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Discuss the Advantages and Disadvantages of the use of Fertilisers and Pesticides in Agriculture

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Introduction

Discuss the Advantages and Disadvantages of the use of Fertilisers and Pesticides in Agriculture Agriculture today dominates the majority of all land uses. As a result it has a fundamental role in maintaining the countryside and protecting the environment. The development of the use of fertilisers and pesticides has dramatically increased the efficiency of food production and has in fact more than quadrupled food production in the last century1. They also have reduced the cost and increased the variety of foods available. However, there are serious consequences to the uses of many of these pesticides and fertilisers and they have resulted in various environmental problems. Fertilisers: In a natural ecosystem plants eventually die and decay. When the plant dies, it decomposes and bacteria and other soil microorganisms break down organic molecules and release the nutrients back into the soil2. However, in a farm, the plants (i.e. crops) are harvested and the nutrients are removed with them. If a high yield is to be maintained for a number of years the nutrients must be replaced. Therefore in order to maintain productivity in agriculture farmers need to use fertilisers containing these nutrients. There are two types of fertilisers used by farmers in agriculture: inorganic fertilisers and organic fertilisers. They both have advantages and disadvantages within themselves. Inorganic fertilisers are concentrated sources of macronutrients and can therefore be applied in smaller amounts. As a result saving on transport costs and on damage done by heavy farm machinery being driven over the soil. They are also clean and lack the smell of organic fertilisers; and are easier to handle and apply. ...read more.

Middle

They also may contain unwanted substances such as weed seeds and fungal spores. The main problem though is that livestock slurries have the potential to pollute surface watercourses during storage and land application causing: eutrophication, de-oxygenation and contamination10. Fertilisers altogether contribute to the considerable increase in production of crops in agriculture. However there are some environmental consequences that need to be considered before increasing the use of fertilisers. Organic fertilisers though are more 'environmentally friendly' but these however are not as effective. Pesticides: In many ways crop plants are no different from plants growing under natural conditions. They compete with other species of plant for mineral ions and water in the soil and for light. Insects feed on their leaves and they suffer from diseases caused by fungi and viruses. All these things reduce the growth rate of the plant and are likely to affect of seeds they produce. When crop plants are involved, this represents an important loss. Controlling unwanted plants, insects and fungi will increase the crop yield significantly. In agriculture, plants are growing closely together, and in turn fungal diseases and insect pests can spread rapidly. Therefore it is important to control unwanted organisms, such as pests, which can cause disease; in order to obtain a good harvest11. These pests and weeds can be controlled using pesticides. Pesticides are any substance used to kill a pest. A pest in agricultural terms is a plant, animal or micro-organism which damages man, his crops or domestic animals, an organism in the wrong place, eg: a weed, an insect, a smut or rust'12. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, when they do occur they can cause severe environmental damage. Altogether though, fertilisers and pesticides have increased yields of food crops since the 1940's. Farmers in the undeveloped countries, where food shortages are a problem, grow the most food they can and so agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilisers) are therefore an advantage. Having addressed earlier there are though several disadvantages and problems to the uses of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture. They face problems with the environment and have several health issues (especially pesticides and drinking water). Where in the Western World, quality is often as important as quantity and so therefore these problems have to be addressed first before using certain fertilisers and pesticides. 1 The Scottish Agricultural College 2 Extracted from A New Introduction to Biology by Indge, Rowland and Baker 3 Extracted from a fat sheet article entitled 'Maximising Crop Yield' 4 Extracted from an article 'Problems with Chemical Fertilisers' by John Phillips 5 '' 6 From Haylett and Theron on the problem created by excessive and continuous use of ammonium sulphate. 7 The Scottish Agricultural College 8 extracted form an article on fertilisers in www.biologymad.com 9 Extracted from a fact sheet article entitled 'Organic Farming' 10 The Scottish Agricultural College 11 Extract from a 'New Introduction to Biology' by Indge, Rowland and Baker 12 Definition from a fact sheet article entitled 'pest control' 13 The Environment Agency on Pesticides 14 From a New Introduction to Biology by Indge, Rowland and Baker 15 Extract from Fact Sheet Article entitled Pest Control 16 Extract from Fact Sheet article entitled 'pesticides in drinking water' 17 Extract from Fact Sheet article entitled 'safe and effective pesticides' ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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