Agricultural pollution is contamination of the environment and related surroundings as a result of using the natural and chemical products for farming. This contamination is actually injurious to all living organisms that depend on the food on cultivation. It is refers to biotic and abiotic by products of farming practices that result in contamination or degradation of the environment and surrounding ecosystems, and/or cause injury to humans and their economic interests. The pollution may come from a variety of sources, ranging from point source water pollution (from a single discharge point) to more diffuse, landscape-level causes, also known as non-point source pollution. Management practices play a crucial role in the amount and impact of these pollutants. Management techniques range from animal management and housing to the spread of pesticide sand fertilizers in global agricultural practices.
Causes of Agriculture Pollution
These are mostly nitrogen and phosphorus based chemicals like ammonia and nitrates that in correct amounts boost the fertility of the soil. But in most cases these are used in more quantity than required and hence tend to be retained in the soil not adding to its goodness.
When pests and insects cause losses on a large scale, this leads to economic fallout for the farmers. Pesticides and insecticides like organochlorines, organophosphates and carbonates are toxic to the pests. They also tend to bio accumulate i.e. they collect in the body of the organism and lead to chronic poisoning. This can be passed up the food chain. Some pesticides also are absorbed naturally by the plants themselves and stored their different parts. Pesticides are not discriminatory in nature as they also cause harm to beneficial insects such as bees and pollinators,
Cadmium, fluoride, radioactive elements like uranium are regularly found in the parent minerals from which the fertilisers are obtained. Dangerous metals such as Mercury, Lead, Arsenic, Chromium, and Nickel are seen in traces in Zinc rich wastes from the steel industries which are used as fertilizers. These are often not removed from the because of the high cost involved.
Excessive tillage of the land
Overturning, digging or stirring leads to release of greenhouse gases produced in the ground such as nitrous oxide
Loss of soil material due to poor management causes soil to become infertile.
The soil or sediments carried off into water bodies cause a lot of harm. Sedimentation reduces the transportation capability of navigation channels. It reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the water beds affecting the plants and animals living in it. The turbidity it causes interferes with the feeding patterns of the fishes and affects their population. Sedimentation also affects the transport and accumulation of water pollutants
Introduction of foreign species
Many instances of foreign species of plants, animals and insects were introduced to control pests and weeds. But after a while these have taken over and become nuisances themselves. They cause harm to indigenous flora and fauna competing for the natural resources, and also cause changes in the bio diversity. There has been loss of many indigenous beneficial creatures due to this kind of biological pest control.
Genetic Modification to increase resistance to pest and diseases
A raging topic of debate today, it is a cause of concern for many that these crops will lead to the loss of many original species and may become weeds themselves. If these will be toxic to consumers ranging from insects to humans is to be studied in depth.
Farms specializing in rearing cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry must have strict regulations concerning the disposal of manure and other associated waste material. These must not be indiscriminately disposed in the surrounding areas. They cause pollution of the air as well as the water. 18 per cent of Greenhouse gases are said to be generated by farm animals. The large amounts of manure created, carry pathogens that are harmful for humans too.
Effect of agricultural pollution
Since agricultural pollution is not a lone standing entity, its effects are carried over as water pollution and air pollution. It affects every aspect of the environment and every organism from the earthworm to humans. Some of the adverse effects are as follows:
Drinking or swimming in water with dangerous levels of algal bloom causes rashes, stomach and liver problems, respiratory illnesses and neurological effects.
Infants drinking water with high levels of nitrates get affected by the blue baby syndrome which is often fatal. Symptoms are shortness of breath and blue tinted skin.
Formation of dead zones or hypoxic areas where no aquatic life exists; Examples Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico
Entry of toxins from algal blooms into the food chain hurts larger animals like dolphin’s seals and turtles etc.
Air pollution with nitrogen oxides leads to occurrences of smog because of the formation of ozone. Ozone pollution damages trees and forests.
Agricultural pollution also causes heavy economic losses. Cleaning up contaminated waters is costly. Tourism is affected by decrease in fishing and boating activities. Visibility at tourist locations and scenic spots are reduced by air pollution. Marble and limestone buildings are damaged by ozone pollution. Fishing and shellfish industries are also losing money to contamination. Real estate value that always rises when ground water and nearby water sources are in good condition suffer when the opposite happens.
Safe drinking water and clean water habitats are the rights of every living being. Let’s become more responsible in our agricultural practices in order to preserve this and make this available to all.
By – Assistant Professor – Sunita Bhandari
Department of Agriculture
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