Nutrient reduction strategies are being implemented around the country to help address nutrient-related water quality problems in waterways. States connected to or near larger water bodies and watersheds, such as the Mississippi River and Chesapeake Bay, are zeroing in on nonpoint pollution sources, including agriculture. 

Through the use of fertilizers, growers can provide the nutrients crops need. However, nutrients often can be lost through naturally occurring processes. Farmers are becoming increasingly more proactive in taking steps to keep nutrients in place following application through a number of successful measures, including use of fertilizer enhancers, applying the right amount of fertilizer at the right time and widespread adoption of reduced and no-till production systems to minimize erosion.

Improving efficiency through best management practices
The most common way to increase efficiency is through utilization of best management practices (BMPs) and nutrient-management programs. The goal of fertilizer BMPs are to match nutrient supply with crop requirements, avoid over-application of fertilizers and to minimize nutrient losses from fields.

“The agricultural use of phosphorus fertilizers is getting increased attention from farmers who are taking steps to minimize runoff of this vital plant nutrient,” said Dale Bartholomew, a certified crop adviser with Growmark FS in Caledonia, N.Y. “Interestingly, agriculture is not the only culprit – homeowners who over-apply lawn fertilizers also contribute to the problem.”

An option farmers have is the use of fertilizer enhancer technology. One such product is Avail phosphorus fertilizer enhancer from SFP. Through the use of patented polymer technology, Avail helps protect applied phosphorus from naturally occurring processes that tie up the nutrient in the soil. Matt Werner, research coordinator at SFP, says Avail is a favorable fit in nutrient management plans because it increases phosphate availability for plant uptake, reduces loss and minimizes the amount of the nutrient left in the soil, which might be susceptible to off-site movement. 

Increasing Yields, Rreducing Environmental Impact
Increasing a crop’s utilization of applied phosphorus is important because studies have shown 75 to 95 percent of phosphorus can become tied-up in the soil, which renders that nutrient unavailable for plant uptake for a considerable amount of time.

“Improving phosphorus availability for plant uptake can increase yields and decrease the opportunity for it to end up in nearby waterways through erosion,” Werner said.  “This improved nutrient efficiency provides agronomic benefits for the crop, economic benefits for farmers and cleaner waterways.”

The need for new agricultural technology has always been high but is increasing even more so now to meet the environmental standards being set.