Agricultural soil in Europe’s market garden contains high levels of microplastics

Researchers have analysed soil from Murcia in Spain, known as Europe’s market garden, and found that 100% of the samples contain plastic residues. Microplastics were also found in 92% of the sheep faeces studied.

In the Region of Murcia, known as “Europe’s market garden”, mulch film (plastic covering over the crop lines) increases production in vegetable fields, but involves using large amounts of plastic.

This low-density plastic is difficult to completely remove from the fields and, with time, decomposes into smaller particles which are absorbed by the soil, transported by water or wind, and are also ingested by other animals, explains a statement.

Researchers from the universities of Wageningen and Cartagena analysed the presence of these plastics in agricultural soil, and also in sheep faeces, to determine the possible ingestion of plastics by the livestock that feed on post-harvest agricultural residues.

They found that 100% of the soil samples analysed contained microplastics, as did 92% of the samples of sheep faeces studied. This, in turn, translates into concentrations of 2,000 particles of microplastics per kilogram of soil, and 1,000 particles per kilogram of dry faeces.

Reverting this trend will require a change in paradigm in current agricultural production so as to relegate intensive cropping to a secondary role, according to the statement. It highlights the Diverfarming project, financed by the H2020 call of the European Commission seeks, which is seeking to make European agriculture more sustainable and respectful to the environment.

Photo credit: Matthias Ripp/ Flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

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