Ecosystem effects from nutrient and pesticide pollutants: Catchment care as a solution

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Agricultural chemicals include fertilisers (nitrogen and phosphorus) and biocides (herbicides, fungicides and insecticides). Environmental impacts in surface waters include algal blooms and disruption to ecological function. Strategies for protection of rivers from eutrophication include improved agricultural land management, conservation farming methods, recycling or retention of drainage and runoff water, and use of buffer strips and riparian vegetation for filtration. Reduction in pesticide use has been achieved by improved application technologies, precision farming, adoption of organic farming, and use of biological control methods. Australian river health audits show widespread deterioration, and protection using the "Polluter Pays Principle" is attractive. However, who should pay for environmental assessment, for adoption of new technologies or change in land use, and how will this be determined? Unfortunately, as demonstrated in two case studies on algal blooms and cotton pesticides, the links between pollutant source and environmental impact remain poorly understood, and the complexity of assessing environmental benefit of agricultural changes makes sheeting home the costs of pollution sources difficult. Alternatives to imposition of penalties include catchment-based targets and guidelines, benchmarking, and adoption of best management practice with an emphasis on incentives and encouragement. Many strategies for risk reduction in agricultural cropping systems are available for inclusion in a "Catchment Care" approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-456
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


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