AGRICULTURAL PRACTICE AND THE EFFECTS OF AGRICULTURAL LAND-USE ON WATER QUALITY
The intensification of agricultural land-use and changes in farming methods in conjunction with new industrial technologies has made it possible to increase food production and cultivate land previously considered as unsuitable. This article examines the detrimental effects of this intensification and considers agricultural practices (conservation tillage) which aim to protect soils from degradation. The effects of agricultural land-use on water quality are considered in relation to excessive nutrients, application of agrochemicals, sediment input and contamination by heavy metals. National and European policies for water and soil protection are discussed. Keywords: agriculture, water quality, soil water protection, policies.
Over the last few decades there has been a global trend towards intensification in agricultural land-use and changes in farming methods have been paralleled by new industrial technologies. This has enabled the production of large amounts of cheap inorganic fertilisers in order to meet increasing demands for food and other agricultural products (Benites & Vaneph, 2001). Accordingly, the pattern of fertiliser consumption has changed dramatically (Fig. 1). Furthermore, through modern advances in technology, there has been a marked geographical expansion of agriculture regardless of the suitability of the land, and likewise the development of new hardier crop types has made it possible to cultivate under marginal environmental conditions (Altieri & Anderson, 1992; Altieri & Rosset, 1996).