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Unit 5

5.4 Impacts of Agricultural Practices

2 min readโ€ขjanuary 27, 2021

Jenni MacLean

Mark Little


Environmental Problems & Agricultural Practices

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Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Agricultural practices are a group of techniques or strategies utilized by farmers to increase production.ย  These practices are used to help farmers improve farming yields. However, some agricultural practices such as slash and burn and tilling can cause significant environmental damage to farmland.ย 

Slash and Burn

Slash and burn is a strategy that utilizes fire to burn the vegetation once it is cut down. This land is then used to grow crops and once the land becomes infertile, another section of land is cut down and burned.ย 

Tilling

Tilling or plowing is the process of turning up or mixing the soil.ย  This process is often used when the soil is too compact for planting or nutrients like fertilizers need to be added.ย  By digging up the soil it is much more susceptible to runoff and soil microbes are deeply disturbed. Over time this leeches valuable soil away from the land and deposits it into waterways.ย A major environmental problem caused by the agricultural practice of tilling is soil erosion.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is a chemical or an organic substance that can help the fertility of the soil and help crops grow. Fertilizer run-off impacts waterways in a negative way and if too much fertilizer is added, crops can be injured or burned.ย  Our drinking water supplies could be impacted and with too much fertilizer, as well as natural aquatic ecosystems. Aquatic plants benefit from increased fertilizers just like land plants. Places with an influx of fertilizer are at risk of eutrophication due to large algal blooms and die offs.ย  Tilling also increases eutrophication because the fertilized soil is more likely to erode away and enter the waterways.

Pesticides

Pesticides are any substance that is used to remove unwanted organisms. They include:ย 

  • Herbicides: To kill general or specific plant species

  • Insecticides: To kill general groups of insects.ย 

  • Rodenticides: To kill rodents or small animals.ย 

Any non-natural form of pesticide has lasting effects on the environment and kills countless numbers of organisms.ย  Pesticides are responsible for the inadvertent collapse of bee populations worldwide.

For more on the impacts of agricultural practices:

๐ŸŽฅ Watch: AP Environmental Science - Agricultural Practices II

Resources:

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