Causes and Effects of Agricultural Pollution
Food is the basic need to survive for everyone and agriculture is the means to supply the demand for this basic need. Traditionally the agricultural activities were completely dependent on natural processes, hence the land was able to maintain its fertility for many years.
Unfortunately, from the past few years, farming methods have changed by the use of modern techniques. These modern techniques have ended up causing agricultural pollution. A general perception is that pesticides and fertilizers are the only sources of agricultural pollution but there are many other causes of agriculture pollution that affect the ecosystem.
Here, we will discuss the major causes and effects of agricultural pollution –
Table of Contents
What are the factors responsible for agricultural pollution?
Let’s see diverse causes of it –
- Use of fertilizers and pesticides
Pesticides and fertilizers are one of the major sources of agricultural pollution. The purpose of these fertilizers and pesticides is to kill the local pests that damage the crops. When these pesticides are sprayed on crops, some of its chemicals get absorbed by soil, water and by the plants itself.
These chemicals are quite harmful as they contaminate the water supply and the soil also. When animals eat these leftover crops after harvesting, it affects their health. Sometimes these crops may also affect our health when we consume them.
- An excessive amount of nutrients
The fertilizers and manure used for agricultural purposes do not show direct toxic effects rather than chemical nutrients present in excessive amounts like phosphorous & nitrogen. The high nutrient is one of the major causes of agriculture pollution.
When these nutrients washed out with rainwater and enter the water bodies like rivers, lakes, etc. it shows negative impacts on the quality of water. As a result, the nutrient balance in water becomes changed, due to which the aquatic ecosystem gets affected drastically.
- Use of contaminated water for irrigation activities
The use of contaminated water for irrigation purposes also comes under the sources of agricultural pollution. The groundwater sources, rain and other water bodies are the main sources of irrigation. Most of these sources are already polluted due to the disposal of industrial and agricultural wastes.
As a result of it, the water becomes contaminated when organic compounds & heavy metals get dissolved in water such as lead, mercury, cadmium, etc. This contaminated water pollutes the process of agriculture when used for irrigation activities.
- Soil erosion through improper agricultural activities
The soil has many layers but for agriculture purposes the top layer of the soil is useful. The improper agriculture practices are losing the quality of soil day by day which is affecting the fertility of the soil as well. The upper layer used for farming purposes is getting eroded by different sources like wind and water.
Soil erosions are other roots of agricultural pollution. The sediments resulted due to soil erosion deposits on other areas near water bodies like rivers, streams, etc. which eventually affect the natural movement of these water bodies.
- Traces of heavy metal
The pesticides, fertilizers and industrial wastes sometimes contain some traces of heavy metals like cadmium, lead, arsenic, etc. These heavy metal traces get dissolved with soil, mix with water sources, sucks by the groundwater and sometimes are absorbed by the crops also.
When animals and human beings consume these crops, the heavy metals present in it affect their health negatively. In some severe cases, it may also cause premature death as the harmful effects of agricultural pollution.
- Growth of harmful weeds & pests
Growing trends of foreign crops and lack of natural species are also contributing to the sources of agriculture pollution. The entry of these exotic crops is thus affecting the local population with new health issues, pests, and weeds. This exotic vegetation not only affects human health but also damage the native ecosystem by doing permanent alterations.
- Livestock Health
Traditionally, the farmers used to keep many numbers of livestock as much they can afford. The cattle, sheep, and chickens were common animals of livestock. These animals used to depend on a natural diet such as the waste material left after harvesting of the crops.
In this way, these animals were also helping in keeping the farm quite healthy. Whereas, these days these animals are mostly dependent on an unnatural diet, hence affecting the agricultural processes as well as their health.
What are the Harmful Impacts of Agricultural Pollution?
Let’s see several effects of it –
- Agricultural pollution causes various health issues
Agricultural pollution is directly related to causing various health issues to us. Agricultural pollution is one of the main causes of water pollution. When the chemicals from different manure, pesticides, fertilizers are dissolved in water bodies (especially in groundwater), it ended up drinking polluted water.
We consume the contaminated water that contains harmful chemicals, toxins, metals, etc. that may cause various health problems such as blue baby syndrome.
- Degradation of soil fertility
Chemicals used in the form of pesticides or fertilizers are basically used to protect the crops from pest attacks. These chemicals also spoil the soil’s fertility that remains unchanged for many years. These chemicals disturb the chemistry of soil, degrade the fertility of the soil, destroy the microorganisms of soil that play an important role in maintaining soil fertility and cause many more effects of it.
- Agricultural pollution affects aquatic life
Agricultural wastes also affect the aquatic ecosystem. When fertilizers and pesticides mix with water it converts into nitrate which minimizes the level of oxygen present in water. A low level of oxygen causes the death of innocent water animals.
As a result, numerous bacteria and parasites generate from animal wastes that can get entry into our body by drinking this contaminated water through various sources. Eventually, the polluted water may cause various health implications in the form of harmful effects of agricultural pollution.
- May affect the long-term agricultural productions
The pesticides and other chemical products are used to perform various agricultural activities but the continuous use of these chemicals affects long-term agricultural productions. These chemicals stay for a long time in soil, underground water that may kill the micro-organisms present in soil affecting the quality of the soil. The low fertility of soil directly affects the long-term production of agricultural products.
Generally, the heavy and dense growth of vegetation and algae on the water surface is termed as eutrophication. The excessive nutrients dissolved with water from agricultural pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and some other agrochemicals, etc. are one of the primary impacts of agriculture pollution. Due to eutrophication, the dissolved oxygen in water starts depleting which causes the death of many fishes and other aquatic creatures.
- Agricultural pollution causes air pollution
Some agricultural activities considered as sources of air pollution such as the burning of fossil fuels in tractors, emission of gases through livestock & fertilizers, emission of greenhouse gases from machinery used for farming purposes, etc. The gases emitted from all these sources are eventually affecting the atmosphere by polluting the air.
As demand is rising every day and resources are scarce and limited, we must start planting more trees and use fewer chemicals that are not good for our children’s health.