Home gardeners as well as commercial farmers or landscapers use pesticides.

The Effects of Pesticide Pollution on the Environment

by Casandra Maier

Pesticides are a means of chemical control to kill rodents, insects, fungi or other plants that invade, eat, sicken or destroy your edible and ornamental plants. While it is essential to control pests and diseases in your garden and landscape, it often comes at the cost of your health, the health of your home-grown food and the health of the environment through chemical pollution. Chemical pesticide pollution has many negative impacts on the environment, from harming wildlife to reducing the quality of your garden soil.

1. Harming the Ecosystem

When you spray chemical pesticides on your garden and landscape plants, the resulting pollution is caused by drift and runoff. Even on calm days, there is always a bit of a breeze, meaning chemical sprays are liable to catch the wind and drift to nearby areas or into the atmosphere. Pollution due to runoff happens when chemicals wash away into the groundwater, which eventually reaches various water systems, including ponds and streams. These pesticides are often toxic to unintentionally affected plants, animals and insects. As the air and water are poisoned, a breakdown in the ecosystem occurs, causing damage to aquatic habitats and additional greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere.

2. Vicious Cycle

Chemical pesticides pollute and have an adverse effect on the structure of the soil, which leads to a loss of health and vigor in plants. As plants are weakened, they become susceptible to invasions by pests and diseases. As pests and diseases begin to strengthen and take over your garden and landscape plants, you'll require more pesticides to stave them off. Pesticides harm the soil by reducing the number of helpful bacteria and microorganisms present, in addition to reducing the number of earthworms. Earthworms improve the structure, nutrients, drainage and aeration of the soil. Pesticides also strip away essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. As a result, plants are not able to develop strong, healthy root systems, which is important for taking in water and nutrition.

3. Effects on Wildlife

Pesticides poison wildlife, including birds, insects and mammals. In some cases this poisoning is directly apparent. For example, pesticides kill off and reduce the number of beneficial insects, such as bees and other pollinators, due to acute exposure to chemicals. Other insects or animals may die as a result of eating foliage which has been sprayed directly or as a result of chemical drift. In other cases, the poisoning of wildlife happens over an extended period of time, due to a buildup of toxins from eating affected plants or insects. Indirect and secondhand exposure occurs as animals and birds experience a drastic decline in their food supply due to insects or plants being killed off by pesticide pollution.

4. Alternatives

Fortunately, there are other, nonchemical means of controlling pests and diseases in the garden landscape. These means of control are healthier for your plants and soil. They do not harm the environment and they are better overall for your health and the health of your family. As you plan your summer or winter garden, plan to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs to avoid monoculture, which leads to easy invasion by pests and diseases. Crop rotation is also essential for avoiding soil-borne diseases and fungi. Consider utilizing companion planting: Group plants together which are naturally beneficial to each other and help repel various pests. In some cases, extra support may be needed. In such cases, avoid pesticide pollution by turning to natural and organic means of pest and disease control.

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