- What is Agricultural Waste?
- Types & Examples of Agricultural Waste
- Harmful Effects of Agriculture Waste
- What is Agriculture Waste Management?
- Useful purposes of Agriculture Waste: Recyle, Reuse, Repurpose
What is Agriculture Waste?
Agricultural Waste refers to unwanted by-products created during agricultural activities and operations.
The creation of waste during any form of agricultural process is unavoidable.
Small subsistence farming activities generally result in smaller, more manageable amounts of waste that can be relatively easily disposed off. But larger commercial farming activities generate extreme quantities of waste that require proper waste management techniques and management.
Improper handling of agricultural waste can cause damage to the environment as well as to human health.
Types & Examples of Agriculture Waste
Agricultural Waste can be classified in different ways.
First, it can be classified based on the form of the waste – solid, semi-solid, liquid or gaseous.
Secondly, it can be classified based on the type of agriculture that generates the waste – the growing of crops or the rearing of livestock. Each comes with its dangers.
Solid agricultural waste from crop production includes crop residues, grasses, plant stalks and woody materials, while that from meat production includes unwanted animal parts like hooves, ears, carcasses, etc.
Semi-solid Agricultural Waste is sometimes referred to as ‘soft’ or ‘sludge’. This type of waste is usually the result of wastewater treatment, and it can contain high levels of organic matter as well as nutrients and metals.
Liquid Agricultural Waste can include manure, wastewater, water contaminated with fertilizer and pesticides. It can also include blood from poultry farms and slaughterhouses. Improper handling of liquid agricultural waste can lead to groundwater contamination or surface water pollution.
Gaseous Agricultural Waste comes from manure storage facilities and livestock barns. These gases can be emitted into the air and cause health problems for those who work and live in their vicinity. In fact, Agriculture is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Agricultural Waste in gaseous form can include gases like Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Ammonia. These gases can be both toxic and inflammable.
Harmful Effects of Agricultural Waste
Agricultural waste can have detrimental effects on both the environment and human health. They often contain harmful chemicals, which can contaminate soil, water, and air.
Agricultural wastewater, for example, can contain pesticides, antibiotics, bacteria, and viruses that can pollute waterways.
Agricultural runoff (water that washes over fields after it has rained or been irrigated) can also carry pesticides and fertilizers into nearby rivers and lakes.
Agricultural waste can also include methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Agricultural wastes are often dumped into landfills, resulting in lower quality soil as the organic matter decomposes over time instead of enriching it naturally.
Agricultural wastes can also contribute to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
What is Agricultural Waste Management?
Agricultural Waste Management is the process of managing and disposing of agricultural wastes in an environmentally responsible manner.
There are many different ways to manage agricultural waste, and the most appropriate method depends on the type of waste material, its location and local laws and regulations.
Some common methods of agricultural waste management include landfilling, direct spreading, composting, fermentation, incineration, and recycling.
When it comes to managing agricultural waste, there are three main principles we follow: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Agricultural wastes that cannot be reused or recycled should ideally be turned into compost for use as fertilizer.
Another point to remember is that someone’s waste can be someone else’s raw material. Sometimes, in vertically integrated farms waste from one agricultural process can be input for another process.
Useful Purposes of Agricultural Waste: Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose
Agricultural Waste can find useful purposes through conversion into another form or through recycling and reuse.
Here are some examples.
In Composting, a biochemical process decomposes the organic matter in the agricultural waste into a humus-like material called Compost. Compost is an excellent natural fertilizer.
Cow manure can be processed to create biogas – a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide gases.
Biogas is created by anaerobic digestion, a process that breaks down organic material in the absence of oxygen. This process can be used to create biogas from other types of agricultural waste apart from manure, like food scraps, and plant matter.
Biogas can be used to heat homes, burnt in a generator to create electricity or converted into transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.
Agricultural waste products such as manure and crop residues can be burned to produce steam that can then be converted into electricity.
Agricultural waste gases from livestock operations, ethanol plants or landfills can be captured and destroyed by combustion to generate heat. This process creates ash (which can be recycled into construction materials), flue gas emissions containing carbon dioxide and water vapor, and bio-oils that can then be used to create renewable energy.
Agricultural Waste is the unwanted and unavoidable by-product of Agriculture. It can come in different forms – solid, semi-solid, liquid and gaseous. Most Agricultural Waste needs to be properly disposed off following Waste Management techniques. But Agricultural Waste can also be converted into useful materials like compost and biofuels and can be used in the production of electricity and other forms of energy.