Pollution: Pesticides in Agro-Horticultural Ecosystems

Authored by: J.K. Dubey , Meena Thakur

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:

10.1081/E-EEM-120046194

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Abstract

Pesticides have played a very important role in enhancing food productivity for decades. Agricultural intensification and diversification in most of the developing and developed countries have resulted in high-input farming, i.e., excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, which has helped to meet the rising food demand. Agricultural and horticultural ecosystems are now dominated by monoculture and hybrid varieties to enhance the crop yields that have simultaneously resulted in enhanced pesticide use. In 2001, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published data, 675 million lb of chemical pesticides were used in agriculture and nearly one-quarter of all pesticides used are applied to cotton, and the overall amount and intensity per acre is increasing every year. If we observe the trend of herbicide use in the United States, agriculture accounts for three quarters of all chemical pesticide usage. Thus, horticultural and agricultural ecosystems are highly dependent on pesticides. It is estimated that if pesticides are not used, food supplies would fall to 30%–40% due to the ravages of pests. However, the intensive use of pesticides in agricultural production inevitably leads to pesticide pollution by entering the various environmental compartments. Continuous use of pesticides results in pest resistance, secondary pest outbreak, and pest resurgence, leading to changes in ecosystem biodiversity. Pesticide residues in the environment adversely affect human health and the natural environment. Pesticides like methyl bromide are intensively used as soil fumigants around the world. It has been banned since 2005 as it causes depletion of the ozone layer. The hazards of pesticide pollution have been much realized presently and there are demands for reduction in pesticide use in many parts of the world. It is necessary to modify “good agricultural practice” and change it to “pesticide avoidance practice.” It is urgent to improve the education of farmers and to promote organic farming so as to prevent pesticide pollution in agro-horticultural ecosystems.

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