This Is The Danger That Sheep Feces Warn About (and
Environment

This is the danger that sheep feces warn about (and it has nothing to do with their health)

A team of scientists finds microplastics in 92% of the excrements of the analyzed sheep, which were fed in Spain.

Scientists analyze sheep faeces for microplastics in agricultural fields.

In recent times, the increase in waste plastics has been reaffirmed as one of the main environmental problems. This material, present in containers and everyday objects, plays a decisive role in intensive farming areas.

In the Region of Murcia, Spain, known as the ‘orchard of Europe’, mulch (plastic cover over crop lines) increases production in vegetable fields, but involves the use of high amounts of plastic.

This low-density pollutant is difficult to completely remove from fields and, over time, it breaks down into smaller particles that are absorbed by the soil, carried by water or wind, and also ingested by vertebrates and invertebrates.

To find out the state of microplastic contamination in this area, researchers from the universities of Wageningen (The Netherlands) and the Polytechnic of Cartagena, within the project Diverfarming, analyzed the presence of these plastics in agricultural soil, but also in sheep feces, to know the possible ingestion of plastics by the livestock which feeds on the remaining agricultural residues of the harvest.

The results showed that 100% of the soil samples analyzed contained microplastics, like 92% of sheep faeces samples studied. This, in turn, translates into concentrations of 2,000 microplastic particles per kilo of soil and 1,000 particles per kilo of dry faeces.

This analysis reveals a concentration of relevant plastics and warning of the ingestion of this material by sheep. Future studies should analyze how this intake affects the organism of these animals.

How to reverse the situation

Despite the negative effects of plastic and its accumulation in areas of intensive agriculture, scientists consider it to be very difficult to get rid of this material. The main reason is that the use of techniques such as mulching saves water and pesticides, something decisive in semi-arid areas with low rainfall, as is the case in Murcia.

To reverse this trend, it would therefore be necessary to paradigm shift in agricultural production that relegates intensive farming to the background. The Diverfarming project, financed by the H2020 call of the European Commission, seeks, in this sense, a change in European agriculture towards a agriculture more sustainable and respectful with the environment.

Through the combination of crop diversification and sustainable management practices, it seeks to take care of the planet and ensure the economic benefits of farmers.