How the USA is shaping rational approach to mineral fertilizers application
Fertilizers are indispensable for increasing production and the improvement of farm profitability. Their incorrect application, however, might bring about negative consequences for the natural environment and the local species. The American farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that intensive farming, including the use of excessive amounts of fertilizers, plays a role in rising greenhouse gases emissions in the USA. Fortunately, there are solutions that might stop the trend, improve the current condition of soil and groundwater, and protect them from further contamination.
Trouble with potable water from Lake Erie
In the summer of 2014, toxic algae bloom led to the contamination of drinking water in the largest sweet water reservoir in Ohio. The contamination resulted from the application of excessive amounts of fertilizers which permeated from the soil to the groundwater, and the neighboring rivers and lakes. The outcome was serious contamination of the Lake and nitrous oxide emission to the atmosphere. Alongside algae, Lake Erie was found to contain cyanobacteria, which are highly toxic.
The issue with water contamination concerns far more than Toledo and Lake Erie region. It was proven that the quantity of phosphate and algae had been rising in many lakes and water reservoirs that provide drinking water for local US communities.
Rationalizing fertilizer application practice
Water contamination resulting from the runoff of excessive fertilizers from the farms triggered a true revolution in the American farmers’ habits. The events were widely covered by the press and gave rise to educating farmers and other people involved in the agricultural business, so as to counteract further contamination of groundwater and waterways.
Paying more attention to the timing of fertilizer application proves a good method of improving the efficiency of nutrient use. Fertilization prior the rainfall or snowmelt needs to be avoided, or else much of the fertilizer will seep into rivers and streams.
Application of excessive amount of fertilizer is frequently the problem, and at the same time farmers are forced to cover the cost of purchasing those products. Fortunately, novel solutions have become available, which speed up the absorption of nutrients by the soil. As a result, farmers need not to worry that fertilizers are going to be flushed away by the rain. In the end, the cost of crop cultivation is reduced, while at the same time the crops remain efficient.
Educational platforms and programs
One of the solutions is creating online platforms which provide up-to-date content about good fertilization practice and agricultural news. Such websites also enable farmers to exchange information about the best practices of responsible fertilization. An American platform called Adapt Network serves as a good example. It helps users to check the dosages of nutrients in the soil, improve fertilizer application timing and estimate the most desirable placement of nitrogen and phosphate. The agricultural producers may also learn about planning the so-called landscape filters, such as wetlands, which stop the nutrients if necessary and prevent fertilizers from seeping to the lakes and streams.
Platforms which inform about technological innovations helping to optimize fertilization have also appeared in the USA. Examples include Sustain, a program of improving the efficiency of fertilizer application and Adapt-N, a breakthrough tool for the efficient use of nitrogen. Another example is NutrientStar, a program that facilitates farm management and makes it easier to follow agricultural process so as to pick the most efficient and appropriate fertilizer application procedures.
Technological and educational support for the farmers is of great importance. Provided that farmers get the tools helpful in reducing the scale of the runoff of nutrients from the soil, they will be able to use mineral fertilizers in a rational manner, tailored to the needs of the plants.
Thanks to such programs and tools for improving efficiency, thousands of farms in the USA managed to reduce the waste of fertilizers by a quarter on average, and at the same time to maintain or even improve the volume of crops.