Environmental Issues: Human Impact on the Environment

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Fertilisers are the chemical products that human created with the help of ammonia so the plants can grow faster and be bigger. There are different types of fertilisers, the Complete inorganic fertilisers, and the Special purpose fertiliser. The complete inorganic fertilisers contain all three major macronutrients, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K), and the Special purpose fertiliser which are formulated specially to target certain plants’ requirements or certain soil deficiencies. So how do humans impact the environment?

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To make a liquid fertiliser you need ammonia. Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. ammonia is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is a common nitrogenous waste, particularly among aquatic organisms, like Wales and it contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilisers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceutical products and is used in many commercial cleaning products.

Gaseous ammonia was first isolated by Joseph Black in 1756 by reacting ammonium chloride with magnesium oxide. Years later a process has been discovered which could produce ammonia from the nitrogen in the air. This process was named Haber–Bosch process. It was first used on an industrial scale in Germany during World War 1, following the allied blockade that cut off the supply of nitrates from Chile. The ammonia was used to produce explosives to sustain war efforts. Before the development of the Haber process, ammonia had been difficult to produce on an industrial scale, with early methods such as the Birkeland–Eyde process and Frank–Caro process all being highly inefficient. Although the Haber process is mainly used to produce fertiliser today, during World War 1, it provided Germany with a source of ammonia for the production of explosives, offsetting the trade-off of allied forces at the Chilean alluvium.

Fertilisers are substances used to add nutrients to the soil to promote soil fertility and increase plant growth. Today fertiliser has become essential to modern agriculture to feed the growing population. Use of fertilisers, especially, the chemical fertilisers has brought in blessings on humanity, which helped contain hunger and death in different corners of the world. Though chemical fertilisers increase crop production; their overuse has hardened the soil, decreased fertility, strengthened pesticides, polluted air and water, and released greenhouse gases, thereby bringing hazards to human health and environment as well. Accordingly, scientists and researchers are seen arguing in favour of organic fertilisers as the best solution to avoid soil pollution and many other threats to the environment and life caused by overuse of chemical fertilisers.

Different fertilisers actually have different properties. One of them is potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K and nitrate ions NO3− and is, therefore, an alkali metal nitrate. It can found in nature as a mineral, niter. It is a source of nitrogen, from which it derives its name. Potassium nitrate is one of several nitrogen-containing compounds collectively referred to as saltpeter or saltpetre. Potassium nitrate used in fertilisers as a source of nitrogen and potassium – two of the macronutrients for plants. It can be used also by itself.

One other fertiliser is ammonium nitrate. It is a chemical compound, the nitrate salt of the ammonium cation. It has the chemical formula NH4NO3, simplified to N2H4O3. It is a white crystal solid and is highly soluble in water. It predominantly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertiliser. Its other major use is as a component of explosive mixtures used in mining, quarrying, and civil construction. It is the major constituent of a popular industrial explosive (ANFO) which accounts the most of explosives used in North America; similar formulations have been used in improvised explosive devices. Ammonium nitrate is an odourless, nearly colourless crystal salt. Using ammonium nitrate in gardens and large-scale agricultural fields enhance plant growth and provides a ready supply of nitrogen from which plants can draw. Ammonium nitrate fertiliser is a pure compound to make.

Ammonium phosphate is one of the fertilisers. It is the salt of ammonia and phosphoric acid. It is a highly unstable compound with the formula (NH4)3PO4. Because of its instability, it is elusive and of no commercial value.

In contrast to the unstable nature of the triammonium salt, diammonium phosphate is a valuable material that finds major use in the fertilizer industry

Also, ammonium sulfate (NH4)2SO4, is a fertiliser. Is an inorganic salt with a number of commercial uses. The most common use is as a soil fertiliser. It contains 21% nitrogen and 24% sulfur.

2 NH3 + H2SO4 → (NH4)2SO4

The primary use of ammonium sulfate is as a fertiliser for alkaline soils. In the soil the ammonium ion is released and forms a small amount of acid, lowering the pH balance of the soil, while contributing essential nitrogen for plant growth. The main disadvantage to the use of ammonium sulfate is its low nitrogen content relative to ammonium nitrate, which elevates transportation costs.

One last fertiliser is potassium sulfate. Potassium sulfate is the inorganic compound with formula K2SO4. It is a white water-soluble solid. It is commonly used in fertilisers, providing both potassium and a source of sulfur.

KCl + H2SO4 → HCl + KHSO4

The main use of potassium sulfate is as a fertiliser. K2SO4 does not contain chloride, which can be harmful to some crops. Potassium sulfate preferred for these crops, which include tobacco and some fruits and vegetables. Less sensitive crops may still require potassium sulfate for optimal growth if the soil accumulates chloride from irrigation water.

To produce ammonia you need to follow the Haber process. The Haber Process combines nitrogen from the air with hydrogen derived mainly from methane into ammonia. The reaction is reversible, and the production of ammonia is exothermic. For this process, you also need a specific temperature. To produce the maximum possible amount of ammonia in the equilibrium mixture, you need to shift the position of the equilibrium as far as possible to the right in order. To get as much ammonia as possible in the equilibrium mixture, you need as low a temperature as possible. According to Le Chatelier’s Principle, this will be favored if you lower the temperature. The system will respond by moving the position of equilibrium to counteract this – in other words by producing more heat. To make the reaction quicker, you can add a catalyst, but in this case, the catalyst doesn’t effect whatsoever on the position of the equilibrium. Adding a catalyst doesn’t produce any higher percentage of ammonia in the equilibrium mixture. It’s the only function is to speed up the reaction. In the absence of a catalyst, the reaction is so slow that virtually no response happens in any reasonable time. With this Haber process, we managed to produce ammonia and use it as a fertiliser to grow plants more quickly so that food is more for society.

Once the Haber process has produced ammonia, it can be converted into nitric acid throughout a multi-step procedure know as the Ostwald process. In the first step in this reaction, ammonia and oxygen gas react, in the presence of a catalyst, to a form nitrogen monoxide according to the following reaction:

4NH3 (g) + 5O2 (g) → 4NO (g) + 6H2O (g)

The reaction is quite exothermic. In the commercial reaction, the catalyst used is a metal gauze that is heated. To about 900 degrees. However, even a hot copper wire can catalyse the reaction in the laboratory. Once the reaction has started the energy it produces is enough to keep the catalyst hot enough to sustain the reaction.

In the next step, the nitrogen monoxide (NO) reacts with oxygen to produce nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

2NO (g) + O2 (g) → 2NO2 (g)

Instead of storing the NO2 we can use it to produce nitric acid. The NO2(g) reacts with water to produce nitric acid (HNO3) and nitrogen monoxide (NO). The nitric acid separated by distillation, and the NO can be recycled and reacted from NO2 through the above reaction.

3NO2 (g) + H2O (l) → 2HNO3 (aq) + NO (g)

The nitric acid can then be used in the manufacture of countless numbers of different nitrogen-containing containing compounds. The Ostwald process has increased the production of fertilisers to make their use more frequent.

By using fertilisers, there are many benefits for the farmers; one of them is that they support plant growth. Fertilisers contain some nutrient, like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, that allow crops to be grown even in depleted soils because the plant’s basic nutritional requirements are being met. Also, these nutrients are dissolved and reach a plant’s cells quickly, right where they are needed. This nutrient consistency in fertilisers allows for efficient production on a commercial scale. We have to mention that because of fertilisers provide these primary nutrients necessary for efficient plant growth, and plants can grow more quickly and larger than if they weren’t being fed the fertilisers. Because of the quick and efficient production, this increases harvest yields, making food affordable and reduces the costs of production.

On the other hand, fertilisers have an impact on the environment in a bad way. Specifically, they have an effect on water. Fertilizer contains chemicals that cause water pollution. Farmers have used fertilisers in their agricultural field to increase their crops production. When it’s raining chemicals in the fertilisers are flew into the water. These leads to water pollution. Fertilizer contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Excess amount of nutrients leads to algal growth. These algae use oxygen in the water, this is harmful to aquatic life. Fertilizers also have an impact on the economic factor. Just as we help grow plants, we also grow our nation’s economy, adding $155 billion according to recent calculations. The fertiliser producers, wholesalers, and retailers, along with the businesses that serve them, support nearly half a million U.S. jobs with total annual compensation of $36 billion. It is also supporting that businesses in all 50 states and these operations pay a combined $15 billion in local and federal taxes each year. Fertilisers affect also ethical the farmers. Farmers know that the fertilisers are not good for human health and environment but they also cannot ignore the positive effect.

People use fertiliser because they want to have a faster production in crops in order to feed the growing population. The population in nowadays is growing and growing every day, by let the crops grow without fertilisers the production will be less so there will not be enough food for all this population. On the other hand, by using fertilisers we increase environmental pollution, they effect human health, and they pollute the water as they cause loss of oxygen in it. The solution is to use fertilisers in a certain amount so that we have the crops that we need faster than the normal and at the same time we not pollute the environment so much and a better heath.  

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