Environmental pollution in agriculture



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In fact, what do we know about environmental pollution of agricultural origin

1) A general look at priority emergencies

The pesticides are for the most part made up of bioaccumulative substances both in the soil and in our body. Pesticides, be they insecticides, acaricides, molluscicides, nematocides, rodenticides, fumigants, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers are found in about half of the fruit and vegetables we eat, fortunately within acceptable thresholds of Lmr (maximum residue limit) and Adi (acceptable daily intake) and they widely contaminate the environment including the waters of rivers, lakes, springs and groundwater.

A recent survey by the Higher Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) identified 131 of these substances in Italian waters, including pollutants that have been banned for a long time and showed that 36.6% of the water samples analyzed in our country are contaminated by pesticides in quantities exceeding the legal limits. For all its activities, humanity uses about 3500 km3 of water per year or less than 0.0004% of the earth's water. Of this amount, about 70% is used in agriculture, 23% in industry and only about 8% is intended for domestic use.
After its use, the water is returned to the environment polluted by numerous chemical substances such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, detergents, adjuvants, thickeners, emulsifiers that contaminate the water of rivers, lakes, seas, aquifers and in case of need they are used by humans for domestic and / or zootechnical use.

Meanwhile, the global water emergency is determined by a series of factors:

  1. continuous increase of the population which increases the demand for water;
  2. water pollution that makes supply from groundwater impossible;
  3. climate changes that make it impossible to constantly monitor rainy phenomena and to classify the potential for water supply on the planet.

The potential remedies are:

  1. reduction of polluting gases as established by the Kyoto protocol (2007) to avoid natural disasters that cannot be curbed. For example, if we consider that today volcanoes release about 130 - 230 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year and that this amount represents less than 1% of the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities, which is equal to 27 billion tons per year: 50,000 tons per minute we realize that perhaps it is appropriate to stop for a moment and reflect ... ... on what to do naturally!
  2. use eco-sustainable technologies in agriculture and industry as much as possible, giving priority to the reuse of raw materials and the use of renewable sources and raw materials such as biomass, biogas, vegetation water in agriculture and to reduce industrial emissions of dioxide and carbon monoxide and of chlorinated, phosphorated and sulphured derivatives.
  3. use in agriculture the drip micro-irrigation system with which a total of about 50% of water would be saved and re-evaluate the quantities of water and relative tariffs available for large users, i.e. industry and farmers.
  4. modernize and maintain water networks to avoid dispersion and reuse waste water from processing in agriculture and agro-industry. In 2010, the market for plant protection products fell by 2.5% overall. Only herbicides and insecticides remained more or less constant, with a moderate increase (respectively by 9% and 2%), while fungicides fell by 7.6. % and various products such as molluscicides, adjuvants, plant growth regulators and others by 3.8%.

2) Chemistry in agriculture

The phytosanitary products or sanitary devices include pesticides, physiofarmaciciè hormones, stimulators and inhibitors, herbicides, plant growth regulators and all the various thickeners, co-formulants, emulsifiers, solubilizers that are mixed with products containing the active ingredients. They are formulated with chemically very different substances, which can be grouped by almost homogeneous chemical classes due to the active functional groups that interact directly with pathogenic organisms through the interaction of molecules that carry out the biological activity considered harmful. Thus we have plant protection products derived from products:

  • inorganic, such as the salts of copper, sulfur, iron, calcium, sodium;
  • organo-metals (zinc, manganese);
  • organic of natural origin, such as pyrethrum, avermectin, rotenone, azodirachtin;
  • organic synthesis, such as, among the most common, phosphorganics, carbamates, chlororganics, gliazotorganics.

benzonitriles, phenoxycarboxylic acid derivatives, benzothiadiazoles, sulfonylurea derivatives, hydrocarbon derivatives, acidonaphthoxyacetic derivatives, triazoles, paraffinic halohydrocarbons, organic nitrogen-stannins, hydrocarbon derivatives, sulfonethylureas, Fertilizers are substances which, due to their content in nutritional elements, contribute to the improvement of the fertility of the agricultural land or to the nourishment of cultivated plant species or to their better development. To them it is possible to add soil improvers which are substances capable of modifying and improving both the physical, chemical and biological characteristics, as well as the mechanical ones of a soil.

Fertilizers are divided into mineral, organic or organo-mineral. Those mineralia in turn are divided into:

  • simple, such as nitrogen, phosphate and potassium;
  • compounds (nitrogen-phosphates, nitrogen-potassiums, phospho-potassiums, nitrophosphos-potassiums);
  • fertilizers based on secondary elements, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulfur;
  • fertilizers based on microelements (or trace elements), such as boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

Organic fertilizers are divided into:

  • nitrogenous;
  • nitrogen-phosphates.

Organo-mineral fertilizers are divided into:

  • nitrogenous;
  • nitrogen-phosphates;
  • nitrogen-potassium;
  • nitrogen-phospho-potassium.

Fertilizers can be in solid or fluid state, in liquefied gaseous form, liquid in solution or in suspension.

The classification, labeling and packaging of fertilizers follows the regulations established by legislative decrees 3.02.1997, n. 52 and 14.03.2003, n. 65 and all must be strictly reported in the Campaign Notebook or Register of Company Treatments. Other products such as gases such as ammonia, in particular the anhydrous one, used as fertilizer, sulfur dioxide, used in oenology, chlorine, in the disinfection of the swimming pool waters of agritourism companies and not only, chloropicrin, which is also used as a phytosanitary product with fumigant action to be distributed in the soil where it spreads as a vapor for the preventive fight against soil parasites before sowing or transplanting the crop. If it is authorized for this purpose, the provisions of Legislative Decree no. 194/95, methyl bromide which is also used as an insecticide on the ground in the absence of crops, in nurseries and seedbeds and in the disinfestation of seeds.

Still other products are biocides for veterinary hygiene, disinfectants in the human and animal food sector, disinfectants for drinking water, products for pest control, rodenticides, avicides used for the control of birds. In Italy at the moment only one substance with repellent action is authorized, products for oenological use such as those permitted by EU regulations, such as no. 87/822 / EEC and its subsequent amendments and additions, n. 1493/99 / EC and n. 1622/2000 / CE, which indicate the allowed practices and oenological treatments.

They can be used:

  • CO2 in cylinders;
  • Argon or nitrogen, alone or mixed together;
  • SO2, potassium bisulfite or potassium metabisulphite;
  • Sorbic acid or potassium sorbate;
  • Neutral potassium tartrate and potassium bicarbonate;
  • L-ascorbic acid;
  • Citric acid;
  • Tartaric acid;
  • Malic acid;
  • K ferrocyanide, which must be used in compliance with the provisions of the decree of the Ministry of Agriculture 5.9.1967;
  • Potassium phytate;
  • Metatartaric acid;
  • Ethylene glycol or Ethylene glycol;
  • Paraffin discs impregnated with allyl isothiocyanate;
  • Colle;
  • Other chemical products, always allowed by the EU regulation.

Some products, including mancozeb used as a fungicide, are strongly suspected of being highly carcinogenic. Considering the dangerousness of an active substance only on the basis of acute effects, that is, on the basis of the LD50 and LC50, does not however allow us to establish the ability of the substance to cause chronic damage, which in fact can be caused by a product regardless of its acute toxicity; in other words, products of low acute toxicity, if absorbed through prolonged exposure, can cause harmful effects of a chronic type.

Among the chronic effects, the following should be considered:

  • mutagenic effects: they consist in alterations of the genetic patrimony and can give rise to hereditary genetic diseases or tumors;
  • the teratogenic effects: consist in the appearance of malformations in the fetus;
  • carcinogenic effects: they consist in the appearance of tumors in humans.

3) But authorization for the use of pesticides is only possible if ...

The mandatory license for the use of pesticides is now issued by the Regions, according to their own regulations, to people who have reached the age of eighteen and have obtained a positive evaluation in relation to various obligations to be carried out in conjunction with use. The purpose of the evaluation is to ascertain that the interested party is aware of the dangers associated with the possession, storage, handling and use of plant protection products and their adjuvants, the methods for their correct use, the relative precautionary measures to be adopted and the fundamental elements for a correct use. from a health, agricultural and environmental point of view. The above evaluation is carried out in the manner indicated by each region. Graduates in agricultural and forestry sciences, agricultural experts, agro-technicians, graduates in chemistry, medicine and surgery, veterinary medicine, biological sciences, pharmacy, pharmacy graduates and chemical experts are exempted from the assessment. Furthermore, for plant protection products and their adjuvants, if classified as very toxic, toxic, harmful or dangerous for the environment, they can be sold for direct use, for themselves or for third parties, only to those who have the appropriate certificate issued by competent regional office for people who have reached the age of eighteen and have obtained a positive evaluation in relation to the above topics.

The European Commission for Agriculture constantly updates the list of active substances referred to in Annex I of Dir. 91/414 / EEC, for which some molecules have no longer been authorized to be placed on the market, as they are considered dangerous for human health and the environment and others are suspended and readmitted periodically and others re-instituted and authorized by the Superior Health Institute . Currently out of the 1,000 active ingredients available, Italian agriculture has only 350 active substances for the phytopathological fight.

From 2000 to 2010 the active ingredients contained in plant protection products decreased overall by 8.3 thousand tons (-10.3%); in particular, insecticidal and fungicidal active substances dropped (respectively by 32.7 and 18%), while various ones increased (+ 74.7%) (source Istat). There was a strong growth in products of biological origin, which went from 18.7 to 420.3 tons, and traps, which increased by 31% (source Istat). The spread of products of biological origin and traps represents the most innovative segment of distribution, even if the quantities released for consumption are limited.

The new European Directive on the sustainable use of phytosanitary products 128/09, recently approved, and the Machinery Directive (2006/42 / CE), will also involve important changes in the phytosanitary defense sector, the first with the introduction of specific measures to protect the environment, the second through the mandatory adoption of certain technical requirements that the sprayers will have to equip themselves with, to reduce the phenomenon of drift caused by the distribution of the products on the field and to raise awareness among farmers through the use of technologically suitable means that can also optimize the yield of the product itself on the vegetation and to reduce dispersions. The application of integrated pest management necessarily implies the involvement of consultants in possession of specific competence in the phytoiatric field, after evaluating the results of the monitoring, advising the operator with which type of therapy to intervene (agronomic, mechanical, biological or agro-pharmacological) advising, if appropriate, which active use and in what dose.

The obligation to use professionally qualified consultants is also advocated by the directive itself (point 2 of Annex III). The proposed system based on the synergy of the pesticide prescription / agro pharmacies combination results in:

- effective application of the principles of integrated defense;
- reduction of the quantity of toxic substances distributed;
- use of less toxic pesticides;
- cert- information collection and guarantees:

  • the achievement of the objectives of Directive 2009/128 / EC which speaks of the protection of human health and the environment; of Directive 2009/128 / EC which speaks of protection of human health and the environment;
  • the fulfillment of the obligations under the EC Reg. 1185/2009 (Statistics on the release on the market and agricultural uses of pesticides);
  • adaptation to quality standards of agricultural production universally recognized by the market (eg. GLOBALGAP);
  • the fight against fraudulent and counterfeit crop protection products.

4) But who should really control the traffic

The monitoring of pesticide residues in food, now carried out constantly by the Ministry of Health but in the past carried out by Mipaaf through projects, was the best in Europe given that about 99% of Italian fruit and vegetables is regular with respect to the legislation on the presence of residues of pesticides because they have zero residue or are in any case contained within the thresholds considered non-hazardous to human health with an extremely low percentage of irregularities equal to 0.8%.

Italy is currently the only EU country that has been equipped since 2005 on the basis of the provisions of Directive 2009/128 / EC both with the obligation to keep the register of treatments and with regard to the license for the purchase of pesticides. and the training necessary for the release of the latter, as well as with respect to the provisions relating to integrated pest management.

Currently it seems that the reference institution for the elaboration of the legislative decree proposal is the Ministry of the Environment but according to the Italian legislation in force it should all return to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agricultural Policies as it always is. it was in the 1990s when the first monitoring of pesticide residues was established based on the regulations of the European Agriculture Commission. In essence, the choice made by the Ministry of the Environment to propose a legislative decree scheme that appears set with a view to introducing more restrictive obligations than those envisaged by the directive, does not find any valid motivation with respect to the Italian situation of pesticide management which, as is highlighted more times for years it has already been set to the utmost rigor and sustainability compared to other EU and non-EC countries. The hope is, therefore, that the Ministry of Agricultural Policies, together with the Ministry of Health and the Regions, will be able to be an incisive protagonist in all the proposals and requests made by the sector operators.

Directive 128/09 adapts the current legislation on plant protection products to the new rules introduced by reg. EU 1107/2009 adopted in the context of the Community reform of legislation aimed at guaranteeing sustainable agricultural use of phytosanitary products. As part of the provision, the rules concerning the register of treatments have been modified, a fulfillment to which all agricultural companies that carry out phytosanitary treatments are obligatory. The treatment register must necessarily become a more effective and control tool for what concerns the correct use of plant protection products for the purpose of protecting the health of the farmer and the consumer.

The temporary management of the competence of the Ministry of the Environment on the subject is a prelude to a demanding process of exchanges aimed at guaranteeing production processes with low environmental impact, starting with the use of chemistry for the substantially reduced fightphysiopathology under the directives of the Ministry of Health. A reformulation of the law would now be desirable, which is certainly anomalous as it does not even mention the Ministry of Health which, pursuant to Italian legislation, has primary competence in the field of pesticides, unlike what happens in other EU Member States where this matter it is entrusted to the Ministry of Agriculture. According to the Ministry of Health, products of vegetable origin “…… must not contain, at the time of their release into circulation, residues of active substances in plant protection products, higher than the maximum residue limits (MRL) set by law…”.

The maximum residue limits, expressed in mg / kg of active substance of plant product, are set at the time of authorization with internationally agreed criteria, in order to ensure acceptable exposure by consumers. The correct use of plant protection products according to the methods indicated in the authorized labels ensures compliance with these limits. The maximum residue limits are now regulated in Italy by the Ministerial Decree of 27 August 2004 (and subsequent updates - consult the regulatory section) which contains the harmonized values ​​at Community level and, where not available, the values ​​set at national level.

From 1 September 2008, the new MRLs of active substances in food products, established by Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 (published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 16 March 2005) and related Regulations (EC) no. 149/2008 of the Commission of 29 January 2008 (published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 1 March 2008), no. 260/2008 of the Commission of 18 March 2008 (published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 19 March 2008) and no. 839/2008 of the Commission of 31 July 2008 (published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 30 August 2008).

The Regulations directly applicable in the legislation of the countries of the European Union, to be used uniformly throughout the European Community, make it possible to guarantee a high level of protection for European consumers, to eliminate obstacles to trade between Member States and between third countries and the Community. to optimize national financial resources. The enormous resources available for the 2007-2013 RDPs (over € 25 billion for Italy) have been used to date for just over 30% (according to the MIPAAF website) putting our country at risk of financial divestment, which could lose up to € 10 billion for the next 2014-2020 programming. Since the resources of the RDPs are compulsory and priority for the expenditure assigned to environmental protection measures at a maximum of 65-70% of the RDPs, it is necessary that the Regions modify the payment criteria for agri-environmental measures, possibly also increasing the sums foreseen for conversion to organic farming.

It should be remembered that in the Phytoiatric Act, the agronomist is required to comply with the aforementioned constitutional rights and must therefore prescribe first of all the use of all available techniques that are not dangerous for man and the environment. The Phytoiatric Act is the set of activities aimed at promoting the health of plant organisms; monitoring activities for evaluating the phytosanitary situation and preventing damage to plants caused by biotic and abiotic agents; diagnostic, therapeutic (chemical , biological, biotechnological, physical and agronomic); activities relating to the protection of man and the environment from the risks associated with the application of the therapeutic procedures adopted; activities related to the protection of humans and animals from the risks associated with the consumption of products of plant origin to guarantee food safety; the certifications and the provisions relating to all the acts described above. Italy today has the world record of childhood cancers and healthy life expectancy has collapsed in our country by more than 10 years from 2004 to today (EUROSTAT), while the Made in Italy Organic is in great demand in Italy and all over the world ... but there is a lack of Italian organic producers, stuck at the level of 10 years ago.

In recent months, an immense fraud in the import of organic food from abroad has been reported. The figure of the agronomist should be increasingly present at institutional tables and / or in the examining committees concerning fraud in the agri-food sector. Above all because agriculture, environment and health are closely connected and health expenditure unfortunately now represents over 80% of the budgets of the Regions with also a qualitative decline in the sector due, obtorto neck, to the financial cuts that have now become more than necessary.

In conclusion, it should be remembered that the code of ethics of agronomy doctors of forestry doctors provides that: "... the member of the Register is perfectly aware that his / her professional practice constitutes an activity of public utility, having been entrusted with the protection of the environment (water, soil, landscape and territory), as well as the safety and quality of food; he is therefore morally and jointly responsible for his intellectual activity, be it planning, directive or consultative, towards clients and the entire community. In carrying out his activity, the member of the Register must therefore strive to improve the ecological conditions of the environment in which he operates with a view to sustainable development, identifying among all the technical solutions available those capable of safeguarding and improving the natural balance, of safeguarding and increase biodiversity and protect public health. Its activity must be carried out in compliance with the rules dictated by international protocols. The participation of the member of the Register in consultancy, projects, professional endorsements, carried out with evident conceptual superficiality and with manifest negligence or for mere venal advantage, concerning activities that directly and indirectly affect environmental and natural balances, is a reason for non-deferrable and disciplinary sanction……”.

5)… and in europe?

Regulation no. 1272/2008 on the classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures with which the EU has adopted the criteria for the classification and labeling of pesticides. The regulation has in fact supplanted, after a transitional period, the old system of classification defined by European regulations on classification, packaging and labeling of substances (directive 67/548 / EEC) and hazardous mixtures (directive 1999/45 / EC). The new classification rules became mandatory from 1 December 2010, for substances, and from 1 June 2015, for mixtures.

Istat in Italy has been carrying out specific census surveys on the distribution of pesticides for years. These researches and monitoring allow us to study over time (already for some decades) and in space, (up to local realities), the evolution in the distribution and therefore in the use of phytosanitary products, whether they are products or active ingredients, fertilizers that is fertilizers, soil improvers and corrective, complete and complementary feeds and seeds.

Controls and monitoring of the use of plant protection products in agriculture stem from a decision of the Council of the European Union aimed at improving agricultural statistics and promoting the development of agro-environmental indicators relating to the consumption and use of the aforementioned plant protection products.

With regard to the survey on the "Distribution of phytosanitary products for agricultural use", Istat annually monitors data on the consumption of plant protection products directly from all distributors. According to the current legislation, the products are divided into six categories: fungicides, insecticides and acaricides, herbicides, biological, miscellaneous and traps, and over 300 types of active ingredients. provincial that the complete content in substances or active ingredients. Since 2003, the data relating to the active ingredients allowed in biological agriculture have also been processed.

A survey is also carried out on the use of plant protection products on individual cultivation since 1999 and is a sample survey that takes the agricultural year preceding the survey period as the reference year. The crops involved in the survey were chosen on the basis of their importance in Italy both for cultivated areas and for the quantity of products used such as soft and durum wheat, barley, oats, potatoes. vine, apple, olive, corn.

On November 25, 2009, the EC Regulation n.1185 / 2009 was published on pesticide equipment; this regulation is part of the so-called "pesticidespackage" of the 6th Community Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides. The Regulation makes it mandatory within the Member States to produce detailed and realistic statistics on the sales and use of phytosanitary products, thus becoming a useful tool for monitoring their use and market. According to Directive 128/09, the farmer with the appropriate "license" will be able to purchase the crop protection products exclusively from Agropharmacies, upon presentation of the prescribed recipe issued by the professional consultant. The sale of agro-pharmaceuticals in agro-pharmacies, the only retailers authorized to trade such products, can only be carried out by subjects with a degree in agricultural and forestry sciences enrolled in their respective professional registers.

Dr. Antonella Di Matteo


Environmental impact of agriculture

The environmental impact of agriculture is the effect that different farming practices have on the ecosystems around them, and how those effects can be traced back to those practices. The environmental impact of agriculture varies widely based on practices employed by farmers and by the scale of practice. Farming communities that try to reduce environmental impacts through modifying their practices will adopt sustainable agriculture practices. Though some pastoralism is environmentally positive, modern animal agriculture practices tend to be more environmentally destructive than agricultural practices focused on fruits, vegetables and other biomass.

When evaluating environmental impact, experts use two types of indicators: "means-based", which is based on the farmer's production methods, and "effect-based", which is the impact that farming methods have on the farming system or on emissions to the environment. An example of a means-based indicator would be the quality of groundwater, that is affected by the amount of nitrogen applied to the soil. An indicator reflecting the loss of nitrate to groundwater would be effect-based. [1] The means-based evaluation looks at farmers' practices of agriculture, and the effect-based evaluation considers the actual effects of the agricultural system. For example, the means-based analysis might look at pesticides and fertilization methods that farmers are using, and effect-based analysis would consider how much CO2 is being emitted or what the Nitrogen content of the soil is. [1]

The environmental impact of agriculture involves impacts on a variety of different factors: the soil, to water, the air, animal and soil variety, people, plants, and the food itself. Agriculture contributes to a larger number of environmental issues that cause environmental degradation including: climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, dead zones, genetic engineering, irrigation problems, pollutants, soil degradation, and waste. Because of agriculture's importance to global social and environmental systems, the international community has committed to increasing sustainability of food production as part of Sustainable Development Goal 2: "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture". [2] The United Nations Environment Program's 2021 "Making Peace with Nature" report highlighted agriculture as both a driver and an industry under threat from environmental degradation. [3]


The environmental impact of agriculture and livestock according to science

Today we are talking about a rather controversial topic: the impact of agriculture and livestock on the environment. By impact, for this first article, we mean the exploitation of land for these activities, the water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from these activities. In the near future, we will consider other environmental effects, certainly not secondary, such as pollution from agriculture and livestock, the eutrophication of water and the spread of infections and epidemics from farms to wild animals. Lo faremo considerando i principali studi usciti negli ultimi anni a riguardo.

Sfruttamento di Terra (land use)

Attualmente si ritiene che agricoltura e allevamento rappresentino uno tra i biomi più grandi presenti sul pianeta: si stima che circa il 40% della superficie terrestre sia occupata da attività di agricoltura e di allevamento [1,2]. Negli ultimi 40 anni si è vista una forte crescita di quest’area, principalmente dovuta alla cosiddetta “Rivoluzione Verde”, che ha portato al raddoppio della produzione di grano mondiale, alla crescita del 12% dell’area riservata ai cereali e all’aumento del 700% di uso di fertilizzanti rispetto agli anni ’50-’60 [3]. In varie parti del mondo, come in Centroamerica o in Sud America, una parte consistente della deforestazione è causata dall’allevamento [4], in particolare in Brasile. La deforestazione per scopi di allevamento viene fatta direttamente per procurare terra agli animali da pascolo, oppure per le coltivazioni destinate a produrre cibo per gli animali [5]. Un’altra causa di deforestazione, soprattutto nell’Estremo Oriente, è la coltivazione di olio di palma che ha, anch’essa, causato molte polemiche nei mesi passati: nel periodo 1990-2005 si stima che siano stati deforestati almeno 1 milione di ettari di foresta (10.000 kmq) in Malesia e almeno 1.8 milioni di ettari (18.000 kmq) in Indonesia per far posto a questa coltivazione [17]. In 15 anni tra Indonesia e Malesia è scomparsa un area di almeno 28.000 kmq di foresta per l’olio di palma (ossia un area più vasta del Piemonte) [17]. Oltre a queste due nazioni le coltivazioni di olio di palma stanno soppiantando la foresta in Thailandia, Myammar e Papua Nuova Guinea [18].

Le superfici occupate dall’agrozootecni, sono oggi destinate per il 69% al pascolo, e per il restante all’agricoltura [9,10]: la maggior parte dello sfruttamento del suolo per uso umano è dovuto all’allevamento. L’agricoltura però può causare danni ambientali maggiori rispetto all’allevamento a causa dello sfruttamento intensivo di terra, causando soprattutto la degradazione della qualità dell’acqua [11], la salinizzazione e l’erosione del suolo [12].

Si stima che negli ultimi 300 anni si siano persi globalmente 11 milioni di kmq di foresta sia per usi agricoli o di allevamento che per il legno [1].

Consumo di acqua

Il concetto di Water Footprint è stato introdotto negli ultimi anni da Arjen Y. Hoekstra [6], professore all’Università di Twente. In varie ricerche ha considerato quanti litri d’acqua vengono usati per l’agricoltura, l’allevamento e le attività umane in generale. Ovviamente per ogni prodotto è considerato l’impatto diretto e quello indiretto. Per esempio per l’allevamento l’impatto diretto è dato dall’acqua usata per abbeverare l’animale, mentre quello indiretto è dato dall’acqua usata per produrre il cibo per l’animale.

Andiamo a vedere insieme i risultati dei vari studi: iniziamo subito a dire che l’allevamento ha un impatto superiore a quello dell’agricoltura (ci sono quasi due ordini di grandezza tra carne bovina e frutta/verdura). Sommando impatto diretto e indiretto, infatti ci vogliono in media 15.000 l di acqua per produrre 1 kg di carne bovina [6] (ca 21.000 l di media in Italia [6, Tabella 1 pagina 40]), 4800 l per 1 kg di maiale, 3900 l per 1 kg di carne di pollame. E’ elevato anche l’impatto dell’agricoltura da questo punto di vista: ci vogliono circa 3000 l di acqua per produrre 1 kg di riso e ca 1300 l per 1 kg di grano, mentre per frutta e verdura servono 960 e 320 l di acqua rispettivamente per ogni kg. Dei 15000 l per produrre carne bovina, circa 200 l sono diretti (ossia quelli usati per abbeverare l’animale) e i restanti sono indiretti (ossia sono i litri di acqua usati per andare a produrre il cibo per il bovino). Non è immediato però andare a quantificare l’impatto preciso di ogni alimento in questo modo.

Si può, per semplificare, andare a quantificare qual è la water footprint di alimenti comuni [6, Tabella 2]: 1 birra piccola per esempio ha una water footprint di 70 l di acqua, una fetta di pane (30 g) equivale a 40 l di acqua, un bicchiere di succo di mela a 170 l, una patata a 25 l e un hamburger a 2500 l.

Un calcolo simile si può fare non a parità di peso ma a parità di valore nutritivo, ossia si può calcolare il rapporto water footprint divisa per le calorie (è una sorta di calcolo di efficienza): la carne di manzo consuma 10 l/cal, quella di maiale 2.15 l/cal, mentre la carne di gallina si attesta a 3 l/cal, per quanto riguarda le coltivazioni, per le verdure in media si usano 1.34 l/cal, i frutti 2.09 l/cal (quasi quanto la carne di maiale, sono i meno efficienti tra gli alimenti non animali), la frutta secca 3.63 l/cal mentre per i cereali servono 0.51 l/cal [8].

La situazione è simile se si considerano i litri/proteina, ma l’alimento per cui serve più acqua a parità di proteine sono i frutti 180 l/g proteina, seguita dalla frutta secca con 139 l/g e dalla carne bovina con 119 l/g, il maiale consuma 53 l/g proteina, mentre per la carne di gallina ne servono 34 l/g. Al fondo della classifica troviamo di nuovo le verdure e i cereali con 26 e 21 l/g proteina rispettivamente [8].

Bisogna però fare una distinzione importante: non tutta l’acqua qui considerata è acqua di falda (o blue water), anzi, la stragrande maggioranza (ca il 90% della water footprint) è green water, ossia acqua che proviene principalmente dalle piogge [7,8]: per esempio solo 250 l sui 15000 l usati per produrre 1 kg di carne è acqua di falda.

Impatto sul riscaldamento globale

Sia allevamento che agricoltura sono fonti di gas serra. Si stima che entrambi i settori, congiuntamente, siano responsabili del 14% circa dell’attuale riscaldamento antropogenico, in particolare sono responsabili del 47% delle emissioni antropogeniche di metano e del 57% delle emissioni di N2O [10]. Le emissioni legate alla agri/zootecnia sono cresciute negli ultimi 10 anni del 17% [10].

L’impatto maggiore è dovuto alle emissioni di N2O dal suolo (ca il 38% delle emissioni totali del settore agroalimentare), causato dai fertilizzanti sintetici e naturali usati nell’agricoltura (sia per uso umano che per sfamare il bestiame, quindi in questa percentuale rientra indirettamente anche l’allevamento), al secondo posto, al 32% abbiamo le emissioni di metano del bestiame dovute alla fermentazione enterica dei ruminanti, al 12% abbiamo la cosiddetta biomass burning, ossia gli incendi provocati per pulire i campi dalle sterpaglie, oppure per convertire aree forestali in terreni agricoli (pratiche, entrambe, non più diffuse nei paesi sviluppati, ma frequentissime nei paesi meno sviluppati [15]), l’11% delle emissioni dei settori agroalimentari è dovuto alla coltivazione di riso (che emette N2O e metano in atmosfera) e la percentuale restante è dovuta a varie cause, soprattutto legate al rilascio di metano dal suolo conseguente alla fertilizzazione del suolo. Per maggiori dettagli, e per maggiori referenze, il testo fondamentale è il Capitolo 8 del Rapporto IPCC (2007) [10].

Non viene tenuto conto in questo calcolo l’impatto indiretto dell’agricoltura e dell’allevamento, ossia l’emissione di gas serra dovuto principalmente al trasporto e alla lavorazione dei prodotti agroalimentari.

Il dato del biomass burning in questo caso è calcolato in difetto, dato che non si considera il rilascio di CO2 in atmosfera dovuto agli incendi, ma solo il rilascio di N2O e di metano [10].

Un discorso a parte merita l’impatto sui gas serra causato dalla conversione delle foreste o delle praterie in campi coltivati: le coltivazioni infatti, non hanno lo stesso rate di assorbimento di CO2 rispetto alle foreste: si stima che il flusso di CO2 causata dalla conversione da foreste/praterie annuale sia pari all’assorbimento annuo di CO2 di tutti gli oceani nello stesso periodo di tempo (2.0 x10 15 g CO2) [19,20]. Queste stime, però, includono anche la conversione ad altre attività (per esempio la conversione delle foreste per l’estrazione di legno) e sono basate sulla media sugli ultimi 150 anni.

Un altro contributo che non è tenuto conto nel calcolo dell’IPCC è quello legato ai biocarburanti (come l’olio di colza). Questo tipo di coltivazione viene usato per produrre carburanti alternativi rispetto a quelli fossili per la produzione di energia o per il trasporto su ruota: la loro combustione rilascia infatti meno CO2 rispetto al petrolio. Si è scoperto recentemente, però, che il loro effetto climatico è negativo: la conversione del suolo da foreste, savane o praterie in coltivazioni di biocarburanti causa un rilascio da 17 a 420 volte la quantità di CO2 che viene risparmiata nella sostituzione biocarburanti-carburanti tradizionali [13,16]. E’ stato però recentemente proposto di usare aree con poca vegetazione per la coltivazione dei biocarburanti, dato che molte coltivazioni possono crescere in aree in cui sarebbe impossibile la coltivazione agricola per uso umano [14].

Acknowledgements:

Si ringraziano Giovanni Perini, Francesco Civita, Alessandro Tavecchio, Alessandro Mattedi e Gianluigi Avogadro per i suggerimenti. L’autore dichiara l’inesistenza di conflitti d’interesse. Foto di Giovanni Perini e da Flickr (Patrick).

Bibliografia:

[1] Ramankutty, N., Foley, J. A. (1999). Estimating historical changes in global land cover: Croplands from 1700 to 1992. Global biogeochemical cycles, 13(4), 997-1027. [link] [2] Foley, J. A., DeFries, R., Asner, G. P., Barford, C., Bonan, G., Carpenter, S. R., … Snyder, P. K. (2005). Global consequences of land use. Science,309(5734), 570-574. [pdf] [3] Mann, C. C. (1999). Crop scientists seek a new revolution. Science, 283(5400), 310-314. [link] [4] Wassenaar, T., Gerber, P., Verburg, P. H., Rosales, M., Ibrahim, M., & Steinfeld, H. (2007). Projecting land use changes in the Neotropics: The geography of pasture expansion into forest. Global Environmental Change,17(1), 86-104. [pdf] [5] Hecht, S.B., (2005). Soybeans, development and conservation on the Amazon frontier. Development and Change 36 (2), 375–404. [link] [6] Hoekstra, A.Y., Chapagain, A.K., (2007). Water footprints of nations: water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern. Water Res Manag 21(1):35–48. [pdf] [7] Mekonnen, M.M. Hoekstra, A.Y. The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products. Value of Water Research Report Series no. 48, UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010 [pdf] [8] Mekonnen, M. M., Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). A global assessment of the water footprint of farm animal products. Ecosystems, 15(3), 401-415. [link] [9] Rapporto FAO, 2006 (FAOSTAT)

[10] IPCC report 2007, Chaper 8. [pdf] [11] Matson, P. A., Parton, W. J., Power, A. G., Swift, M. J. (1997). Agricultural intensification and ecosystem properties. Science, 277(5325), 504-509. [pdf] [12] S. Wood, K. Sebastian, S. J. Scherr, Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems: Agroecosystems (International Food Policy Research Institute and World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, 2000).

[13] Fargione, J., Hill, J., Tilman, D., Polasky, S., & Hawthorne, P. (2008). Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt. Science, 319(5867), 1235-1238. [pdf] [14] Tilman, D., Hill, J., & Lehman, C. (2006). Carbon-negative biofuels from low-input high-diversity grassland biomass. Science, 314(5805), 1598-1600. [link] [15] US-EPA, 2006a: Global Anthropogenic Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 1990­2020. United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 430-R-06-003, June 2006. Washington, D.C

[16] Searchinger, T., Heimlich, R., Houghton, R. A., Dong, F., Elobeid, A., Fabiosa, J., … & Yu, T. H. (2008). Use of US croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change. Science,319(5867), 1238-1240. [pdf] [17] Koh, L. P., & Wilcove, D. S. (2008). Is oil palm agriculture really destroying tropical biodiversity?. Conservation letters, 1(2), 60-64. [link] [18] Fitzherbert, E. B., Struebig, M. J., Morel, A., Danielsen, F., Brühl, C. A., Donald, P. F., & Phalan, B. (2008). How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity?. Trends in ecology & evolution, 23(10), 538-545. [pdf] [19] Houghton, R. A. (1999). The annual net flux of carbon to the atmosphere from changes in land use 1850–1990. Tellus B, 51(2).

[20] Houghton, R. A., Hobbie, J. E., Melillo, J. M., Moore, B., Peterson, B. J., Shaver, G. R., & Woodwell, G. M. (1983). Changes in the Carbon Content of Terrestrial Biota and Soils between 1860 and 1980: A Net Release of CO” 2 to the Atmosphere. Ecological monographs, 53(3), 235-262. [link]


Sostenibilità ambientale in agricoltura

Io sono me più il mio ambiente e se non preservo quest'ultimo non preservo me stesso.

(José Ortega y Gasset)

Qualche tempo fa mi soffermai sul tema dell’agricoltura, rispolverando un piccolo volume dal titolo I miti dell’agricoltura industriale. L’industrializzazione dell’agricoltura come causa della fame del mondo, pubblicato a Firenze nel 1977 dalla Libreria Editrice Fiorentina.

Già all’epoca era profonda la critica da parte di molti studiosi della materia, scienziati, agricoltori consapevoli di quel sistema di agricoltura, in piena espansione, basato su grandi apporti chimici, standardizzato per l’intero mondo agricolo occidentale ed esportabile nei Paesi in via di sviluppo. Ebbene, 43 anni dopo tale data c’è un grido dall’allarme che forse si ispira proprio a quel prezioso lavoro: un nuovo decalogo a cui si appellano ben 3600 scienziati 1 per fermare la crisi climatica e la perdita della biodiversità del pianeta.

La comunità scientifica detta le dieci azioni chiave che la futura Politica Agricola Comunitaria (PAC) dovrebbe mettere in atto per dare una svolta ad una grave situazione di depauperamento della fertilità dei suoli (ormai meri supporti fisici per le piante con una ridotta percentuale di sostanza organica), di inquinamento di acqua, aria e suolo, dovuto a fitofarmaci, diserbanti - come il glifosato - e concimi chimici. A tutto questo va aggiunto che nell’ultimo cinquantennio c’è stata una scarsa attenzione al rispetto dei cicli naturali dei componenti più importanti del paesaggio quali: siepi, alberature e praterie che venivano e vengono ossessivamente ridotte con potature, abbattimenti, falciature spesso inutili, sconquassando tutto il sistema ecologico e la facendo scomparire insetti predatori, uccelli, macro e microfauna.

In questi mesi è in corso il dibattito sul prossimo periodo di finanziamento della PAC (2021-2027), in parallelo alle discussioni sul bilancio post 2020 dell’Unione Europea, incluso quanto andrà all’agricoltura e a quali condizioni.

Non dimentichiamo che la PAC è una politica di finanziamento agricolo (presente in Europa dal Trattato di Roma del 1957!) con un budget di 58,4 miliardi di euro all’anno, a partire dal 2019, vale a dire il 36% del bilancio totale dell'Unione Europea.

Gli ultimi due quinquenni di finanziamento, pur avendo sostenuto misure di incentivo rivolte al cosiddetto “green” 2 in agricoltura, tra cui sostegni a chi introduce siepi campestri, chi pratica agricoltura integrata (mirata cioè alla riduzione dell’uso di fitofarmaci), contributi all’agricoltura biologica, dall’altra parte non è mai stato fatto divieto all’uso di molti pesticidi e diserbanti, i maggiori responsabili dell’inquinamento e delle gravi conseguenze sulla salute di molti abitanti che risiedono nelle zone ad agricoltura intensiva.

Le misure agroambientali-climatiche, i pagamenti per l'agricoltura biologica e i siti Natura 2000, costituiscono solo 3,5 miliardi di euro del budget totale e sono risultate efficaci a detta dello studio a cui qui si fa riferimento.

Quindi secondo molti ricercatori si è trattato di una politica “schizofrenica” che ricompensa i virtuosi con misure cosiddette di eco-condizionalità (nel gergo tecnico) con premi alla produzione ma non limita o impedisce l’inquinamento dovuto alla maggioranza degli imprenditori agricoli che usano pesticidi e diserbanti. Sono almeno 240 gli scienziati italiani, in aggiunta a quelli di 36 paesi, a dichiarare che l'attuale PAC è tra i fattori principali che hanno condotto all'odierna emergenza climatica e alla perdita della biodiversità, oltre ad aver fallito sugli obiettivi socio-economici per le aree rurali.

Gli studiosi assicurano che “è proprio dalla futura PAC che si può e si deve ripartire per trovare una soluzione a queste crisi ambientali. La ricetta per la transizione ecologica dell'agricoltura prevede una PAC che smetta di finanziare pratiche distruttive, ponendo immediatamente fine ai sussidi alla produzione e sopprimendo gradualmente i pagamenti diretti basati solo sul possesso della terra, aumentando al contempo, in modo significativo, il sostegno alla transizione degli agricoltori verso un'agricoltura più sostenibile e rispettosa della natura.”

Ma cosa significano effettivamente questi due termini? Per troppi anni (dal 1992 esattamente) si parla di sostenibilità ambientale e di biodiversità, come concetti da tenere in massima considerazione in tutti i protocolli, disposizioni di legge e misure programmatiche dei governi ma che poi rimangono sulla carta e non viene messo a punto un reale cambiamento.

Gli interessi delle grandi aziende produttrici di concimi, sementi e fitofarmaci, con il loro enorme potere economico ostacolano questa inversione di rotta e ciò va a svantaggio dell’intera umanità. Nessuna misura, nessun incentivo da parte della politica, a partire dagli anni Ottanta, quando era già chiaro il danno ecologico planetario, per far riconvertire queste multinazionali a produzioni di concimi di origine organica e non più solo chimica a partire da un’unica fonte: il petrolio 3 .

L’Ecological British Council si dice preoccupato per gli attuali tentativi di stemperare l'ambizione ambientale della futura PAC e per la mancanza di proposte concrete per migliorarla nel progetto del Green Deal Europeo. Chiede quindi al Parlamento europeo, al Consiglio e alla Commissione di adottare 10 punti d'azione urgenti per fornire una produzione alimentare sostenibile, conservazione della biodiversità e mitigazione del clima. L’articolo di People Nature, a cui vi rimando in nota per eventuali approfondimenti, è di recentissima pubblicazione 4 e riporta un’analisi molto puntuale del perché va rivista tutta la programmazione della politica agricola comunitaria, soprattutto perché sono risultate inefficaci moltissime misure, la maggior parte volontarie, riferite alle iniziative ambientali.

Se si continuerà a procedere in questa modalità, l’agricoltura, pur impiegando solo il 9 % degli occupati in Europa, rispetto al 26 % dell’industria e al 65% del terziario, sarà responsabile di gravi danni non solo ambientali ma metterà a repentaglio il settore sanitario, con un incremento di malati dovuti all’inquinamento. A questo proposito non sono da dimenticare gli effetti studiati sull’uomo dell’esposizione diretta ai fitofarmaci o al consumo di frutta e verdura trattati: forme allergiche per apparato respiratorio, cute e occhi, induzione di tumori, danni al sistema nervoso, alterazione dei geni con possibile trasmissione alla prole, diminuzione della fertilità o della funzione sessuale, immunosoppressione.

Non saranno sufficienti neanche questi appelli se non ci sarà una radicale inversione di rotta ormai necessaria. Sarebbe auspicabile che venissero immediatamente messi in atto due principi generali facilmente applicabili e condivisi da buona parte delle scuole di agro ecologia, di scienze ecologiche e di tutte le menti che da anni studiano il cambiamento climatico e la crescente riduzione delle forme di vita.

Cerco di schematizzare:
1) L’eliminazione di tutti i contributi alle aziende che praticano agricoltura convenzionale ovvero che fanno uso di prodotti come diserbanti e fitofarmaci o qualsiasi prodotto non ammesso dalla legislazione per l’agricoltura biologica
2) tutti i contributi e i relativi bandi nei vai Piani di Sviluppo Regionali per i singoli stati Europei dovrebbero essere rivolti solo a coloro che:

mettono in pratica tutte le misure cosiddette agro-ambientali a tutela dell’ecosistema (piantumazione di siepi, prati, coltivazioni diversificate all’interno delle stesse aziende soprattutto quelle con superficie maggiori di 5 ettari) con un impegno non limitato ad un quinquennio ma almeno per un trentennio, pena la restituzione di tutto il contributo ricevuto

praticano produzioni locali e di tradizione (recupero di vecchie varietà) oppure varietà ibride o comunque standardizzate e coltivate in tutti i paesi occidentali

producono secondo il metodo biologico, biodinamico e comunque che non utilizzano sostanze dannose come si è detto in precedenza

allevano allo stato brado e in forma biologica, con bassa intensità di capi per unità di superficie

acquistano o gestiscono terreni rimasti in abbandono per più di 5 anni nelle zone di pianura, collina e montagna e intendono praticare sistemi di produzione biologici e risiedono in zone lontane da centri abitati in piccole comunità (come gli eco villaggi).

E soprattutto per le regioni che sono già in stato di grave crisi ambientale come la Pianura padana, o in alcune zone a coltivazioni intensive come in Spagna o nei Paesi Europei con situazioni di grave inquinamento ambientale, dovrebbe essere messo l’obbligo assoluto della pratica dell’agricoltura biologica. In Italia la prima area che ci viene in mente è la zona del Prosecco in Veneto, in Trentino e le aree per la produzione intensiva di frutta. Si eviterebbero così le inutili lungaggini burocratiche per ottenere i famosi Biodistretti, ma di questo parleremo in un altro capitolo…

1 L’elenco dei firmatari è visibile a tutti.
2 I pagamenti diretti sono erogati principalmente per ettaro di superficie agricola e sono subordinati al rispetto di varie normative, compresi gli aspetti ambientali (ad esempio, "buone condizioni agricole ambientali" o GEAC, in "condizionalità"). Dal 2014, il 30% dei pagamenti diretti è collegato a tre requisiti di "inverdimento" - greening, valutati per lo più inefficaci (ECA, 2017 Pe'er, Lakner, et al., 2017).
3 La produzione di fertilizzanti azotati dipende per la quasi totalità dalla sintesi di NH3 a partire da N2 atmosferico e H2, proveniente a sua volta dal cracking di idrocarburi essa pertanto è condizionata, oltre che dalle capacità tecniche di costruzione e gestione di impianti, dalla disponibilità di petrolio, fonte dell'H2 come dell'energia necessaria. (Fonte: Treccani Enciclopedia on line).
4 Pe'er G, Bonn A, Bruelheide H, et al. Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges. People Nat. 202000:1–12.


Approfondimento

Dalla metà degli anni '60 del secolo scorso le applicazioni in agricoltura di fertilizzanti e pesticidi sono fortemente aumentate tanto che la contaminazione agro-chimica delle acque superficiali e sotterranee è diventata un serio problema ambientale.

Gli effetti dell'inquinamento da agricoltura, che si riversano su acque superficiali e sotterranee, sono numerosi e riguardano sia la contaminazione con residui di pesticidi (che possono essere molecole ad elevata persistenza) delle acque di falda e dei sedimenti dei corpi idrici superficiali, sia l’eutrofizzazione dei laghi e del mare dovuta all’eccesso di fertilizzanti. Questi effetti sono causati da fonti di inquinamento diffuse (NPS, Non-Point Sources), ritenute una delle maggiori cause dei problemi dei corpi idrici.

I composti azotati e i pesticidi costituiscono il problema principale per gli effetti che generano sulla salute pubblica e sugli ecosistemi e per il loro utilizzo ampiamente diffuso. E' da notare che, in genere, circa il 50% dei fertilizzanti azotati applicati ai campi viene perso nelle acque di drenaggio, primariamente sotto forma di nitrati NO3. Tutti questi agenti inquinanti raggiungono quindi in grandi quantità il reticolo idrografico superficiale.

I depuratori convenzionali non possono essere utilizzati per gestire l’inquinamento diffuso, in quanto è impossibile raccogliere le acque in reti fognarie. Un approccio basato su trattamenti di tipo estensivo, realizzati mediante tecniche naturali di depurazione, è invece l’unica soluzione applicabile, oltre – naturalmente – alla riduzione nell’uso di fertilizzanti e pesticidi.

L’esperienza più significativi di applicazione della fitodepurazione per ridurre l’inquinamento diffuso è senz’altro il South Florida Everglades Restoration Project nel quale sono stati convertiti in zone umide centinaia di ettari di seminativi per proteggere le paludi delle Everglades (https://my.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/bts_sta.pdf).

Il progetto Life Aqua ha recentemente prodotto un piccolo manuale specifico sulla fitodepurazione per il trattamento di acque di origine agricola e di reflui zootecnici.


Sustainable agriculture [ edit ]

Sustainable agriculture is the idea that agriculture should occur in a way such that we can continue to produce what is necessary without infringing on the ability for future generations to do the same.

The exponential population increase in recent decades has increased the practice of agricultural land conversion to meet the demand for food which in turn has increased the effects on the environment. The global population is still increasing and will eventually stabilize, as some critics doubt that food production, due to lower yields from global warming, can support the global population.

Agriculture can have negative effects on biodiversity as well. Organic farming is a multifaceted sustainable agriculture set of practices that can have a lower impact on the environment at a small scale. However, in most cases organic farming results in lower yields in terms of production per unit area. [49] Therefore, widespread adoption of organic agriculture will require additional land to be cleared and water resources extracted to meet the same level of production. A European meta-analysis found that organic farms tended to have higher soil organic matter content and lower nutrient losses (nitrogen leaching, nitrous oxide emissions, and ammonia emissions) per unit of field area but higher ammonia emissions, nitrogen leaching and nitrous oxide emissions per product unit. [50] It is believed by many that conventional farming systems cause less rich biodiversity than organic systems. Organic farming has shown to have on average 30% higher species richness than conventional farming. Organic systems on average also have 50% more organisms. This data has some issues because there were several results that showed a negative effect on these things when in an organic farming system. [51] The opposition to organic agriculture believes that these negatives are an issue with the organic farming system. What began as a small scale, environmentally conscious practice has now become just as industrialized as conventional agriculture. This industrialization can lead to the issues shown above such as climate change, and deforestation.

Regenerative agriculture [ edit ]

Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, [52] improving the water cycle, [53] enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. Practices include recycling as much farm waste as possible and adding composted material from sources outside the farm. [54] [55] [56] [57]

Regenerative agriculture on small farms and gardens is often based on philosophies like permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, keyline design, and holistic management. Large farms tend to be less philosophy driven and often use "no-till" and/or "reduced till" practices.

As soil health improves, input requirements may decrease, and crop yields may increase as soils are more resilient against extreme weather and harbour fewer pests and pathogens. [58]

Techniques [ edit ]

Conservation tillage [ edit ]

Conservation tillage is an alternative tillage method for farming which is more sustainable for the soil and surrounding ecosystem. [59] This is done by allowing the residue of the previous harvest's crops to remain in the soil before tilling for the next crop. Conservation tillage has shown to improve many things such as soil moisture retention, and reduce erosion. Some disadvantages are the fact that more expensive equipment is needed for this process, more pesticides will need to be used, and the positive effects take a long time to be visible. [59] The barriers of instantiating a conservation tillage policy are that farmers are reluctant to change their methods, and would protest a more expensive, and time-consuming method of tillage than the conventional one they are used to. [60]

Biological pest control [ edit ]

Biological control or biocontrol is a method of controlling pests such as insects, mites, weeds and plant diseases using other organisms. [61] It relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms, but typically also involves an active human management role. It can be an important component of integrated pest management (IPM) programs.

There are three basic strategies for biological pest control: classical (importation), where a natural enemy of a pest is introduced in the hope of achieving control inductive (augmentation), in which a large population of natural enemies are administered for quick pest control and inoculative (conservation), in which measures are taken to maintain natural enemies through regular reestablishment. [62]

Natural enemies of insect pests, also known as biological control agents, include predators, parasitoids, pathogens, and competitors. Biological control agents of plant diseases are most often referred to as antagonists. Biological control agents of weeds include seed predators, herbivores, and plant pathogens.

Biological control can have side-effects on biodiversity through attacks on non-target species by any of the above mechanisms, especially when a species is introduced without a thorough understanding of the possible consequences.


Aggiornamenti

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Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica numero 59 del 2013

Primo novembre 2020 – 31 marzo 2021

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