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Good nutrient management needed for good water quality

By Jennifer Carrico

A good nutrient management strategy is important in order to have good water quality, according to Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council.

Rosenberg and Shawn Richmond, conservation reserve enhancement program coordinator for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, discussed nutrient management strategies during the recent Iowa Agri-Women meeting in Ankeny, Iowa.

“We don’t want Iowa to fall behind other states when it comes to water quality,” Rosenberg said. “Through communication among many different groups, we can be sure that Iowa’s water quality is at the top.”

He said many programs are available with funding assistance to help improve conservation practices.

They also realize that getting improvements in nutrient reduction will take education to those working the land. Legislative action has been made on this front with $22 million invested to jump-start a new initiative that will work with farmers, landowners and communities with conservation practices and other efforts to improve water quality.

The hope is also to establish an Iowa Nutrient Research Center to provide expertise, technical and research support to reduce nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus making their way into water sources.

While Rosenberg and Richmond are working on ways to improve water quality in the state of Iowa, they know these improvements will also help water quality downstream and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico where many problems are seen with water quality.

Richmond said many other states with waterways connecting to the Mississippi River are following Iowa’s lead to develop nutrient reduction strategies.

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was developed as group effort among IDALS, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University to assess and reduce nutrients to Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico

“The strategy is the cumulative result of countless hours of effort by people from science and technology, production agriculture and industry. We believe we’ve addressed the issues and proposed solutions in a scientific, reasonable and cost-effective manner,” Richmond said.

He said the group will be moving forward with the information it has to assess and evaluate the nutrient needs and reductions with the objective to identify and model the effectiveness of specific practices at reducing nitrogen and phosphorus, plus estimating the total cost and per unit cost of nutrient removed when implementing each practices.

The nutrient reduction practices were divided into three categories: nitrogen and phosphorus management, land use changes and erosion control/edge-of-field practices.

“Just putting less fertilizer on won’t fix the problem. We have to know all the practices that are contributing to the problem,” he said. “Then we need to work with Iowa agricultural organizations, agricultural businesses and farmers to get these strategies implemented. Major cities and industries will be required to measure their contributions to this problem, too.”

He said nitrogen is usually seen more through water in tile lines and phosphorus is usually seen more through surface water and soil erosion, so reducing these will take different practices.

“The level of future efforts needed to achieve the necessary nutrient reductions will extend beyond what can be achieved through publicly funded government programs and actions, and will depend on private sector actions and solutions also,” Richmond said. “Each individual source will have to look at what practices could help with the reduction.”

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120 or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.

Date: 1/20/2014



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