Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Nitrogen pollution widespread in southern Minnesota waters, report finds

If every farmer in the state did as much a possible to reduce nitrogen losses — planting marginal land with grasses, running tainted water through wetlands or wood chips to remove nitrogen, planting cover crops between harvests, and applying fertilizer only in the spring — the state could reduce the pollution by 30 percent.

Some questioned whether that’s enough.

Deborah Swackhamer, co-director of the Minnesota Water Resources Center at the U, said the goal established by a federal task force to fix the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is a 45 percent reduction of nitrogen in the Mississippi watershed.

“If it’s proportional, Minnesota needs to reduce its load by 45 percent,” she said. And that doesn’t address the state’s drinking water problem, which she said is far more important.

A 30 percent reduction would cost $22 to $47 million per watershed per year.

Investing in health

Still, Stine and others said innovation may yet solve the problem. Four watersheds in Minnesota are participating in a $9.5 million project to find out if farmers can voluntarily adopt proven practices to protect water quality. Birr, of the corn growers association, said the group has helped fund two positions at the university to provide agricultural research and education for farmers.

That’s because corn and soybeans will be the crop of choice for most farmers as long as that’s what the markets dictate, Frederickson said.

“It’s all ag economics,” he said. “Farmers are doing the best they can. “

Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394

  • related content

  • Sediment strangling our rivers

    Tuesday April 19, 2011

    Sediment from Minnesota's farm country threatens to choke off life in the state's two great rivers. A solution is no clearer than the water flowing through Lake Pepin.

  • Graphic: Lake Pepin choking on sediment

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    Like a giant funnel, Lake Pepin is the outlet for water flowing out of a...

  • Minnesota likely out in front of carbon emissions, climate change mandates

    Wednesday June 26, 2013

    State already ahead of climate change mandates with declines in coal-burning electricity production, more.

  • Drain tiles that lead from farm fields into ditches and then into the Minnesota River contribute to the sediment now being deposited in Lake Pepin.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters






question of the day

Poll: Predict the outcome of Game 4 for the Wild

Weekly Question