Let’s discuss plastics, especially their use in agriculture. From seedling trays to irrigation tubing, plastics play an important role. However, their widespread use causes environmental issues, affecting soil, water, and air as well as human health. This blog aims to shed light on the negative impacts of the use of plastic in agriculture and efforts to reduce its usage.
According to the report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued in 2021, agricultural value chains utilized 12.5 million tons of plastic in plant and animal production and 37.3 million tons in food packaging in 2019.
Reducing plastic use in agriculture requires a thorough approach involving innovation, material design, and changes in usage practices. While complete elimination of plastic may not be feasible, there are effective strategies to lessen its impact:
Create biodegradable and non-toxic bioplastics to minimize the environmental effects of plastic use in agriculture.
Improve collection, recycling and reuse methods to tackle this issue.
This will reduce the carbon footprint of plastics, further enhancing energy efficiency in production, and promoting bio-based plastics.
Encourage responsible and sustainable use of plastic in agriculture through education and behavior change among stakeholders in agriculture.
Collaborate among policymakers, environmentalists, researchers, industries, and farmers’ organizations to find a balance between economic interests and environmental sustainability.
By adopting these strategies, the agricultural sector can reduce reliance on traditional plastics and minimize the environmental impact associated with their use.
Farmers use plastic-containing products to boost crop yields and enhance the efficiency of water, agrochemicals, and fertilizers. These products include greenhouses, tunnels, shade is cloth, protective mesh, irrigation tape, drainage tubing, mulch, and silage films. Plastics are also used in containers for pesticides, seedlings, and post-harvest operations like storing feed for livestock. After learning about these plastic products used in agriculture, let’s go through the negative effects of plastic waste in agriculture.
These are the negative effects of plastic waste in agriculture:
1. Biodiversity Threat: Plastic waste in farms threatens biodiversity, disrupts natural ecosystems, and harms species of flora and fauna.
2. Soil Degradation: Plastic waste harms soil health, reducing fertility and water retention, leading to lower agricultural productivity.
3. Obstruction of Irrigation Systems: Plastic waste can block irrigation systems, leading to waterlogging and lower crop yields.
4. Crop Contamination: Plastics in soil can contaminate crops with toxins, posing health risks. Long-term effects of consuming contaminated crops are concerning.
5. Soil Pollution: Improper plastic disposal causes soil pollution, as plastics break down into harmful particles, impacting soil health, nutrient cycling, and microbial activity.
6. Water Contamination: Plastic waste can pollute water through run-off and leaching. This can harm aquatic life and affect ecosystems, which in turn affect the quality of water used for farming and irrigation.
7. Microplastic Impact: Large plastic items breaking down into microplastics worsen the problem. It worsens pollution by entering the food chain and causing ecological and short & long-term health issues.
8. Pest Attraction: Plastic waste in fields attracts pests and diseases, further increasing the risk for crops and productivity.
9. Wildlife Endangerment: Poorly handled plastic waste puts animals at risk in farming areas. Animals can eat or get stuck in plastic, which can hurt or kill them and disturb the local environment.
10. Ecosystem Disruption: Plastic waste harms ecosystems and agricultural landscapes, leading irreversible damage to the planet.
Cross Reference: Plastics in agriculture: sources and impacts
Addressing the negative impacts of plastic waste in agriculture requires a comprehensive approach involving sustainable alternatives, waste management strategies, and collaborative efforts across various stakeholders.
Also Read: 5 Major Agrivoltaics Disadvantages
Plastics play a vital role in agriculture for things like mulch films and storage bins. However, their extensive use leads to soil accumulation. To tackle this, we should use plastics wisely, reduce, collect, and recycle them innovatively. Non-collectable plastics should be environmentally friendly and harmful additives replaced. While completely substituting plastics is challenging, using alternatives with lower environmental impact within a socio-economic framework is crucial. Improved monitoring, innovation, education, and incentives are essential for sustainable plastic use in agriculture. This explains the sustainable use of plastic in agriculture.
In conclusion, by making mindful choices and embracing sustainable alternatives, you can significantly reduce the use of plastic in agriculture. From adopting eco-friendly packaging to implementing efficient irrigation methods, small changes in your practices can lead to a healthier environment.