Is Agriculture Polluting Our Oceans?

Many people are already aware of the fact that littering eventually may result in ocean pollution. But most people don’t consider the fact that agriculture can also have a significant impact on the cleanliness of our oceans.

The United States boasts over 330 million acres of land dedicated to agriculture, producing a vast supply of cost-effective food as well as other products. American agriculture is recognized worldwide for being of the highest quality as well as efficiency. However, improperly managed agricultural processes and activities can have adverse effects on the nation’s water supply. It doesn’t just stop there. Research has shown that our domestic agriculture is going beyond our freshwater supply and even polluting our oceans.

Pesticides (which are essentially poisons) and other chemical substances used to kill animals or insects that threaten crops, as well as fertilizers and other substances used to enhance the soil are all sources of pollution. When rain falls on the crops, much of those harmful substances are swept away into rivers and streams that eventually make their way to the ocean, posing a potential threat to some marine animals and plant life. While there is not an effective and efficient way to replace the pesticide system, with proper research and management, the use of these harmful chemicals can be greatly minimized. Often times, pesticides are used in great excess, or on areas of the crops that are not even in jeopardy of being damaged by the pests. Though it takes more time and work to actively and thoroughly monitor crop activities to an extent that will allow for more decisive and select usage of pesticides, it will yield favorable benefits for not only the environment, but for the farmers who can potentially save a significant amount of money that would otherwise be wasted on unnecessary fumigation.

Similar to more closely monitoring the use of pesticides, farmers are also encouraged to optimize their irrigation practices. Irrigation systems that are not properly maintained can actually encourage the build up of harmful chemicals, as well as facilitate the spread of disease-carrying microorganisms. Specific crop needs can be measured with various types of equipment to help the crop owner create an efficient and ideal irrigation system.

Whenever possible, it’s always a good idea to provide alternate grazing locations for livestock, in order to avoid any one area becoming exploited or too deteriorated. Ideally, while livestock is grazing in one area, the process of rebuilding vegetation could be taking place in the other. It’s also advisable to have more than one source of water for livestock.

These are just a few of the ways crop owners can optimize their systems as well as take it a little easier on Mother Nature. It’s always important to remember that our actions do not just affect our immediate environment, but they affect the global environment. Just like the farmers in middle America can improve our beaches and oceans from hundreds to thousands of miles away.