It is challenging to pin-poin the most damaging part of agriculture for the environment but I will try to explain a few.
–Nitrogen pollution: only about 1/2 of the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers commonly used in modern agriculture actually are taken up by the plant, the other half leaf the agricultural system as runoff and end up in both fresh and salt water bodies. THis can lead to eutrophication, which is the over abundance of nitrogen, which can lead to a high concentration of algea in waterways or even a dead zone where very little life exists.
–the depletion of topsoil: topsoil is perhaps one of the most precious resources we have for agriculture. However, mechanization, continual tillage, and a lack of focus on cover crops is leading to soil erosion. UW’s Professor Montgomery states “Plow-based agriculture can change the erosion rate of even a flat place like Kansas into the erosion rate of a place like the Himalayas. Basically that type of farming is remaking the surface of the planet.” In North, Central and South America, rates of topsoil loss are 10-20ton/hr/yr –which is staggering.
My thought on this is that one of the most damaging part of agriculture is the fact that more and more land is being cultivated now. With an ever rising population, agriculture is growing at a very high rate to keep up with the demands of the number of people. With more and more land being cultivated we are losing the diversity around the area which is being used for agriculture.
My beliefs are that the worst part is the amount of pesticides used. Although most of the pesticides are used on homeowner’s lawns and golf courses, farmers often and uncontrollably used pesticides. This gets into the ecosystems of animals and often destroys them. It also may get into the drinking waters of human beings.
Fallow fields. Agriculture itself is a dangerous practice. It’s funny: Many people bemoan the industrial revolution and its impact on society while others praise early societies as being advanced for their agriculture. The reason you have to rotate fields is because growing and harvesting crops on a systematic basis destroys the land.
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