0

Will be back soon!

Hi guys,

I am so sorry for keeping my blog site dry for these weeks. It seemed that the extended holidays for Chinese New Year has gotten into me.

I will be back soon with a post on water and air pollution from monoculture farming.

Stay tuned!

Advertisements
0

Monoculture Farming Part 2: Case study of Killer Bananas (2)

Today, I will continue with my post on monoculture farming and the soil pollution that is caused.

Environmental impacts of using fungicides and pesticides: Soil Contamination and degradation

Pesticides undergo degradation to transform into less toxic/harmful substances to become more environmentally compatible to its applied areas. Degradation involves both biotic and abiotic transformation processes. Biotic transformation is influenced by microorganisms while abiotic transformation involves processes such as chemical and photochemical reactions. Redox gradient in soils, sediment types or aquifers often determine which transformations can occur (NCBI, 2009).

Transformed products (TP) from pesticides remain problematic because some are are more potent than their parent forms.For example, they can increase in their potential to reach and pollute drinking water resources such as groundwater and surface waters, if their polarity is higher than the parent forms’ (NCBI, 2009).

Heavy treatment of soil with pesticides and fungicides can cause populations of beneficial soil microorganisms to decline. Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have effects on the soil organisms that are similar to human overuse of antibiotics. Indiscriminate use of chemicals might work for a few years, but in the case of TR4, a new strain of the Panama disease, pathogens prove to be mutating and evolving, immuned to the chemicals.

That will be all for today. Stay tune to (3) , which will continue with the water and air pollution through the use of chemicals on the plantation, and the health effects on the farmers. 😀

Check out some of these links to get more insights about Killer Bananas!

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/
  2. http://www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/AACP-Products/COMMODITY-PROFILE—Banana/
  3. http://qz.com/164029/tropical-race-4-global-banana-industry-is-killing-the-worlds-favorite-fruit/  (this is a great blog!)
  4. http://www.clubofmozambique.com/solutions1/sectionnews.php?secao=business&id=2147485738&tipo=on
0

Monoculture Farming Part 2: Case study of Killer Bananas (1)

Disclaimers: Some of you may find the photo disturbing, so please proceed with care and discretion. 

As promised, this post will look at the environmental pollution caused by banana cropping and discuss the health effects of such causes of pollution have on the banana farmers.

Background information about Banana as a commodity:

Of the agricultural products, the banana is the fourth most important food product within the least developed countries, being the staple food for some 400 million people. Of all the fruits, it holds first place by production volume and is among the five most consumed fruits (FAOSTATS, 2005) . Latin America and the Caribbean supply more than 80% of exports. Many of these countries are highly dependent on bananas for a significant part of their foreign income, which can lead up to 20%.

While the African region produces the biggest share of Bananas, the top 3 producers are India, China and Brazil

Global Banana Production share 2012 FAOSTAT While the African region produces the biggest share of Bananas, the top 3 producers are India, China and Brazil

On many banana plantations, fungicides and insecticides are applied as many as forty times a year, amounting to a total use of nearly 44 kilograms per hectare (IBID, accessed 2015).

Why is there a need to apply fungicides and insecticides so vigorously?

The cultivation of bananas for export is delicate and costly because the plant is very fragile.  It is susceptible to diseases and fungal-growth. The latter became a prominent problem in the 1990s, when the farmers realised that the Banana was no longer soft-bearing, and instead rotting into fibrous mass (Quartz, 2014).

The Fungus Strain Tropical Race 4, a deviant of the Pananma Disease, affecting the growth of Cavendish Banana in Mozambique

This pathogen is extremely contagious. Soil and agricultural machinery stained with TR4 are capable of transmitting this pathogen to the future batches of Bananas that are grown on the soil, or harvested with the machinery. It is also very persistent, meaning that it could stay in the soil for approximately 40 years (Viljoen. A, 2014). The vulnerability of the Bananas to be susceptible to such Fungal growth necessitates the frequent application of fungicide and also pesticides to minimise the potential of the vessels (soil, machinery, insects) to be stained with the pathogen. Apart from the fungicides, herbicides such as paraquat are often used to eliminate weeds.

That will be all for today. I have exceeded the word limit, so stay tune to Part 2 cont, which will continue with the sil pollution caused by the use of chemicals on the plantation, and the health effects on the farmers. 😀

Check out some of these links to get more insights about Killer Bananas!

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2984095/
  2. http://www.unctad.info/en/Infocomm/AACP-Products/COMMODITY-PROFILE—Banana/
  3. http://qz.com/164029/tropical-race-4-global-banana-industry-is-killing-the-worlds-favorite-fruit/  (this is a great blog!)
  4. http://www.clubofmozambique.com/solutions1/sectionnews.php?secao=business&id=2147485738&tipo=on
0

Monoculture farming part I: Deforestation and the use of fertilizers

Today’s post will kick start the 1st theme of the entire blog- Monoculture commercial farming.

What is monoculture?

Monocultures are large areas of land cultivated with a single crop, which can include both food-base agriculture and plantation farming. Monoculture farming is the most common form of commercial farming in the world.

A major problem associated with monoculture is that land that has been devoted to agriculture for a single species will suffer a great diminish of soil fertility. The rain-forest soil in which they are originally planted is particularly rich in nutrients. However, deforestation to make way for monoculture plantations has resulted in the loss of a great amount of productive land. The transition to agriculture from natural vegetation often cannot hold onto the soil and many of these plants, such as bananas, coffee, cotton, and wheat, can actually increase soil erosion beyond the soil’s ability to maintain itself (WWF).

Since only a minority of areas have good soils, which after clearing are eroded by the heavy rains during the window period (between post deforestation and maturing of crop yields), soil fertility decline and farmers will either intensify their use of fertilizers or clear additional forest.

Erosion can be extremely costly for developing countries. For example, Costa Rica loses about 860 million tons of valuable topsoil every year, while Madagascar, loses almost 400 tons/ ha annually. In the late 1980s, Java, Indonesia was losing 770 million metric tons of topsoil every year at an estimated cost of 1.5 million tons of rice, enough to fulfill the needs of 11.5-15 million people.

Aforementioned, producers tend to either clear more forests or intensify the use of fertilizers. For the former, the expansion of the fields to make up for the diminished production per hectare causes the cycle of destruction again, resulting in a positive feedback system in environmental pollution, accentuating its impacts.

For the latter, the intensifying use of fertilizers was associated with a 6.87-fold increase in nitrogen fertilization and a 3.48-fold increase in phosphorus fertilization. Coupled with the need to increase more food supply to meet the demands of the rising population, the anticipated doubling of global food production would be associated with approximately 3-fold increases in nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization rates.

These projected changes can have drastic impacts on the diversity, composition, and functioning of the remaining natural ecosystems, and their ability to provide society with a variety of essential ecosystem services. The largest impacts would be on freshwater and marine ecosystems, which would be greatly eutrophied by high rates of nitrogen and phosphorus release from agricultural fields.

Aquatic nutrient eutrophication can lead to loss of biodiversity, outbreaks of nuisance species, shifts in the structure of food chains, and impairment of fisheries. These are possible because the algae blooms, associated with eutrophication, can cause anoxia/ hypoxia, a condition in which the dissolved oxygen content in the water is diminished. This makes it difficult to maintain the aquatic biodiversity at status quo. Moreover, oxygen demanding wastes, such as food waste, dead plant and animal tissue that consumes oxygen dissolved in water during its degradation, can deplete the already limited dissolved oxygen required for survival of aquatic organism.

The bloom covers an area over 8,500 square miles

Massive Phytoplankton bloom a.k.a algae bloom in the Gulf of Mexico due to fertilizer run off from the Mississippi River

Eutrophication is also a source of carbon dioxide emission. When the aquatic organisms die from anoxia/ hypoxia, they decompose due to bacterial and fungi activity; and in the process oxygen is consumed and nutrients are released together with carbon dioxide and energy. This rise in carbon dioxide emission will in turn cause ocean acidification when the eutrophied water sources flows into the oceans.

It is evident that environmental pollution caused monoculture commercial farming is multi-faceted, where environmental pollution can occur at any stage of the farming (deforestation, use of fertilisers, harvesting and fallow periods), and can have impacts across the 4 spheres of the Earth.

That will be all for today, and stay tune 😀

The next post will be on focused on the environmental pollution caused by banana commercial farming, and its accompanying health effects.

0

Background of commercial farming

Today’s post will look at the background of modern commercial farming.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UNFAO) 2013, commercial farming do not contribute significantly to global but it plays an important role because approximately 1/3 of the world’s population still works in the agricultural sector.

World agricultural production has also grown on average between 2 – 4% annually since the 1960s, while the cultivated area (permanent cropland and arable land) has grown by only 1% annually. More than 40% of the increase in food production has come from irrigated areas, which have doubled in size.

There is little scope for easy expansion of agricultural land. At present, more than 1.5 billion ha – about 12% of the world’s land – is used for commercial farming. Potentially accessible agricultural land is very unevenly distributed among regions and countries. 90% is located in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa and at the other end of the spectrum; hardly any spare land is available for agricultural expansion in South and Western Asia and Northern Africa.

So far, land and water management systems have been able to meet the rapidly rising demands placed on them. This situation has been made possible through gains in yields resulting from increased use of inputs, technology and irrigation.

However, with world population set to reach 9 billion in 2050, the demand for food and farm produce is also set to increase. Can commercial farming expand to accommodate to this rise in demand? While land and water management systems have been able to meet the demands, the future seems bleak as 28% of arable land lost to land degradation is caused by modern farming and agricultural practices, which commercial farming plays a significant role in.

That will be all to today’s post. The impacts of commercial farming on the environment will be discussed in the subsequent posts.

Stay tune 😀

And check out some interesting statistics on commercial farming and the environment at http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3107e/i3107e.PDF

0

Brief understanding of commercial farming and how the blog is run

Before delving deep in to the topic, what is commercial farming?

Commercial farming involves farming for a profit. The farmer is growing crops or rearing animals to sell for as much money as possible. These farms can be arable (just growing crops), pastoral (just rearing animals) or mixed. Foods produced tend to involve advanced technological means for sale in the market.

There are many forms of commercial farming. They can include farming on land such as high-tech farming/ agro technology, plantation agriculture, organic farming and even farming in the seas and rivers such as in the case of aqua farming.

The subsequent posts to come in the blog will look at each forms of commercial farming, and how they pollute the environment. When possible, the posts will include findings on how the environmental pollution caused by commercial farming can adversely affect human health.