Agriculture Science Fair Project
How to decrease pesticide and herbicide use and runoff


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Project Information
Title: How to decrease pesticide and herbicide use and runoff
Subject: Botany
Grade level: Middle School - Grades 7-9
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Low
Awards: None
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Description: Different leaves (hair, bumps, ridges) were sprayed at different angles with different pesticides including a few surfactants added to the sprays. In order to determine runoff, weigh the leaves before spraying, wait for liquid to runoff and weigh them again.
Link: www.virtualsciencefair.org...
Background

The principal environmental issues associated with runoff are the impacts to surface water, groundwater and soil through transport of water pollutants to these systems. Ultimately these consequences translate into human health risk, ecosystem disturbance and aesthetic impact to water resources. Some of the contaminants that create the greatest impact to surface waters arising from runoff are petroleum substances, herbicides and fertilizers. Quantitative uptake by surface runoff of pesticides and other contaminants has been studied since the 1960s, and early on contact of pesticides with water was known to enhance phytotoxicity. In the case of surface waters, the impacts translate to water pollution, since the streams and rivers have received runoff carrying various chemicals or sediments. When surface waters are used as potable water supplies, they can be compromised regarding health risks and drinking water aesthetics (that is, odor, color and turbidity effects). Contaminated surface waters risk altering the metabolic processes of the aquatic species that they host; these alterations can lead to death, such as fish kills, or alter the balance of populations present. Other specific impacts are on animal mating, spawning, egg and larvae viability, juvenile survival and plant productivity. Some researches show surface runoff of pesticides, such as DDT, can alter the gender of fish species genetically, which transforms male into female fish.

In the case of groundwater, the main issue is contamination of drinking water, if the aquifer is abstracted for human use. Regarding soil contamination, runoff waters can have two important pathways of concern. Firstly, runoff water can extract soil contaminants and carry them in the form of water pollution to even more sensitive aquatic habitats. Secondly, runoff can deposit contaminants on relatively pristine soils, creating health or ecological consequences.

A common context of run-off deals with agriculture. When farmland is tilled and bare soil is revealed, rainwater carries billions of tons of topsoil into waterways each year, causing loss of valuable topsoil and adding sediment to produce turbidity in surface waters.

The other context of agricultural issues involves the transport of agricultural chemicals (nitrates, phosphates, pesticides, herbicides etc) via surface runoff. This result occurs when chemical use is excessive or poorly timed with respect to high precipitation. The resulting contaminated runoff represents not only a waste of agricultural chemicals, but also an environmental threat to downstream ecosystems. The alternative to conventional farming is organic farming which eliminates or greatly reduces chemical usage.

Mitigation of adverse impacts of runoff can take several forms:

  • Land use development controls aimed at minimizing impervious surfaces in urban areas
  • Erosion controls for farms and construction sites
  • Flood control programs
  • Chemical use and handling controls in agriculture, landscape maintenance, industrial use, etc.

Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension between two liquids. Therefore surfactants play an important role in many practical applications and products, including herbicides, insecticides and pesticides.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License)

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