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Accountability is a term that is becoming and will continue to be more prevalent in agriculture. Fertilizers are a good and beneficial tool to agriculture when managed properly. In fact, 50% of food production is the result of fertilizer use and the increased yield that it brings. But if managed poorly, there are negative impacts to the world around us. One of these impacts include, but is not limited to, harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes. The algal blooms, said to be caused by commercial agricultural fertilizers, industry and sewage waste, are resulting in unsafe drinking water from Lake Erie. Even though farmers are not solely responsible for these issues, the public has put us as an industry in the spotlight. Due to this increased attention, the agriculture sector is looking for ways to be proactive in resolving this issue. Therefore, nutrient management programs are being put into place and being practiced to govern farmer’s use of fertilizers, particularly the nutrient phosphorous.
Despite this negative spotlight shone on the agriculture industry, there are several ways as a community that we have become and can continue to be more sustainable. One of the most prominent ways that phosphorous is lost is through soil erosion, the wearing away of a field's topsoil by the natural forces of water. Phosphorous-based fertilizers, which are bound to the soil, seep into our tributaries and lakes, eventually affecting the water supply. To decrease the runoff of these fertilizers and their affects, we can implement progressive and environmentally friendly solutions such as longer lengths of crop cover, grass waterways and retaining walls to limit surface runoff.
Along with the other responsible industries, we can create a more sustainable environment for generations to come by implementing a few simple steps. Currently, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the 4 R’s: 1) Having the right fertilizer source 2) at the right rate 3) at the right time and 4) in the right place. By properly calculating crop removal and management of nutrients, these 4 R’s can be an excellent guideline to sustaining our environment and to removing the tainted spotlight shone on our industry.
If you are interested in ways to calculate crop removal and management, reduce soil erosion and implement the 4 R’s on your farm, contact a Clark Agri Service sales agronomist for government programs and nutrient management strategies.
This Crop Corner has been written by Jake Elgersma, Sales Agronomist at Clark Agri Service. Jake can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 289-659-5747