‘Silver bullet’ doesn’t exist, try ‘shotgun’ approach

The “silver bullet” to fix the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone doesn’t exist. Many people have used this cliché when trying to solve this water quality issue.  Instead, a “shotgun” approach may be the optimal solution. For those who aren’t gun enthusiasts, a shotgun uses shells filled with tiny BBs which scatter when fired.

Rye_in_soybean_SE_ISU_research_farm Recent articles that are getting attention infer that just using cover crops (Here’s how to end Iowa’s great nitrate fight) or installing stream bank buffers (Advocacy group touts buffer zones to reduce pollution) will be what it takes to get the job done to reduce nutrients entering waterways. Both of these are proven approaches that reduce nitrogen entering into streams, but these practices can’t be used alone.

PriceCreek_48_bufferAn article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune caught my attention with the headline, “Voluntary plan to reduce fertilizers not enough to shrink Gulf’s ‘Dead Zone’, new study says.”  The headline and lede sentence set the reader up for failure. But the article takes a positive turn, going on to state that several approaches need to be implemented instead of just reducing fertilizer usage.

Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) is a plan that shows when a combination of practices are used on farm fields, water quality can be improved. Nowhere does it state that using only one practice is all that is necessary. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy is “synergy” at its best!

The NRS is fluid—farmers should use practices that work best with their cash crops, livestock, equipment, and landscape. If you are already no-tilling, perhaps there is a perfect place for a wetland to be installed to intercept water coming off a field before it goes into the nearby stream. Maybe strip-till, cover crops, CRP ground, and spring nitrogen application work best. Layering several or many strategies reduce nutrient loss more effectively than using just one.

B835_qzCcAI7Z3R-EellsIt takes every one of us working for water. We all have a direct connection to water quality and quantity. It’s all about synergy. Are you doing what you can for cleaner water? Can you reduce your water usage? Take another step this year and commit to do #1NewThingForWater.

For more information about Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, visit the website: www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu.

-Carol Brown

2 thoughts on “‘Silver bullet’ doesn’t exist, try ‘shotgun’ approach

  1. Jerry Crew says:

    I agree with the shotgun approach. However, I would use a double barrel with one barrel for no-till and the other for cover crops. If every acre in Iowa was no-tilled and protected with cover crops, the problem is eliminated! Will this happen voluntarily? Of course not! Solution? A 12 step program for those addicted to tillage.

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