Agricultural pollution refers to the contaminants present in the environment as a result of agricultural practices. Most effects of agricultural pollution are felt in water environments and are caused by runoff from farms and barnyards such as ammonia, pesticides, fertilizers, oil toxins, and animal waste that make their way into bodies of water. Agricultural pollution also negatively affects the quality of air. Chemicals and byproducts from the agricultural industry are quite harmful to the natural environment and can pose a problem for humans as well. As the world’s population continues to grow at a significant rate the demand for intense agriculture will remain high, and so combating agricultural pollution will be increasingly difficult. With this in mind, several alternatives to industrial agriculture, with its polluting tendencies, have been explored and are being utilized today.
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 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.
While industrial agriculture is the most efficient way to produce large quantities of food, the pollution associated with it raises many environmental and health concerns. In light of this, there has been a shift to organic farming which uses more natural ways to raise crops and livestock and avoids the use of harmful chemicals. The use of alternative crops that require less fertilizer because they are adapted to the environment in which they are grown also help to reduce agricultural pollution. However, the demand for cheaper and higher quantities of food as world population steadily rises will make changes in farming methods less likely and more difficult.