How Are Microplastics Changing Agricultural Crops?
Invisible but pervasive, microplastics are washed into oceans and blown through the air. Now, scientists have uncovered that microplastics change agricultural crop growth. Agricultural soils could actually hold more microplastic than ocean basins.
Here’s what we know: In a kilogram of soil, there can be over 40,000 microplastic particles. Most of these particles are fibers (up to 92%). The remainder are generally fragments (around 4%). Both types are secondary microplastics, meaning they come from larger plastic waste breaking down in the environment. Primary microplastics are small beads or pellets generally produced for industrial applications. These could be accidentally released, but at this time are not the primary source of microplastics in the environment.
A new study released last week explores the impact of microplastics on terrestrial systems, specifically agriculture. The researchers were interested in changes in the soil, microbes and plants exposed to microplastics.
The researchers added different types of microplastics into the soil: polyamide beads (a primary microplastic), polyester fibers (the most common type of secondary microplastic) and four different plastics in the form of fragmenta (another type of secondary microplastic). They added microplastics at a similar concentration to that of soils exposed to high levels of human activity. Then, they grew spring onions in soil with and without the different microplastic types. Here’s what the scientists found:
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