AMES, Iowa -- Losses of nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural lands to water bodies in the upper Mississippi River sub-basin and throughout the Corn Belt threaten the health of both humans and aquatic systems. In addition, nutrient losses from the five-state region, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, as well as other Corn Belt states, contribute to hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico, often called the “Dead Zone.”
The current Corn Belt landscape, now dominated by annual row-crops and local concentrations of intensive livestock production systems, will require improved management of fertilizer inputs and manure use practices to minimize nutrient losses from those systems. Off-site practices, and possibly some cropping system changes, may be needed to reach water quality goals. The potential and limitations of improving both in-field and off-site management practices and systems need to be assessed in order to efficiently plan for future actions.
A workshop is being held to look for solutions to address some of these issues. The Gulf Hypoxia and Local Water Quality Concerns workshop will be held Sept. 26-28, 2005, on the Iowa State University (ISU) campus in Ames.
“What we hope to do at this workshop is come to a consensus of what are the most effective agricultural management practices for reducing excessive nutrients, especially the most cost effective,” said Dennis McKenna, of the Division of Natural Resources, Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Organizers are urging those involved in ag production or consulting; agricultural commodity groups; environmental groups; local, state and federal agencies; state and federal legislatures; and university research and extension to attend this event.
“At this ‘working’ workshop there will be the opportunity for all attendees to participate in establishing what is known, and what information is still needed, about tools to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus losses from croplands,” said Jim Baker, professor emeritus, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, ISU. “This will be critical as we develop future plans and programs to improve water quality in the Corn Belt and beyond,” he said.
The workshop will address 15 topics. An expert on each topic will prepare a preliminary report and present a 20 to 30 minute overview of the situation. A 30-minute panel discussion will follow. Audience members will be able to submit written questions to the panel. After the workshop, a preliminary report will be updated to include comments from the panel discussion and released on the workshop’s Web site.
For more details on the conference and registration information go to http://www.umrshnc.org/ or call (515) 432-9548.
The workshop is sponsored by the Upper Mississippi River Sub-basin Hypoxia Nutrient Committee. Co-sponsors include ISU College of Agriculture, U.S. EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds, EPA Regions 5 and 7, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.