 10 Jul 2004.
"... Just as it is with farms, computers with greater diversity are less likely to be completely wiped out by any calamity that spreads through the computing world. ..."

Monoculture Debate: Geer vs. Charney
Freedom to Tinker blog, July 1, 2004
"... Geer is right that monoculture raises security dangers. Charney is also right that the critics of monoculture don't offer compelling remedies. ..."

Created by kristin. Last Modification: Saturday 17 of July, 2004 18:55:19 EDT by kristin.