Agricultural activities are one significant source of air pollution. Unfortunately, knowledge of this fact is not ingrained in the public consciousness, as emissions are diffuse and thus hardly visible.
However, given the acreage of cultivated soils, the agrotechnical treatments used, the number of livestock and the number of buildings on farms, agriculture is rightly considered to be one of the main emitters of various types of pollution.
Agricultural activities can cause air pollution through:
- emissions of so-called greenhouse gases. The term greenhouse gases has been given to a group of compounds in the gas phase, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and freons. Water vapour is also recognised as a greenhouse gas, but the human impact on its quantities is very limited.
Greenhouse gases have the ability to absorb the sun’s energy and thus significantly increase the air temperature. Apart from CFCs, all greenhouse gases are natural components of the atmosphere. The problem, however, is that in the last few decades their concentration has increased and continues to increase as a result of human activity, causing a visible and perceptible global warming effect;
- odour-causing substances (volatile, foul-smelling compounds) arise naturally mainly from putrefaction processes, i.e. microbial decomposition of organic substances with limited oxygen supply;
- chemicals used as agricultural chemicals, evaporating into the atmosphere after application.
- dust, which is the presence of fine particulate matter suspended in the atmosphere. The most important sources of dust emissions in agricultural activities are inadequately performed agricultural operations that result in soil particles or biomass particles (plant dust) being lifted into the atmosphere and the burning of fuels, rubbish and plant residues, resulting in fumes containing fine particles suspended in the air;
The individual checking of air pollution resulting from the agricultural activities of a specific farm is quite difficult, as it requires investment in professional equipment for measurement and monitoring. Hence, knowledge and awareness of the sources and causes of pollution is so important in order to prevent them. First of all, the calculators available on the intranet, among others, can be used for this. In addition, it is possible and definitely cheaper to monitor indoor air quality – and it is the air from these rooms that enters the environment. Commercially available air pollution sensors, which measure the concentration of selected gases, are reasonably priced.
Someone who does not want to invest in sensors, but would like to find out whether, and if so by how much, air quality has deteriorated as a result of agricultural activity, can commission tests to a specialised laboratory. A list of such laboratories can be found on the website of the Polish Centre for Accreditation (pca.gov.pl). All the methods presented above refer to the determination of the impact of a specific farm on the state of the air. However, it is worth taking an interest in the cleanliness of the atmosphere in our region. Information on this subject can be obtained, inter alia, on the website or from the mobile application of the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection: powietrze.gios.gov.pl/pjp/home.