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The environmental problems associated with using agricultural chemicals

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Introduction

The environmental problems associated with using agricultural chemicals The use of chemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides in agricultural farming have advantages in that they increase the yield of crops and control the level of pests; however they also can have a damaging effect to the environment. Eutrophication is a process which damages the life in water environments and although it is a natural process, the use of fertilisers has aggravated the situation. Fertilisers contain the essential nutrients needed to be taken up by the plants for their optimum growth, mainly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients applied to the soil are mainly taken up by the plants they are intended for, but some are drained away through the soil called leaching, and end up in rivers and lakes, which has a damaging effect to the life. Nitrogen is most easily leached through the soil whereas Phosphorus binds quickly with soil minerals and Potassium is taken up very quickly by the plant roots. (1) The deposition of nitrogen onto soil can be very large, for instance annually 100 kilograms per hectare is deposited onto forest soil in the Netherlands. ...read more.

Middle

In some areas of Britain research has shown that rivers contain in excess of the recommended 11.3mg 1� � of nitrates, and this figure was set according to health risks from nitrate pollution. (2) This shows that nitrate pollution is a serious issue. From a source by Dix in 1981 it was shown that water draining from cropland can contain 10-15mg 1� � of nitrate, on average from a year's discharge being studied. (2) Although it is largely from the result of using fertilisers, it is also from point sources of human sewage and urban industrial waste. In Lake Wisconsin studied by Hasler in 1974, it was shown that 24.5% of the nitrogen came from treatment factories alone, compared to 53.8% from rural sources, which includes manure use, cropland, pasture, forest land and groundwater. (3) This shows that the agricultural chemicals are clearly affecting the eutrophication, but that there are many other sources that pose a problem as well. Organic waste also contain chemicals, nutrients and pesticides in varying amounts from farmyard manure, fertilizer, the excreta from the livestock animals and soil nitrogen and can cause environmental problems when there is too much and it pollutes rivers from surface run-off. ...read more.

Conclusion

When larger animals such as birds eat the insect they have the chemical inside them and this can build up into concentrations capable of affecting the animals that they weren't intended for. In a study made by Rachel Carson in 1963, the threat of these chemicals is outlined. Wildlife, fish and domestic animals including man were shown to contain various amounts of DDT which was a commonly used insecticide, and the source was found to be through plant food and in the case of fish, absorbed through the water. High and toxic levels of this chemical were found in fish and is an example of biological concentration. (2) The problem of persistent chemicals has been addressed by most of such chemicals being taken out from the market and pesticides that break down quickly into harmless substances are encouraged for use. (6) A solution used in agricultural that deals with the many problems like fertiliser use and pesticides is a system called integrated crop management. The overall benefits through strategies of crop rotations, organic manures, soil sampling, and disease assessment of crops include a reduce in nitrate pollution and less chemicals being used. (4) This system is very beneficial to the environment. ...read more.

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