How industrial agriculture affects environment


Industrial agriculture harms the environment through pollution of air, soil and water. Air emissions from livestock operations make up 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Conventional crop production degrades soil health and causes soil erosion.


What are the negative effects of industrial agriculture?

Industrial farming is bad for the health of workers, eaters, and downstream neighbors. Here are some of its costly health impacts: Pesticide toxicity. Herbicides and insecticides commonly used in agriculture have been associated with both acute poisoning and long-term chronic illness. Water pollution from fertilizer runoff contaminates …

What are the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture?

The visualization here shows a summary of some of the main global impacts:

  • Food accounts for over a quarter (26%) of global greenhouse gas emissions 1;
  • Half of the world’s habitable (ice- and desert-free) land is used for agriculture;
  • 70% of global freshwater withdrawals are used for agriculture 2;

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What are the pros and cons of industrial agriculture?

What Are the Pros of Factory Farming?

  1. It keeps prices down for consumers. Factory farming allows for livestock products to be produce on a large economic scale. …
  2. It allows automation to help provide food resources. In the past, farming meant an intense amount of daily manual labor to produce a crop. …
  3. It improves production efficiencies. …

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What are the advantages of industrial agriculture?

Pros of Using Industrial Agriculture

  • Industrial agriculture comes with a lot of benefits which are listed below.
  • It increases agricultural production in lesser time.
  • It makes life easier by bringing down the cost of agricultural produce.
  • It boosts the economy.
  • It creates employment opportunities for the skilled and unskilled.

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What are 3 environmental effects of industrial agriculture?

The effects that industrialization of agriculture has on the ecosystem is far broader than just the soil it lays on. It conclusively destroys water supplies, decreases plant growth, and negatively impacts species that depend on resources surrounding industrial farms.

What are two environmental problems with industrialized agriculture?

Environmental issues associated with industrial agriculture include deforestation, climate change, irrigation problems, pollutants, soil degradation and waste disposal.

How is agriculture affecting the environment?

Agriculture contributes to a number larger of environmental issues that cause environmental degradation including: climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, dead zones, genetic engineering, irrigation problems, pollutants, soil degradation, and waste.

What are the effects of industrialized agriculture?

Industrial agriculture pollutes the air, water, and soil with toxic agrochemicals and livestock manure. It is a major source of pollution, accounting for more than twenty-percent of total greenhouse gas emissions � even more than transportation.

What are the disadvantages of industrial agriculture?

As you can see, industrial agriculture provides some benefits, though there are many drawbacks as well….It increases the risk of animal cruelty. … It negatively impacts small business agriculture. … It creates environmental concerns. … It contributes to health problems. … It can produce low-quality food.

How industrial agriculture affects our soil?

This practice depletes the soil of nutrients (making the soil less productive over time), reduces organic matter in soil and can cause significant erosion. In the US, industrial farming practices often include the rotation of soybeans and corn.

How does industry affect climate change?

As we touched on earlier, a huge portion of climate change or global warming can be attributed to our reliance on industrial activities over the years. Toxic materials and gases are burned and released into the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and methane.

What are five environmental effects of agriculture Why do they happen and what is the impact?

Significant environmental and social issues associated with agricultural production include changes in the hydrologic cycle; introduction of toxic chemicals, nutrients, and pathogens; reduction and alteration of wildlife habitats; and invasive species.

How does factory farming affect climate change?

Factory farming accounts for 37% of methane (CH4) emissions, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2. Manure can also contain traces of salt and heavy metals, which can end up in bodies of water and accumulate in the sediment, concentrating as they move up the food chain.

How industrial agriculture affects our water?

High quantities of nutrients in water from industrial crop fertilizers and animal waste cause excessive aquatic plant growth — a process known as “eutrophication,” which, in turn, causes “hypoxia,” or water that is low in oxygen. Harmful algal blooms (or HABs) occur when aquatic algae grow rapidly out of control.

How does industrial agriculture affect animals?

Apart from the expansion of new territories when wildlife loses its natural habitation areas, animals are greatly affected by chemical applications in industrial agriculture. While herbicides pollute natural resources, pesticides are rarely selective and kill beneficial species as well, like pollinators and soil-dwelling microorganisms contributing to its fertility. Recent researches report decreased farmland bird and bee populations due to heavy insecticides in industrial agriculture, being a significant threat to further farming business and ecology in general. Hormones mitigating plant diseases are another harmful issue of intensive farming.

What are the benefits of industrial agriculture?

Benefits Of Industrial Agriculture. The main advantage of intensive farming is its increased performance when higher yields are harvested from smaller territories. This brings economic benefits to landowners and provides food for the growing population. Intensive agriculture fully satisfies the market demand even in densely inhabited areas.

How does intensive farming affect the environment?

Intensive farming causes environment pollution and induces major health issues due to poisonous agents. In this regard, the impacts of industrial agriculture require serious attention and management of risks.

What are the effects of monocropping?

Monocropping of high-yield species like rice, soybeans, corn, or wheat provokes high pest establishment and soil depletion. Particular pests attack particular crops; intercropped cultures act as barriers since they are non-host plants. Furthermore, reduced diversity of crops due to this fundamental industrial agriculture practice means better pest establishment and development of their resistance to controls applied. This results in extreme use of chemicals (often critical to humans and nature) and stronger option introductions.

What is intensive farming?

Intensive agriculture is the most typical method of soil cultivation and the key source of food worldwide. It relies on reaping high yields with strong and often extreme land exploitation and often extreme inputs. The main benefits of intensive farming include sufficient food supplies at affordable prices.

Why are bees and birds declining in agriculture?

Recent researches report decreased farmland bird and bee populations due to heavy insecticides in industrial agriculture , being a significant threat to further farming business and ecology in general. Hormones mitigating plant diseases are another harmful issue of intensive farming.

What does reduced diversity of crops mean?

Furthermore, reduced diversity of crops due to this fundamental industrial agriculture practice means better pest establishment and development of their resistance to controls applied. This results in extreme use of chemicals (often critical to humans and nature) and stronger option introductions.

How does crop farming affect the environment?

There is soil depletion and soil infertility related to monoculture, soil erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, increased greenhouse gas emissions (particularly methane and nitrous oxide) from cow digestion and manure as well as nitrogen-based fertilizers, and pesticide overuse leading to potential pesticide toxicity (especially in farmworkers). Studies show that employees of CAFOs are at risk from potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria; workers can also bring these bacteria home. Farmworkers and local communities can also be exposed to hazardous fumes wafting from unlined, uncovered pits of animal waste and other sources. And despite the fact that CAFOs often must meet permitting requirements and are regulated by both state and federal agencies, NRDC has discovered a worrying lack of transparency. Discrepancies between data collected by states and the EPA suggest the EPA is unaware of the size, number, and location of CAFOs across the country and what those operations are doing to control pollution. And that’s just for starters. Here are some areas of particular concern.

What is industrial agriculture?

Industrial agriculture is the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals, often involving chemical fertilizers on crops or the routine , harmful use of antibiotics in animals (as a way to compensate for filthy conditions, even when the animals are not sick). It may also involve crops that are genetically modified, …

How much manure was produced in 2012?

In 2012 livestock and poultry raised in the largest CAFOs in the United States produced 369 million tons of manure, according to an analysis of USDA figures done by Food & Water Watch. All that waste has to go somewhere.

Why is monoculture bad for the soil?

Monoculture also renders the soil prone to rapid erosion, since the practice leaves the soil bare outside of the crop’s growing season. Perhaps more problematically, repeatedly planting the same crop invites pests that prey on a certain plant to wait around the same spot for their favorite food to return.

Why do industrial farms use antibiotics?

Industrial farms overuse antibiotics, feeding large amounts of the drugs—often the same ones used to treat human illnesses—to healthy animals to help them survive in crowded, dirty CAFOs. Low-level exposure to antibiotics creates the perfect breeding ground for superbugs, those pathogens that antibiotics can’t kill.

How long has agriculture been around?

Human agriculture has existed for about 12,000 years, and industrial farming is less than a century old. But the latter has become so prevalent that sustainable farming practices are now sometimes branded “alternative.”

What did ancient farmers plant?

Ancient farmers planted seeds from only the sweetest fruits, generation after generation, ensuring that any genetic variations that increased sweetness survived. By selecting plants with increasingly white, increasingly tiny, flowers, farmers turned a weedy little herb into cauliflower. It was slow but effective.

Why is it so hard to meet the demand for accelerated agricultural productivity?

The reasons for this have to do with ecological factors. Global climate change is destabilizing many of the natural processes that make modern agriculture possible.

What are the consequences of irrigation?

One of the most obvious consequences is the depletion of aquifers, river systems, and downstream ground water. However, there are a number of other negative effects related to irrigation.

What is the effect of nitrogen on soil?

In addition, fertilizer application in soil leads to the formation and release of nitrous oxide, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

How does irrigation affect water?

Irrigation causes increases in water evaporation, impacting both surface air temperature and pressure as well as atmospheric moisture conditions . Recent studies have confirmed that cropland irrigation can influence rainfall patterns not only over the irrigated area but even thousands of miles away.

What is irrigation related to?

Irrigation has also been connected to the erosion of coastlines and other kinds of long-term ecological and habitat destruction. A huge amount of agricultural territory is used primarily as pasture for cattle and other livestock.

What causes algae blooms in China?

Nutrient pollution is a causal factor in toxic algae blooms affecting lakes in China, the United States, and elsewhere. As excessive amounts of organic matter decompose in aquatic environments, they can bring about oxygen depletion and create “dead zones” within bodies of water, where nothing can survive.

How do cattle damage soil?

Cattle and other large grazing animals can even damage soil by trampling on it. Bare, compacted land can bring about soil erosion and destruction of topsoil quality due to the runoff of nutrients. These and other impacts can destabilize a variety of fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Chemical Fertilizer.

What are the effects of agriculture on the environment?

Pollutants such as pesticides are also a major part of agriculture that negatively impacts the environment. It is self-explanatory; these products are chemicals that can have a long-lasting effect on soil and plants if used continuously.

What are the environmental impacts of agriculture?

This environmental impact of agriculture is the effect of various farming practices, and it can vary greatly depending on the country we are looking at. Many critical environmental issues are tied to agriculture, such as climate change, dead zones, genetic engineering, pollutants, deforestation, soil degradation, waste, and many others.

How does deforestation affect agriculture?

Because of deforestation, many animal species lose their habitat, and as previously mentioned, it leads to climate change. Climate change and deforestation are the two biggest and most important ways through which agriculture impacts our environment.

What are the two things that agriculture releases?

Various types of agriculture also use fertilization and pesticides, which releases phosphorus and nitrate in the air , among other things. Various types of agriculture also use fertilization and pesticides, which releases phosphorus and nitrate in the air, among other things.

How does irrigation affect the environment?

It can lead to the depletion of underground layers of water that are crucial for the environment. Agriculture can have a massive impact on the ecosystems surrounding it. This environmental impact …

What is deforestation caused by?

Farmers often cause deforestation by clearing land for their crops. Most of the deforestation happens because of slash-and-burn farming.

Why is irrigation important?

Irrigation, the process of applying controlled amounts of water to plants, can also create various problems for the environment. It can lead to the depletion of underground layers of water that are crucial for the environment.

How does agriculture affect water quality?

How Industrial Agriculture Affects Our Water. Industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of water pollution in the United States. 1 According to the 2017 National Water Quality Inventory of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 46 percent of the nation’s rivers and streams are in “poor biological condition,” and 21 percent …

What is animal farming?

Industrial Animal Agriculture. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms, typically house thousands of animals, generating millions if not billions of gallons of animal waste per year .

What happens when fertilizer leaches into the groundwater?

The excess nutrients from fertilizer leech into surface and groundwater, causing algal blooms and nitrate contamination, impacting drinking water, recreational activities (such as swimming and boating), fishing/shell fishing and marine and aquatic ecology.

What percentage of freshwater is used in agriculture?

Agriculture accounts for 80 percent (in Western states, up to 90 percent) of all freshwater use in the US. 55 Most US farms in the Midwest use center-pivot irrigation: long overhead sprinklers that rotate around a central axis. Center-pivot irrigation and similar methods encourage use of large quantities of water, draining underground aquifers.

Will water availability decrease in 2060?

By 2060, the USDA predicts that water availability for agriculture in all areas of the US will be significantly reduced, primarily because of climate change, but also due to current water use patterns. 58 The study predicts long-term yield declines for seven out of ten major grain crops, as a result.

How does farming affect air quality?

Industrial farming operations reduce air quality in varying ways and also contribute to greenhouse gases. Each farm’s operations and management play some role in controlling emissions, and each farm (depending on its type) has different pollutants of concern.

How does farming affect the atmosphere?

The industrial model of farming crops in the US also contributes to air emissions. Soil plowing or tilling releases carbon into the atmosphere, as does burning fossil fuels to power farm machinery. Fugitive pesticide emissions can harm farm workers and impact nearby fields. Air emissions associated with large-scale animal waste application can …

How do CAFOs affect the environment?

CAFOs also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, adding to the problem of climate change. Resulting agriculture pollution like air emissions and odors can harm the health of people working on a farm and in the surrounding communities, as well as the farm animals themselves.

What are the aerosols from animal waste?

The combination of ammonia from animal waste and fertilizer application with pollutants from combustion can create aerosols, which are a collection of potentially harmful particulate matter suspended in the air that can damage human health. 10 Studies have found that farms are a major source of fine-particulate precursors that form the aerosols that can then lead to heart or pulmonary disease. Particulate matter can be traced to dried manure, bedding materials, animal dander and poultry feathers. These particulates can cause or contribute to several respiratory diseases. 11

Why do farmers use pesticides?

Farmers use pesticides on crops like corn and soybeans on over 90 percent of US fields, in order to control weeds, fungi, insects and other pests. 18 When pesticides are aerially applied, farm workers can be exposed to the chemicals, some of which have harmful effects on humans.

Why are farm workers vulnerable to air pollution?

Farm workers are particularly vulnerable to air emissions on the farm due to direct and prolonged exposure. They also are tasked with being in the vicinity of concentrated forms of chemicals that can be dangerous or even deadly at high doses. Some of these effects include:

How can we improve air quality?

Practicing sustainable agriculture in the field can help maintain air quality by reducing the use of (and need for) chemicals that could pollute our air and water. Cover crops can help retain soil and moisture, avoid greenhouse gas emissions and in some instances help increase available nutrients for cash crops.

What did we learn about early agriculture?

In short, early agriculture permitted more humans to live, to live with better health, and to engage in activities other than basic survival. These other activities have brought us no less than civilization itself. While there can be some civilization without agriculture, there couldn’t be nearly as much as we have today.

What is monoculture in agriculture?

One concern often voiced about industrial agriculture, whether it’s the Green Revolution or otherwise, is that industrial agriculture generally involves monoculture. Monoculture is agriculture in which only one type of crop is grown. It thus has very low biological diversity. Monoculture is well-suited to industrial agriculture because it’s much easier to use heavy farm machinery when the machinery can be customized for one crop. The monoculture-machinery system can be seen in this image of an industrial agriculture landscape:

What are the disadvantages of monoculture?

But monoculture also has disadvantages. For example, when one crop is grown repeatedly in an area, it will deplete one set of nutrients from the soil. It was mentioned above that grain crops like maize and wheat deplete nitrogen from the soil, and that this depletion drives the usage of industrial nitrogen fertilizer as produced by the Haber-Bosch process. But some plants, such as legumes, fix nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. Legumes include beans, peas, soy, and peanuts. When these plants are grown around grain plants, less nitrogen fertilizer is needed. This is beneficial because fertilizer can be expensive and can harm ecosystems. However, when different types of plants are grown together, it is more difficult to use heavy machinery.

How much energy does the Haber-Bosch process use?

Given this and the large scale of global nitrogen fertilizer production, the process uses about 1% of total world energy consumption. Most of this energy is from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel supplies are limited, and any system dependent on them is unsustainable. If humanity’s agriculture remains dependent on the Haber-Bosch process and on fossil fuels, then, eventually, we may struggle to feed ourselves.


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