Agriculture including growing, rearing, transporting, processing, and even storing food and non-food crops and agricultural products has a profound impact on the planet. For example, consider what it takes to feed the nearly 9.5 billion animals raised for food in the United States each year.
Or what goes into growing corn on the more than 90 million acres of land in this country, which is primarily used for cattle feed and ethanol production. The massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides that go into these farms (and all the crap that comes out of it) are just a few examples of the pollution associated with farming. Here is your guide to understanding the many and varied impacts of our farming practices.
What is agricultural pollution?
Agricultural pollution is the contamination we release into the environment as a by-product of growing and raising livestock, food crops, animal feed, and biofuel crops.
Agricultural pollution refers to biotic and abiotic byproducts of agricultural practices that result in contamination or degradation of the environment and surrounding ecosystems and/or harm people and their economic interests.
Pollution can come from a variety of sources, ranging from point source water pollution (from a single point of discharge) to more diffuse causes at the landscape scale, also known as non-point source pollution and air pollution.
Once in the environment, these pollutants can have both direct impacts on the surrounding ecosystems, i. H. killing local wildlife or contaminating drinking water, as well as concentrating downstream impacts such as dead zones caused by agricultural runoff in large bodies of water.
Management practices, or lack of knowledge thereof, play a crucial role in the amount and impact of these pollutants. Management techniques range from animal husbandry and housing to the spread of pesticides and fertilizers in global agricultural practices. Poor management practices include poorly managed animal feed operations, overgrazing, plowing, fertilizing, and improper, excessive, or mistimed use of pesticides.
Pollutants from agriculture severely affect water quality and can be found in lakes, rivers, wetlands, estuaries, and groundwater. Pollutants from agriculture include sediments, nutrients, pathogens, pesticides, metals, and salts. Animal husbandry has an outsized impact on pollutants entering the environment. Bacteria and pathogens in manure can enter streams and groundwater if grazing, manure storage in lagoons, and manure spreading on fields are not managed properly.
Causes of agricultural pollution
Chemical fertilizers: These are mostly nitrogen and phosphorus-based chemicals such as ammonia and nitrates that promote soil fertility in the right amounts. But in most cases, they are used in excess of the requirement and are therefore retained in the soil without increasing its goodness.
Chemical Pesticides: When pests and pests cause large-scale losses, it causes economic degradation for the farmers. Pesticides and insecticides such as organochlorine, organophosphates, and carbonates are toxic to pests. They also accumulate bioavailability i.e. they accumulate in the body of the organism and lead to chronic poisoning.
It can be carried down the food chain. Some pesticides are also naturally absorbed by plants and their various parts are stored. Insecticides are not discriminatory in nature because they also harm beneficial pests such as bees and pollinators,
Heavy metals: Radioactive elements such as cadmium, fluoride, uranium are regularly found in the basic minerals from which fertilizers are obtained. Zinc waste from the steel industries uses hazardous metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, chromium, and nickel as fertilizers. These are often not removed due to the high cost involved.
Excessive tillage: Leaving, digging, or moving greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide into the ground
Soil erosion: Soil becomes infertile due to loss of soil material due to poor management
Soil sedimentation: Soils or sediments carried in water bodies cause great damage. Sedimentation reduces the transport capacity of navigation channels. This reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the water beds affecting plants and animals living in it. This causes disturbance which interferes with the feeding pattern of the fishes and affects their populations. Sedimentation also affects the carrier and accumulation of water pollutants.
Introduction of exotic species: Numerous examples of exotic species of plants, animals, and insects were introduced to control pests and weeds. But after a while, they are gone and they themselves become a nuisance. They harm the competition of indigenous flora and fauna for natural resources and also cause changes in biodiversity. Such indigenous pest control has resulted in the loss of many indigenous beneficial creatures.
Genetic modification to increase resistance to pests and diseases: A hot topic of debate today, it is a cause of concern for many people that these crops will cause the loss of many native species and may become weeds themselves. If these insects would be toxic for humans to consumers, then in-depth studies have to be done.
Animal Management: There should be strict rules regarding the disposal of manure and other allied wastes in farms specializing in cattle, sheep, goat, pig, and poultry farming. They should not be disposed of indiscriminately in the surrounding areas.
They cause pollution of water as well as air. It is said that 18 percent of greenhouse gases are produced by agricultural animals. Manufactured manure in large quantities carries pathogens that are also harmful to humans. Proper animal waste management can reduce its huge bulk, making it easy to use.
Types of Agricultural Pollution
1. Leaching and groundwater poisoning
When the chemical accumulates in the soil, depending on the solubility of the water and the composition of the soil, it spreads through the groundwater, causing its pollution. It also depends on rainfall.
For example, after applying pesticides to crops in sandy areas, if highly irrigated, pesticide chemicals move into the ground. Leaching occurs not only in farms but also at manufacturing, mixing, and disposal sites.
2. Water runoff
Only a fraction of fertilizers and other chemical additives use on farms. The major bulk runoff is mix with water and flows into nearby cisterns. It is mainly in the form of nitrate and phosphate.
Eutrophication also called water nutrient enrichment. When nitrogen and phosphorus-rich chemicals are released from the fields into the water, it increases the level of nutrients in the water. It encourages plant growth.
This greatly benefits the algae. When they flower and bloom, they use most of the oxygen levels in the body of water, much less for other life forms. This kills fish and other animals in the water that cannot swim for safety.
Algae blooms prohibit the entry of sunlight into the water. It affects photosynthesis in plants and does not allow the restoration of oxygen levels by this process. The water eventually becomes unfit to support any form of life.
Algae themselves also release some toxins that travel up the food chain and adversely affect higher life forms.
Agricultural pollution prevention
- The priority is to keep nitrogen and phosphorus-rich nutrients locked in water sources near farms and animal farms.
- Prevention can never be a single effort. State governments, farmer organizations, collectives and cooperatives, educational institutions, and conservation groups need to work together to regulate and reduce water pollution related to farming.
- Planning the application of the right amount of fertilizer at the right time can reduce run-off in the right ways
- Planting some grasses and clover that can absorb and recycle excess nutrients and prevent soil erosion. Planting rows of trees and shrubs around the fields and along the boundaries of the stream or lake also help.
- To prevent soil erosion and soil compaction, an excessive amount of soil should be avoided.
- Proper disposal of animal waste and keeping farm animals away from water will reduce nitrogen pollution in water.
- There are various methods of composting, solid-liquid separation, anaerobic digestion, and management of lagoon animal manure. Of this, anaerobic digestion is the most effective. This includes the use of anaerobic bacteria and heat. The products of this process are nutrient-rich liquids use as fertilizer and methane gas that can burn to produce electricity and heat. Anaerobic digestion is the best method for controlling odors associated with manure management.
Effects of agricultural pollution
Since agricultural pollution is not a single permanent entity, its effect is in the form of water pollution and air pollution. It affects every aspect of the environment and every organism from earthworms to humans. Some adverse effects are as follows:
Drinking or swimming in water with dangerous levels of algal blooms leads to rashes, stomach and liver problems, respiratory diseases, and neurological effects.
Infants drinking water with high levels of nitrate are affected by Blue Baby Syndrome which is often fatal. Symptoms are shortness of breath and blue skin.
Formation of dead zones or hypoxic areas where no aquatic life exists; Examples are the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico
The ingestion of toxins from algal blooms in the food chain damages large animals such as dolphin seals and turtles.
Smog events occur due to the formation of ozone from air pollution with nitrogen oxide. Ozone pollution damages trees and forests.
Agricultural pollution also causes heavy economic losses. Cleaning contaminated water is expensive. Tourism is affected by the decrease in fishing and boating activities. Air pollution reduces visibility at tourist and sightseeing spots.
Marble and limestone buildings damaged by ozone pollution. The fishing and shellfish industries are also losing money for contamination. The real estate value that always rises when the groundwater and surrounding water sources are in good condition is the opposite.
Safe drinking water and clean water habitat are the rights of every living being. Be more responsible in our farming practices to conserve it and make it available to all.
What are the 4 types of agricultural pollution?
Agricultural pollution comprises liquid and solid wastes from all types of farming activities, including run-off from pesticide and fertilizer use, and from feedlots; erosion and dust from ploughing; animal manure and carcasses; and crop residues and debris.
How does agriculture cause pollution?
The agricultural pollution contaminates soil that leads to soil pollution and depletion of soil fertility by killing soil microorganisms. The chemicals that are part of pesticides and other different kinds of agrochemicals can cause long-lasting damage to the soil.
How does agriculture damage the environment?
Agriculture is the leading source of pollution in many countries. Pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic farm chemicals can poison fresh water, marine ecosystems, air and soil. They also can remain in the environment for generations.
How does agricultural waste harm the environment?
In many parts in developing countries, agricultural solid wastes are indiscriminately dumped or burnt in public places, thereby resulting in the generation of air pollution, soil contamination, a harmful gas, smoke and dust and the residue may be channeled into a water source thereby polluting the water and aquatic environment.
What are examples of agricultural pollution?
The monumental quantities of fertilizers and pesticides that go into those operations (and all the manure that comes out) are just a few examples of the pollution associated with agriculture.
What are the three major agricultural pollutants?
The primary agricultural nonpoint source pollutants are nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus), sediment, animal wastes, pesticides, and salts. Agricultural nonpoint sources enter surface water through direct surface runoff or through seepage to ground water that discharges to a surface water outlet.
What are the objectives of agricultural pollution?
The Agricultural Pollution Control Project aims to increase significantly the use of environment-friendly agricultural practices in rural areas in order to ultimately reduce the discharge of nutrients and other agricultural pollutants into the Danube River and Black Sea through integrated land and water management.
How agriculture affects water pollution?
The most prevalent source of agricultural water pollution is soil that is washed off fields. Rain water carries soil particles (sediment) and dumps them into nearby lakes or streams. When these sources exceed plant needs, or are applied just before it rains, nutrients can wash into aquatic ecosystems.
How can we prevent agricultural pollution?
There are several ways to prevent accidents caused by pollution on the farm, especially regarding nutrient runoff.
- Add Conservation Buffers to Catch Runoff.
- Implement Nutrient Management Techniques.
- Control Livestock Access to Waterways.
- Minimize Tillage.
- Have a Manure Management Plan.
What are 3 effects of agriculture on the environment?
Significant environmental and social issues associated with agricultural production include changes in the hydrologic cycle; introduction of toxic chemicals, nutrients, and pathogens; reduction and alteration of wildlife habitats; and invasive species.
What are five environmental effects of agriculture?
Many critical environmental issues are tied to agriculture, such as climate change, dead zones, genetic engineering, pollutants, deforestation, soil degradation, waste, and many others.
Which is the most harmful component of agricultural waste?
Ani- mal manures, meat processing wastes, and leather tanning wastes are the agricultural solid wastes that have the greatest potential to result in hazardous conditions.
How does agricultural waste pollute the land?
Pesticides and herbicides are applied to agricultural land to control pests that disrupt crop production. Soil contamination can occur when pesticides persist and accumulate in soils, which can alter microbial processes, increase plant uptake of the chemical, and are toxic to soil organisms.
What problems are farmers facing today?
Major Problems faced by farmers in India are as follows.
- Unavailability of good quality of Seeds.
- Lack of Modern Equipment.
- Poor irrigation facilities.
- Small and Fragmented Holdings of land.
- Dealing with local traders and middleman.
- Lack of Storage facilities.
How much does agriculture contribute to pollution?
Agriculture as a cause of air pollution. Livestock account for about 40 percent of global emissions, mineral fertilizers for 16 percent and biomass burning and crop residues for about 18 percent.
How does agriculture affect the hydrosphere?
Agriculture, which accounts for 70 percent of water withdrawals worldwide, plays a major role in water pollution. Farms discharge large quantities of agrochemicals, organic matter, drug residues, sediments and saline drainage into water bodies.
How does agriculture cause global warming?
Agriculture and forestry together are estimated to account for 10.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, including carbon dioxide emissions associated with agricultural electricity consumption. Globally, carbon dioxide emissions are the largest contributor to climate change.
How do agricultural chemicals affect the environment?
Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation. In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants.
What are three social effects of agricultural practices?
Societal effects of agricultural practices include changing diets, role of women in agricultural production, and economic purpose.
How is agricultural waste disposed?
How is agricultural waste disposed of? Disposal of agricultural waste, is, in many cases similar to regular waste disposal methods. As in, solid materials are often sent to landfills or incinerators.
How can we recycle agricultural waste?
Agricultural waste Recycling
- Green waste such as old trees, branches, and hedges can be easily separated and shredded for reuse.
- Mounds of used soil or waste from the ground can be crushed using a cone crusher, and passed through a trammel to provide you fresh top soil, and clean rocks which are useful for landscaping.
Does agriculture cause the most pollution?
Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.