Thursday, April 28, 2011

Corn that doesn't need so much nitrogen could cut America's $8-billion-a-year fertilizer bill, send less pollution into the water and less carbon into the air.

Major research is being done in Iowa and California to produce corn that can live and thrive without nitrogen fertilizer. In July of 2007 both research facilities produced such corn. Even with that, they are 5 to 10 years away from productivity. The U.S.’s corn crop is worth more than $66 billion. Rice and wheat growers around the world have reached a plateau. Corn is the only crop that continues to rise in production. We have been paying an incredible price. Not only the high cost of using nitrogen fertilizer, but the damage caused through rainwater runoff. More than half of the fertilizer is wasted by runoff. It finds its way into aquifers, flows into creeks, streams and rivers. The runoff that has reached the Mississippi travels to the Gulf of Mexico, where deadly algae blooms that deprives fish and plants of oxygen. The EPA has stated that the Gulf has the 2nd largest ocean dead zone. Scientists are still debating which has caused the most environmental damage- the BP oil spill last year or the ongoing nitrogen pollution from U.S. agriculture?

This has the potential to change not just one industry- Ag, but many-- seafood & maritime, tourism, etc. Every year the cost of environmental damage increases. This is a very hard value to put into an exact percentage or amount but we all know that it has to be one that the world focuses on

1 comment:

Pacman said...

I think this is extremely interesting. As you have stated corn continues to be one of the most produced. Considering the corn crop is worth so much money researchers and scientists need to work fast on a way to cut down the fertilizer bill. Genetically modifying those crops would be benefital to the economy but also to cut down on fertilizer being carried into rivers, creeks, etc. This research is crucial in fixing the economy as well as the Gulf Coast, if all of those can be fixed soon seafood, tourism, and the economy can substantially increase generating lots of profit for buisnesses all over the United States; which would be extremely benefitial to the state of which our economy is in now. The research may push us back a little bit, but the benefits in the end cannot be overlooked.