Fertilizers are critical to agriculture. They increase yields, improve crop efficiency and keep plants healthy. While fertilizers are ultimately beneficial to farming, environmental concerns are ever more critical while using them.
“Environmental considerations are a big part of a growers thought process now, more so than ever before,” says Scott Coon, Executive Vice President of Agronomy at West Central Cooperative in Ralston, Iowa. “Although yield is important, our message needs to be that it’s the right thing to do for the environment and, it’s the right thing to do for your operation.“
This especially becomes important when using fertilizers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture is the largest source of nonpoint pollution in the world. Rainfall or snowmelt moving over or through the ground causes nutrient runoff. This causes the loss of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) found in fertilizers. This, in excessive amounts, can cause eutrophication and algae blooms. This leads to hypoxia, the depletion of oxygen in water, which can cause dead zones like the one at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. This problem can be combatted through the use of best management practices (BMPs) and fertilizer-enhancer technologies, which are designed to improve efficiency by increasing the nutrient availability for crop uptake and leaving fewer nutrients in the soil subject to offsite movement.
In order to improve fertilizer efficiency, farmers are turning to technologies like AVAIL® Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer that protects applied P, keeping more of it available for plant uptake. AVAIL simultaneously helps the farmer meet increasing demands and leaves less P in the soil to be lost to the environment due to erosion and leaching. And in a rainy season like this year, using a product like AVAIL is more critical than ever.
“It’s a benefit to the grower, and it’s a benefit to the environment,” Coon says. “It could also result in a cost savings for the grower, and that’s something we are not afraid to talk to our growers about. We can possibly lower their nutrient bill by making a recommendation for lower phosphorus application rates and making sure it’s there and ready for the plant when the plant needs it.”
Recently, there have been major environmental concerns about water quality. Last year, there was a disruption in drinking water supplies in Toledo, Ohio, caused by algae blooms in Lake Erie. This year, according to the New York Times, Lake Erie is prepping for another harsh year of algae blooms, possibly matching 2011’s record year for algae and putting Toledo at risk once again. The Chesapeake Bay area is also grappling with environmental concerns related to nutrient runoff.
Most farmers are proactive in their efforts and AVAIL can be another tool to help maximize yield and limit environmental impact. Farmers are learning that they don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. By utilizing the tools available to them, famers are making the task of 21st-century farming easier.
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