Cover Crops: Good for Water Quality?

Cover crops have been a popular management strategy to reduce nutrient runoff from agriculture. However, evidence suggests that some cover crops may in fact release nutrients, instead of keeping them out of the water. One study explores whether five types of cover crops release phosphorus, and how that may impact water quality in the important Great Lakes region.

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The global buzz: A call to restore insect biodiversity

Insects are in decline worldwide. Without a rethinking of current agricultural practices and a bucking of trends in urbanization, biodiversity of insects is threatened globally. Insects are the structural and functional base – the linchpin – of all ecosystems. We are part of those ecosystems. Unlike the vastness of climate change and its many aspects, the solutions to the problem of insect declines are readily available. With proper perspective, appreciation, and respect for the roles insects play in ecosystem integrity, human health, and economic markets, we can reverse course.

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Nitrogen: Blessing and curse

The chemical element nitrogen (N) is an essential building block of all life on Earth and represents the fourth most common element in biological organisms, including us. Because of its importance for plant growth and food production humans have doubled the natural input of available nitrogen to our ecosystems, with adverse effects on the environment and our health. This surplus of nitrogen led to the expansion of the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Baltic Sea, the concentration of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide is increasing in the atmosphere and infants suffer from high nitrate concentration in the drinking water. Schlesinger describes in his article where all the nitrogen ends up that we humans produce for fertilising our fields. He also warns that our knowledge of the nitrogen cycle is still limited and that nitrogen accumulation in unexpected places will lead to environmental deterioration.

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City phosphorus, country phosphorus: can we mitigate P in different environments?

Phosphorus is essential for life, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing. In excess, phosphorus can cause algal blooms, creating dead zones in bodies of water. How do we prevent phosphorus from entering water systems? Katrina Macintosh and her team did a comprehensive review to track phosphorus from diffuse sources to find out.

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Cropland nitrogen allocation – A deeper dive into the stressors impacting the oceans

Around the globe, 40-50% of the nitrogen applied to cropland in fertilizers remains in the environment. Excess nitrogen is an important environmental stressor that degrades water, air and soil quality and enhances coastal eutrophication. Efficiently allocating nitrogen across space both maximizes crop yields and minimizes excess nitrogen losses to the environment.

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Edge-of-field scale reduction of fertilizers contamination

In the U.S. agricultural regions such as the Mississippi Delta, on-farm water storage (OFWS) systems can mitigate downstream nutrient-enrichment pollution, especially during spring, as demonstrated by USDA-NIFA-funded researchers from Mississippi State University.

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