Ermias Negash on November 10th, 2015

I am a student here in environmental science class, Longwood University.I am also a business major student with a concentration of Accounting. I was interested in this topic (Industrial Agriculture), at first honestly speaking, I haven’t had a good understanding what is really about. However, as we go on, when I discuss about the topic and what we going to do with my group met, I found out how important it is for animals and human health. Also during  the experiment I was very amazed by the result we discovered, which is the color difference between fertilized soil water and the unfertilized one.

Nicole Del Rosario on November 10th, 2015

Hello! First off, I am a Communications Major with a concentration in Digital Media and I am also minoring in Spanish. Upon searching for topics to use for these experiments, Industrial Agriculture seemed to spark my interest the most out of all the environmental problems on the list and the one I had at least a little bit of knowledge on. I think it is highly important to look deeper into where exactly our resources come from– especially when it comes to companies such as Monsanto, which I have been informed about in previous years and am fully against. Though the controversies with Monsanto and the conflict of any pesticides affecting our drinking water are two different spectrums of industrial agriculture, I believe that the more knowledge we have on the problems that are occurring in our environments throughout our everyday lives, the easier it will be for us to combat those problems.

Christopher Fish on November 10th, 2015

I am a student here at Longwood University and taking Environmental science. I am going to major in Environmental Science with a concentration in earth science. This topic interested me because of the effects of fertilizers have on run off drinking water for animals, plants and human beings. All four of us chose this topic to actually see if drinking water was effected by fertilizers to see if we could maybe then change the way people use fertilizers so in the end we help people, animals and plants.

Chanel Carter on November 10th, 2015

Hello I am a junior and a psychology major with a minor in communications. I was interested in Industrial Agriculture because first off I did not exactly know what it was and it sounded interesting. Ever since the beginning this project I have become more invested in learning about how farm land pesticides could possibly be effecting the drinking water quality that we Americans consume. As a group we were all knew this was a problem, and we saw that farmers were using pesticides and wanted to know how to change that with more a more Eco- friendly solutions. Hopefully through this project we can show how harmful pesticides are from a students stand point and show them our alternative.

Chanel Carter on November 3rd, 2015

Industrial agriculture is a form of modern farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, and crops (2). As a whole, the system consumes fossil fuel, water, and topsoil at unsustainable rates. It contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil depletion, destruction of biodiversity, and the immense amounts of fish die-offs (2). However, the main concern with this experiment—just as it was with Experiment 1—is the water pollution and infiltration produced by pesticides through runoff, which is part of the water cycle.

Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are the primary major nutrients required for plant growth and are the main components of most fertilizers (4). These chemicals are “energy intensive to produce, create vast amounts of waste, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions”—all of which is involved with the process of industrial agriculture as well (4).  Producing one unit of nitrogen requires 1.4 units of carbon and 3 units of carbon are required to manufacture, transport, and apply to 1 unit of phosphorus for fertilizer. For every ton of phosphoric acid produced, 5 tons of phosphogypsum are generated.

Excess fertilizer use and runoff is the main cause of eutrophication in waterways thus threatening both animal and plant health (5). Surplus nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer runoff, animal manure, and soil erosion creates something called a “dead zone” or what is also known as a “nitrogen cascade” (1).  This occurs when chemicals flow untreated into the ocean, which mostly happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2004, for example (1). Occurrences such as what happened in a body of water relatively close to us is what drove the motivation for this experiment because though that event happened over 10 years ago, it is known that the environment degraded in that sense due to the advancement in technology and the production of fossil fuels.  

The second, most important change to experiment was adding plant seeds to the soil instead of keeping it plain as we did with the first experiment. By adding plant seeds, the more of an affect the fertilizer would have in the water because the uptake of nutrients and minerals from the soil is provided through the soil and fertilizer placed into the pots. The importance of using plants during this experiment is explained by a previous study in 2014 conducted by Ezio Ranieri and Petros Gikas regarding the effect of plants for the reduction of soil contamination. As shown by their results, there was “selective accumulation of toxic elements in the more senescent tissues” root uptake (6). Therefore, the plants have been proven to eliminate contamination—heavy metals, in the case of Ranieri and Gikas. The goal for this experimental change is that the plants will absorb the fertilizer and not have as much of an affect on both the soil and water contamination.

All of these components of fertilizer and water will be taken into consideration to formulate a hypothesis that will predict how exactly the levels of ammonia nitrogen and nitrate will be affected by the fertilizer.

Thus, leading to the hypothesis: If fertilizer is added to the soil of plants, then the ammonia nitrogen and nitrate levels will increase.

The goal of this experiment is to fulfill the hypothesis by conducting the experiment in order for it to work.

References:

  1. “150 ‘dead Zones’ Counted in Oceans.” Msnbc.com. NBC News, 29 Mar. 2004. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4624359/#.VjjAoq6rTVo>.
  1. “Industrial Agriculture.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture#.Vji9lq6rTVp>.
  1. “The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag.” The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.panna.org/pesticides-big-picture/lynchpin-industrial-ag>.
  1. “Nitrogen and Water.” : USGS Water Science School. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/nitrogen.html>.
  1. “Pesticides and Water Quality.” University of California Agriculture & Natural Resource. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ipm.ucdavis.edu%2FWATER%2FU%2Fwatqual.html>.
  1. Ranieri, Ezio, and Petros Gikas. “Effects Of Plants For Reduction And Removal Of Hexavalent Chromium From A Contaminated Soil.” Water, Air & Soil Pollution 225.6 (2014): 1-9. Environment Complete. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Chanel Carter on November 3rd, 2015

Procedure

Supplies needed to carry out this experiment:

  • Tape
  • Marker
  • Beakers
  • Fertilizer
  • Plant Seeds
  • Potting Soil
  • Nutrient Free Water
  • Nitrate and Ammonia kits
  • 2 trays for each 3 pots

*Ask professor to supply the kits, do not purchase these chemicals*

Through the first experiment, we tested the effect of pesticides used in the process of industrial agriculture have on the nitrogen, ammonia, and phosphorus levels in soil tested through the collection of water through fertilized and unfertilized soil. Our hypothesis for the previous experiment was that the fertilized will have the highest levels of nitrogen, ammonia, and phosphorus. However, one of the changes we made with the second experiment was taking the phosphorus test out altogether because the results illustrated that the levels of phosphorus were the same exact milliliter (mL) count for both fertilized and unfertilized. The levels of phosphorus stayed at 40 mL for the entirety of the experiment; all results were unanimous. Furthermore, we made our sample size lower, pushing the number of plant pots down from 8 in the first experiment (4 fertilized and 4 unfertilized) to 6 in the second experiment (3 fertilized and 3 unfertilized). With the change we made in lowering the sample size, we narrowed down our results to see if the results would be closer together than the first one.

photo (12-25-45 AM)

photo (12-26-16 AM)

Soil is placed into all six pots.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.58.13 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.58.37 PM

Fertilizer was added to the three pots with the “F”

 

photo (8-40-08 AM)

Plant seeds were also added to all the pots.

 

Small amounts of water were administered to all the pots, and then placed in the tray and left for a few days up to a week.

The pots were checked. The kits for ammonia, nitrate and breakers were gathered.

Nutrient free water was added to the unfertilized pot number one. The water was measured in a beaker to 100 mL. Beaker was then poured into a smaller beakers for the testing of the chemicals and the remaining water was placed into the test tube for a control.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.58.41 PM

 

The first kit is ammonia, the packet is taken and then shaken into the small beaker being held and was shaken for one minute, then another chemical packet was added, then it was left to sit alone for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes is done then the chemical mix is then poured into a test tube and then placed into the device to match the color of the control water to the chemical water. When there is a match confirm with others in the group and record data. Repeat and wash beakers and test tubes when testing the fertilized pots.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.58.44 PM

(Ammonia Kit)

 photo (12-26-11 AM)

(Device to measure Ammonia)

The nitrate test is the same. The chemical was placed inside the test tube with water and then left alone for 15 minutes. The test tube was then placed inside the device to match the color of the control, then confirmed with the group and recorded the data.

photo (12-25-23 AM)

 

Materials not shown:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.59.04 PM

(Potting soil used)

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 11.59.08 PM

(Fertilizer used)

Chanel Carter on November 3rd, 2015

Through the ammonia nitrogen test in Figure 1, the amount of nitrogen within the fertilized soil through the 3 trials were 2 mL, 1.4 mL,and 0.1 for the second trial run. The unfertilized soil trials, on the other hand, were consistently at a level of 0. As shown by Figure 2, the levels of nitrate are significantly higher than the ammonia nitrogen test. However, the results for the fertilized soil were 34 mL, 30 mL, and 38 mL; meanwhile, the unfertilized soil’s nitrate levels remained lower at 14 mL, 16, mL, and 19 mL. The results varied in the Ammonia test compared to the Nitrate test as you can see from the graphs.

Figure 1: Ammonia Nitrogen Test

ammonia

Figure 2: Nitrate Test

nitrate

Chanel Carter on November 3rd, 2015

Our hypothesis was supported due to the fact that there were higher levels of nitrate in both levels and only in the fertilized ammonia nitrogen. This shows how much run off is from the pot soil and a surplus from nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer runoff, animal manure, and soil erosion creates something called a “dead zone” or what is also known as a “nitrogen cascade” (1). We wanted to see if by adding the plant it would have an effect to the chemicals added, and by a recent study done in conducted by Ranieri and Petros Gikas regarding the effect of plants for the reduction of soil contamination. As shown by their results, there was “selective accumulation of toxic elements in the more senescent tissues” root uptake (2).  This means that plants tend to get rid of metals and the fertilizer in the soil, which is a good thing, but the plant will then be contaminated with the pesticides. The goal of this experiment was to help find a chemical that would be compatible to crops that would be less harmful to the irrigation systems and the food we eat.

 

References:

  1. “150 ‘dead Zones’ Counted in Oceans.” Msnbc.com. NBC News, 29 Mar. 2004. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4624359/#.VjjAoq6rTVo>.
    1. Ranieri, Ezio, and Petros Gikas. “Effects Of Plants For Reduction And Removal Of Hexavalent Chromium From A Contaminated Soil.” Water, Air & Soil Pollution 225.6 (2014): 1-9. Environment Complete. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.
Nicole Del Rosario on October 19th, 2015

The whole concept and process of industrial agriculture treats the farms as if they were factories producing food and resource for the public. As do all factories have, there are inputs (AKA pesticides and fertilizer) as well as outputs (AKA the crops). The ultimate goal for industrial agriculture is to increase yields while controlling the costs. In most cases, that means exploiting economies through actions such as monocropping or replacing solar power and manual labor with machines and the implementation of chemicals (1).

An example of this would be soil fumigation, or the addition of pesticides to soil for the plants, which is more or less what our group attempted to accomplish during the last experiment. In soil fumigation, high volumes of volatile pesticides are placed into the soil before the planting occurs; thus, disrupting the biological ecosystem of the soil that supports the growth of plants (2). A requirement is that more chemical inputs are requited to replace the natural nutrients, causing them to be chemically reliant.

References:

  1. “Industrial Agriculture.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture#.Vji9lq6rTVp>.
  2. “The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag.” The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.panna.org/pesticides-big-picture/lynchpin-industrial-ag>.
Nicole Del Rosario on October 5th, 2015

Industrial agriculture requires a great deal of resources, including disproportionate amounts of water and the fossil fuel that’s needed to make chemical fertilizer, mechanize working the land and its crops, running irrigation sources, heat buildings and crop dryers and, of course, transportation (1). This means it needs more in the way of resources than the earth can replenish.

Fertilizers are used in every day farming to help the crops grow, but it effects the water levels for human drinking water. Industrial agriculture is a form of modern farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, and crops. As a whole, the system consumes fossil fuel, water, and topsoil at unsustainable rates (2). It contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation, including air and water pollution, soil depletion, destruction of biodiversity, and the immense amounts of fish die-offs (2). The main concern for this particular experiment is the water pollution and infiltration of that pollution through run-off. The fertilizers used industrial agriculture are associated with elevated cancer risks for workers and consumers and are coming under greater trouble for their links to endocrine disruption and further affects to the reproductive system (3).

Pesticide contamination of groundwater is a subject of importance and an aspect of environmental pollution that more people should be concerned about. Groundwater is taken and purified to be used for drinking water by nearly half of the U.S. population (4). This especially concerns people living in the agricultural areas where pesticides are most often used through farming since “about 95 percent of that population relies upon groundwater for drinking water” as said by the U.S. Geological Survey (4). Before the mid-1970s, it was thought that soil acted as a protective filter that stopped pesticides from reaching groundwater. Studies have now shown that this is not the case (4). Pesticides can reach water-bearing aquifers below ground from applications onto crop fields, seepage of contaminated surface water, accidental spills and leaks, improper disposal, and even through injection waste material into wells.

Through this experiment, we will test the effects of fertilizer and industrial agriculture have on the nitrate, ammonia nitrogen, and phosphorus levels in our water. This will be tested through the collection of water that is run through fertilized and unfertilized soil. In that way, we will understand and physically see the negative effects industrial agriculture has on our environment.

Ultimately, we believe that the fertilized soil will have the highest levels of nitrate, ammonia nitrogen, and phosphorus due to the fact that there is something directly affecting the soil.

Works Cited:

  1. “Hidden Costs of Industrial Agriculture.” Union of Concerned Scientists. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/hidden-costs-of-industrial.html>.
  2. “Industrial Agriculture.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture#.Vji9lq6rTVp>.
  3. “The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag.” The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.panna.org/pesticides-big-picture/lynchpin-industrial-ag>.
  4. “Pesticides in Groundwater.” Pesticides in Groundwater. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/pesticidesgw.html>.