What Causes Agricultural Pollution?
Nov 29 2022
Agricultural pollution is a hot topic right now. Although farming is crucial to our modern way of life, it’s also responsible for a significant amount of pollution. According to studies, agriculture consumes 70% of global water resources, while it emits up to 21% of greenhouse gases and has contributed to 40% of climate damage.
So what, exactly, are the causes, types and effects of this contamination? While the scope of that question is far too broad to be answered in an article as brief as this, we will give readers an introduction to the first of those points. Here are a handful of the most common causes of pollution occurring in the farming industry today.
Fertilisers containing chemicals such as ammonia, nitrates and phosphate have been instrumental in boosting crop yields, but the sometimes wanton manner in which those products have been used has led to an overabundance of nutrients in the soil. In the long term, this can compromise its quality, reduce its fertility and jeopardise its biodiversity, while agricultural run-off can also carry the chemicals into nearby bodies of water. When this happens, local ecosystems can feel the pressure due to the imbalance in nutrients.
Insecticides, herbicides and fungicides were all developed to help protect crops from unwanted pests. While they are accomplished at achieving this task, they can be indiscriminate in the flora and fauna they poison, with birds, mammals and other animals ingesting some of the chemicals on their own prey or through accidental contact. In particular, bees have suffered a monumental decline in recent decades due to pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which are now outlawed in some parts of the world (such as the UK and the EU) but not in others (such as the USA).
Did you know that roughly one quarter of all methane emissions emanates from cows and other livestock? Through the mere act of digesting their fodder, ruminant animals expel huge volumes of the gas into the atmosphere, where it serves as a potent global warming agent. Additionally, the manure created by these animals can damage soil quality, contaminate water supplies and contribute to air pollution when not stored and disposed of appropriately. What’s more, they also consume significant land, water and crop resources, further impacting the planet.
Intensive tilling of the land is responsible for the degradation of soil quality and its eventual erosion. Similar consequences occur when unsustainable practices are deployed, such as monoculture farming and deforestation to clear arable land. The use of modern machinery also consumes fossil fuels and emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, while the widespread practice of stubble burning – even when outlawed by national and international authorities – creates air pollution in the local vicinity.
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