It is important to remember that agricultural systems are ecosystems themselves, albeit human-created, and are not closed to the surrounding environment. This is fundamental to understanding why agroecology is so important, as it addresses the balance between human well-being and
environmental health. Excessive nutrient application to agricultural fields poses serious risk to the surrounding aquatic ecosystems in the watershed, for too much nutrient runoff into water bodies can trigger a cascade of events that eventually depletes all or most of the oxygen in the water. This process is called eutrophication, and not only is it is toxic to fish and all oxygen- requiring life present in the water, it is also harmful to humans who depend on these ecosystems for harvesting food (Howarth 2008). By understanding how to best manage the balance between nutrient application and cover crop usage, farmers can make the most sustainable choices to both protect the environment and preserve their own livelihoods as well as those of future generations.
- By Alexis Boytim
Howarth, Robert W. 2008. Coastal nitrogen pollution: A review of sources and trends globally and regionally. Harmful Algae, (8): 14-20.
Di, H. J., K. C. Cameron. 2002. Nitrate leaching in temperate agroecosystems: sources, factors, and mitigation strategies. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, (46): 237-256.
Dr. Kate Tully
Kate is an Assistant Professor of Agroecology at the University of Maryland.