By Stu EllisFarmgateblogThe hypoxic or “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is one of those haunting issues for agriculture. Farmers are blamed for causing it, but are not convinced they are at fault. The issue never seems to go away, just like the hypoxic zone is always there. It is a 5,800 square mile area that has levels of oxygen too low to support sea life. Farmers are blamed because of excess nitrogen and other nutrients flow into the hypoxic zone near the mouth of the Mississippi River. That causes excess growth of microscopic plant life which consumes oxygen as it dies and decomposes. An action plan to reduce the nutrient run off was developed in Iowa in 2008. Will it be successful?In a word, no, says Catherine Kling, writing in the Agricultural Policy Review for Iowa State University.
She says the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was one of the first to implement a plan to reduce the loss of nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fields, which was thought to be flowing into streams that feed the Mississippi River. It had a “target goal of reducing nitrogen export by about 40% and phosphorus by about 30% across Iowa’s 21 million acres of cropland devoted to corn and soybean production.” The concept identified 3 locations where nitrogen and phosphorus were being lost:
However, Kling says the plan will not meet with success because of the inability of the concepts to reduce enough of the nutrient runoff to make any difference. She says there are four lessons that will be learned from the failure of the plan.
So what is the answer? Kling says, “New practices and new crops will be needed, new land uses such as wetlands will have to be constructed in locations targeted to achieve nutrient cycling, and all of this will come at a cost. Producers will have to willingly adopt practices that reduce their bottom line and/or for conservation programs to substantially increase their funding of programs.”Summary:Farmers are the perennial target when responsibility is handed out for the so-called “dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Efforts have been made to develop methods of keeping nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil and prevent those nutrients from flowing into Mississippi River tributaries. However, a major effort in Iowa will fall well short of its goals.
Source : farmgateblog
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