The Chesapeake Bay Program stated that close to one-quarter of the land located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is focused on agricultural production. Agriculture is an important aspect to many people because it provides foods and fibers, natural area, and environmental benefits. Although agriculture provides us with important resources it also is the largest source of nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. These excess nutrients and sediments that are entering the bay enter from agricultural runoff. The main issue with agricultural runoff is the types of fertilizers farmers are using on their crops.
The fertilizers they are using are chemical ones which contain large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen. Although the bay does need phosphorus and nitrogen to survive, large amounts that the bay is receiving are slowing damaging the bay and its wild life. According to the Chesapeake Bay program, these fertilizers contribute 42 percent of the nitrogen, 58 percent of the phosphorus and 58 perfect of the sediment that enters the bay. From 2010 estimates from the EPA, chemical fertilizers, in specific, account for 17 percent of the nitrogen and 19 percent of the phosphorus entering the bay. When this pollution enters the bay it forms algal blooms that are large and block sunlight from entering the bay. This decreases the amount of oxygen that forms and kills the underwater grasses. These areas in the bay have been labeled “dead zones”, where no oxygen forms, and are the locations where fish and shellfish also die and decompose. Aside from blocking oxygen, algal blooms also raise pH level in the waters which spreads and kills more bay life and prospers the growth of parasites. Besides killing bay life, pollution also affects these species in different ways.
I believe the Chesapeake Bay needs to be clear of polluted runoff and clean for the species living inside and outside of the bay to survive. Things are being done to help clean the bay but by health standards the pollution level in the bay is still in critical condition. In order to make the bay a cleaner and runoff free location different solutions have been suggested. “The five most cost-effective conservation practices include streamside buffers, streamside fencing, nutrient management plans, continuous no-till, and cover crops. These practices reduce the most amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus per dollar spent” (Chesapeake Bay Foundation). Each of these solutions have different methods in preventing run-off.
Streamside buffers are very large, at almost 35 feet wide on each side of the stream, and are used to filter and gather the runoff from fertilizers before entering waterways. Streamside fencing is a much different solution that surrounds farms with fences to prevent animals and their waste from entering rivers and streams. This solution helps reduce the pollution levels and also erosion as well. Nutrient management plans are a communication solution rather than a border like solution. These plans educate farmers on what fertilizers to use on crops that will least pollute waterways. Continuous no till is a solution that limits erosion and also decreases soil disturbances. By using the no till solution the soil’s health can improve and also its level to hold moisture. Cover crops are the final possible solution for farmers because these crops are planted to soak up the remaining fertilizer than could enter waterways.
To implement these solutions a few steps need to be taken.
- Farmers need to be informed of the solutions that are available for them to decrease their levels of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.
- Farmers need to enforce these solutions and management practices as quickly as possible.
- The general public also needs to be informed of what solutions are available to help decrease the bay pollution as well. This could help decrease the pollution drastically.
Letters, flyers, emails, websites, and many other forms of communication can be created and sent to inform farmers of what they can do. Resistance may be seen from farmers who believe the chemical fertilizers they are using are the best for their crops. However, if they are properly informed that chemical fertilizers are not the best option for them then I believe solutions will be put forth. Bu educating the general public they can gain concerns as well and help the effort to clean the bay before it gets damaged any worse.
Valente, Jenna. “Ten Invasive Species of the Chesapeake Bay.” Chesapeake Bay Program. Chesapeake Bay Program, 22 Apr 2013. Web. 27 Sep 2013. <http://www.chesapeakebay.net/blog/post/ten_invasive_species_of_the_chesapeake_bay>.
“Chemical Contaminents.” Chesapeake Bay Program. Chesapeake Bay Program, n.d. Web. 27 Sep 2013. <http://www.chesapeakebay.net/issues/issue/chemical_contaminants>.
Staff, . “Dead Zones.” Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Chesapeake Bay Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Sep 2013. <http://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/maps/pollution/dead-zones>.