As much as we love those golden crispy fries, they come at a cost of hurting other organisms, such as aquatic life. Environmental contamination occurs when pesticides are sprayed in potato fields during the growing season. In addition to the drive to make profits, farmers are also pressured into meeting the potato demand for ever-growing populations. Farmers need to protect their potato crop and rely on applying pesticides to prevent or eliminate pests at least 10 times per growing season on the same field. However, not all the applied pesticides are absorbed by the potato crop, resulting in environment contamination that can only be worsened by rainfall run-off. Furthermore, farmers use fossil fuel-powered machinery for spraying operations. The machinery emits tons of toxic gases into the atmosphere, posing a threat to global warming. Grocery stores and/or restaurants also have potatoes that end up as food waste. When unconsumed, the likelihood of them emitting more greenhouse gases as they decompose increases.
Here’s what can we do to curb environment contamination problems that come from pesticide application. We could pursue spraying technologies that enable farmers to spray less chemicals on their potato crop fields without compromising the desired yield. Doing this is possible because pests like insects and weeds do not exist everywhere in potato fields. However, deployment challenges of using smart spraying technologies still prevail in practical use.
My research aims at overcoming technology deployment challenges, and I have focused on reducing pesticide quantities being sprayed because (1) applying less chemicals means reduced environmental impact of unabsorbed pesticide that can contaminate soils and/or water and (2) quantity reduction of pesticides sprayed means we could use downsized machinery to achieve the same crop protection goal. The second solution mentioned here takes advantage of the fact that crop pesticide sprayers are equipped with tanks that temporarily store the chemicals prior to applying them on potato crops. Bigger tanks require more fuel to move them compared to smaller ones. This means that sprayers with bigger tanks will emit more greenhouse gases than those with smaller ones over the same piece of land. Therefore, there is potential to reduce the current tank sizes to less than half, resulting in less emissions.
The benefit of reducing how much we spray extends to reducing how much we also spend on farm inputs such as labour, fuel, and pesticides. The solutions my research is focusing on will make technology adoption affordable and reasonably easy to implement. We will be able to apply precise amounts of chemicals and eat fries that are grown with minimized environmental impact. I want you to enjoy your fries but not at the cost of the environment.