WQ21, Reviewed October 1993
In agriculture, pesticides and plant nutrients can enter the groundwater and contaminate it. These chemicals may reach large enough levels to become harmful to animals and people. So we must understand how contamination may occur and how it can be avoided. With good management practices, we can keep the groundwater from becoming contaminated by agricultural chemicals.
The following substances used on the farm have the potential to contaminate groundwater:
NoteNitrogen does occur naturally. Commonly grown legume plants, such as soybeans and alfalfa, produce nitrogen. This nitrogen also changes into nitrate. One cannot distinguish between these naturally occurring sources of nitrates and those added by fertilizers or animal wastes.
Nitrates can contaminate groundwater if more nitrate is applied to the soil than the plants and soil can use.
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