Study: Ag’s ammonia emissions rose 78 percent over last 40 years
Agricultural intensification and a lack of regulations drove a 78-percent increase in the farm sector’s ammonia emissions between 1980 and 2018, according to a paper published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
Report: agriculture runoff is leading cause of water pollution in the U.S.
Last week, water experts marked the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act with a dire warning: After evaluating over 700,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country, they concluded that half of those waters are too polluted to fish or swim in—and agriculture is often to blame.(No paywall)
Report: farms in Chesapeake Bay watershed must ‘urgently accelerate’ conservation efforts
In a new report, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls on farms in the bay’s watershed to “urgently accelerate and scale up” their conservation efforts, not only to reduce water-borne pollution — a federal mandate — but to slash their greenhouse gas emissions and stoke local economies.
New crop insurance policy for ‘split-apply’ nitrogen
Corn growers in 11 states can apply for crop insurance coverage this year for a practice that reduces nutrient runoff, said the Risk Management Agency on Wednesday. The policy will cover yield losses if bad weather prevents growers from making multiple applications of nitrogen fertilizer during key parts of the growing season.
Ag leaders seek Chesapeake Bay cleanup funds
The presidents of six state farm bureaus asked the USDA to share the cost with farmers of reducing sediment and nutrient runoff into Chesapeake Bay. "We are now at a critical stage in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup," with a 2025 deadline for reducing pollution, said the farm leaders in a letter.
Who will reap the benefits of Mexico’s ‘miraculous’ nitrogen-fixing maize?
Last summer, researchers from Mars Inc. and UC Davis announced the "discovery" of a variety of corn grown in Oaxaca that fixes its own nitrogen through mucus-covered aerial roots. Their study, in the journal PLOS Biology, touched off a debate—in Mexico and beyond—about the effectiveness of global policies designed to safeguard the genetic resources of indigenous communities, according to FERN's latest story, published with Yale Environment 360.
High costs for small towns to remove nitrate from drinking water
Some 1,700 U.S. communities have worrisomely high levels of nitrate in their water supplies, and two-thirds of those communities, serving more than 3 million people, have no treatment system to remove it, said an Environmental Working Group report released today.
Signup starts today for high-priority land-stewardship projects
The USDA says there is now enough room in the Conservation Reserve that, for the first time in months, it will accept applications for high-priority stewardship projects, such as filter strips, that prevent erosion and maintain water quality on fragile land. Enrollment runs from today through Aug. 17 for the practices, which require comparatively small amounts of land.
Less nitrogen runoff from bioenergy grass than row crops
Fertilizer runoff could be reduced significantly if row crops such as corn and soybeans are replaced with perennial grasses harvested for biofuel production, say researchers from four Midwestern universities. Nitrogen runoff in the Mississippi River basin, blamed for creation of a "dead zone" each summer in the Gulf of Mexico, could drop 15-20 percent if switchgrass or miscanthus were planted on a quarter of the land now devoted to row crops, according to computer simulations.
NRCS trains farmers to protect the microbes in their soil
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is on a nationwide mission to train farmers to protect the microorganisms in soil—and their relationship to crops— instead of destroying them with fertilizer and chemical sprays, says an Orion Magazine story produced with the Food and Environment Reporting Network.
Nutrient budgets — a European idea for U.S. farmers?
"Scientists in the Chesapeake Bay have been looking at nutrient budgets for close to three decades. But to date, no state has implemented one .... Nevertheless, the idea continues to percolate," reports the Bay Journal, ahead of a Chesapeake Bay Summit to be broadcast on Maryland Public Television on Wednesday.
Interview: Des Moines case has ‘changed the conversation’ on water quality
In Iowa, a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) is forcing the state to confront the question of whether agriculture should be held accountable for nitrates that leach into urban drinking water. FERN’s Kristina Johnson recently spoke with Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Iowa’s Drake University, to learn more about the suit.
Beaver ponds reduce nitrate runoff in streams
Nutrient runoff is a growing problem in many parts of the United States but researchers from the University of Rhode Island say beavers could be an ally in reducing nitrogen runoff that can lead to low-oxygen "dead zones,” says the American Society of Agronomy.
Nutrient compliance, pay-for-gain mooted for conservation
Researchers know that a comparatively small share of cropland accounts for a disproportionate amount of erosion and nutrient runoff, writes economist Marc Ribaudo in Choices, the ag econ journal.
Ag-heavy Eastern Shore has big role in Chesapeake pollution
The U.S. Geological Survey says "excess fertilizer and manure applied to the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore are causing poor-quality water flows in streams that flow into the bay."
Des Moines water board votes to sue over nitrate runoff
Trustees of the Des Moines Water Works voted at the end of a 60-day warning period to sue drainage districts in three counties in northwest Iowa over high levels of nitrate in the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for Iowa's capital city.
Wetlands benefits vary for greenhouse gases, nitrate runoff
Wetlands in the upper Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds can remove up to 1,800 pounds of nitrogen per acre from field runoff, says a USDA study of the economic benefits of wetland conservation.
Buffer strips would help Iowa curb nutrient runoff – EWG
If Iowa farmers plant buffer strips alongside waterways, they "could get two-thirds of the way to the state’s goal for reducing phosphorus pollution and one-fifth of the way to the nitrogen pollution target," says a report by the Environmental Working Group.