Potential Hazards Associated with Agricultural Waste

Given the sources of agricultural wastes are diverse, agricultural solid wastes can often be potentially hazardous and detrimental to the terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems. Uncontrolled and improper handling can often lead to many situations where agricultural waste can become an environmental issue. The following sections discuss some of these issues and provide a perspective on the agricultural waste as potential hazards.

Over-application of agricultural waste in the form manure to crop land and pasture can result in a decrease in crop production due to inhibitory amounts of ammonia of nitrite nitrogen (NO2-N) or salts in the soil. Application of dairy effluent or feedlot manure to permeable loam and clay loams soils can also reduce the permeability of these soils and thus adversely affecting the crop growth. Excess loadings of nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural waste applied to land that cause eutrophication of water bodies or contamination of drinking water have been well documented in the literature (Sharpley et al. 1984; Sharpley and Halvorson 1994; Anderson et al. 2002). Apart from excessive nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients, salts, pathogens, livestock waste also contain significant amounts of steroid hormones (naturally released by animals of all species in urine and faeces) and their metabolites. Veterinary antibiotics that are fed to the animals during their life period are also excreted in the faeces and urine, which eventually end up in the oxidation effluent pond and finally onto the land as supplement to fertiliser or as disposal option (Boxall et al. 2004). The newly emerging group of chemicals such as steroid hormones and a range of veterinary antibiotics have been detected in various environmental media (e.g., soil, water, manure, sludge) across the globe and concerns are growing because of their potential impact on the terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems (Sarmah et al. 2006). Steroid hormones such as 17P-estradiol (E2) and its metabolite estrone (E1) are known endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) capable of causing adverse effects on terrestrial and aquatic organisms (Jobling et al. 1998).

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