Growth Points: In defense of water

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. And using the tools and technology of precision agriculture makes a winning offense for production agriculture – higher yields, efficient use of inputs and smarter decisions.

And, if you run this offense well, it makes for great defense as well.

Last week at InfoAg, I moderated a session “Precision Phosphorus Application for The Lake Erie Watershed,” featuring Tom Bruulsema, Ph.D., northeast director of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). Three days later, I was clearly reminded how relevant his work is as they turned off the water in Toledo, Ohio, due to contamination caused by algae in Lake Erie.

Nearly 500,000 Toledo-area residents were without water through the first weekend in August, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The headline, “Todelo-area tap water contaminated” was at the top of the front page of its Sunday edition. The story was carried nationally with fertilizer and “industrial agriculture” prominent among the culprits. See the New York Times online story by clicking here.

Algae produces a toxin called microcystin when it dies off, and in this case, a bloom close to the city water intake resulted in levels of the toxin being pulled into the treatment plant where sampling showed levels too high for safe consumption. Algae blooms in Lake Erie have been getting worse in recent years and dissolved phosphorus (P) in the streams and rivers running into Lake Erie is seen as a principle cause, whether from fertilizer, manure or municipal waste.  Since about 75 percent of the basin is in cropland, crop producers can count on added public scrutiny in the years to come.

While the Lake Erie Basin and its nutrient management challenges may be far from home for you,”your dog is still in this fight” as they say. You can be sure that the folks in water treatment plants all across the country have read the news from Toledo and are wondering what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from any potential hazards caused from soil runoff. 

Research conducted in recent years by Bruulsema and others provides greater clarity for best practices to avoid excessive runoff of P. The 4Rs – right source, right rate, right time and right place – are key and the increased accuracy of precision agriculture brings answers in the placement category.

“Comparing strict long-term no-till to annual moldboard plowing, soil test P levels in the top two inches of soil can be three times higher than in the four to eight inch depth,” he explained. This stratification of phosphorus at the top of the soil profile makes for more runoff when storms come and surface P is carried away. That means broadcast application, while expedient, may not be the way to go.

“The right place to put P is close to the roots of the plant that need it,” said Bruulsema. “Corn especially needs P early in the growing season. Near the seed is a good place for it.” 

Handled well, this sort of placement can be the kind of good offense that means good defense. GPS-driven zone tillage equipment offers this sort of placement that is at the other end of the spectrum from fall-applied broadcast of fertilizer or manure on frozen or snow-covered ground, something Bruulsema said is “never the right time no matter what the source.” To gain a better understanding of what’s involved in managing P, click here.

As you apply the tools of precision agriculture to push toward those higher yields, being diligent toward optimizing inputs: right source, rate, time and place – will provide our industry with the defense against environmental issues and inappropriate regulations.

Prev 1 2 Next All

Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Smooth Wall Grain Bins

Meridian’s SmoothWall bins are the ultimate storage bins, used to handle and store fertilizer, grain, feed and seed, and extend ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form