Cover crops struggle to overcome conventional soil management

Cover crops can help farmers build healthier soil, but they may not work well on fields where farmers have continuously grown corn for decades and applied large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, according to two new studies. “In the Midwest, our soils are healthy and resilient, but we shouldn’t overestimate them. A soil under unsustainable practices for too long might reach an irreversible threshold,” said Nakian Kim, a doctoral graduate student in the University of Illinois’s Department of Crop Sciences who led the studies.

Sarasota officials oppose EPA aquaculture pilot project

The city commissioners of Sarasota, Florida, decided Monday to send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency opposing an aquaculture pilot project that sought to farm fish about 45 miles off the city's coast. In the letter, signed by Sarasota mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, the commissioners file "strong and formal opposition" to the project.

Forecast: A ‘dead zone’ the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico

Heavy rainfall in May washed the equivalent of an estimated 2,800 rail cars of nitrogen fertilizer down the Mississippi River and will create the third-largest fish-killing "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico in 32 years of monitoring, say federal scientists. They forecast a low-oxygen dead zone of 8,185 square miles, about the size of New Jersey.

Plant breeders aim for crops that waste less fertilizer

The world's most widely grown crop, wheat, could become "a super nitrogen-efficient crop" if plant researchers succeed in cross-breeding a trait called biological nitrification inhibition into the staple grain, says the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Wheat plants use about 30 percent of nitrogen fertilizer applied to fields at present, but if the trait can be introduced into the plants they will become more efficient users and suppress loss of nitrogen from the soil.

Merger creates world’s largest crop-nutrient company

Two Canadian firms, Potash Corp. and Agrium Inc., announced that they will merge, creating the world's largest crop-nutrient company, according to The Associated Press. The new company will have 20,000 employees, a market value of $36 billion and annual revenue of $20.6 billion. A name will be chosen before the deal closes next year, said the AP.

Why we need more fish pee

Overfishing is taking away many of the big fish species that live in coral reefs, but just as importantly, it’s taking away their pee, according to a new study published the journal Nature Communications. Rich in phosphorus and nitrogen, the urine of large predator species like grouper and snapper are vital to coral ecosystems.