Agricultural pollution comprises wastes, emissions, and discharges arising from farming activities. This includes runoff and leaching of pesticides and fertilizers; pesticide drift and volatilization; erosion and dust from cultivation; and improper disposal of animal manure and carcasses. Some agricultural pollution is point source, meaning that it is derived from a single discharge point, such as a pipe.
Agricultural Pollution Causes
Pesticides used to kill insects that feed on crops can cause much damage to the environment if used inappropriately. Excessive pesticides remain in the soil after sprayings and are washed away by rain that forces them to be absorbed into groundwater. Avoiding pesticide contamination is a tricky process only feasible through careful containment practices. The same problem exists with the use of fertilizers. Excrements produced by cattle and other barnyard animals also cause pollution. The methane released from cow flatulence is also a type of greenhouse gas making it partly responsible for global warming. Emissions from the use of fossil fuels by tractors and other farm equipment used in agriculture also contribute to air pollution. Fires, which are not uncommon on farms, can be very detrimental to the environment if fertilizer or waste products are being burnt. The problem of agricultural pollution is not simply felt in regions in farming regions. Contaminates in rivers can be carried all the way to the ocean and polluted air can be blown to other areas with denser populations.
Agricultural Pollution Effects
Agricultural pollution poses numerous human health problems. Chemicals that make their way into groundwater can eventually end up in water sources that are used for drinking. Blue baby syndrome, a disease that causes death in infants, is often caused by contaminated water. Pesticides released into the air and emissions from farm equipment cause difficulty breathing and a host of respiratory problems. Fertilizers, manure, waste, and ammonia that are present in water release nitrogen that reduces the amount of oxygen present resulting in the death of fish and other marine animals.
Agricultural Runoff Pollution
Runoff is water from rain or melted snow which is not absorbed and held by the soil, but runs over the ground and through loose soil. Agricultural runoff is water leaving farm fields because of rain, melted snow, or irrigation. As runoff moves, it picks up and carries pollution, which it can deposit into ponds, lakes, coastal waters, and underground sources of drinking water.
Agricultural Pollution Sources
Polluted agricultural runoff is the leading source of water pollution in rivers and lakes, according to a federal report. It can also trigger algae blooms in coastal waters, and produce “dead zones” in the ocean where there is no oxygen and few fish or wildlife can survive. In cities and suburbs, urban and industrial runoff is also a major source of water pollution.
Agricultural Pollution Solutions
Use fertilizers sparingly. Test the soil to see the amount of fertilizer needed.
Don’t fertilize before a rain storm.
Use organic fertilizers that release nutrients more slowly.
Use commercially available compost. Commercial compost and soil amendments may be available at solid waste or wastewater utilities as well as garden stores.
Substitute biological methods for pesticides and never apply them near a well or water.
Recycle oil, antifreeze, batteries, fertilizer, pesticides and other chemicals and materials as much as possible.
Control runoff from exposed soil, feedlots and barnyards so that it doesn’t get into drinking water, streams and lakes.
Keep barnyards and feedlots clean, and routinely pick up livestock waste and dispose of it properly.
Maintain proper storage of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals and monitor containers for leaks.
Maintain farm equipment and monitor for leaks. Use rags to soak up oils and other chemicals when making repairs. Never let any toxic materials flow into the ground or water.