Home Discussion Forum Water Quality Nitrogen and water quality

This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Fabian Fernandez Fabian Fernandez 2 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #890
    Profile photo of Fabian Fernandez
    Fabian Fernandez
    Participant

    Are the issues of water quality linked to nitrogen in the farm we hear about in the news real?

    If I am manage nitrogen using best management practices, is there a chance that I am still negatively affecting the environment?

  • #914
    Profile photo of Warren Formo
    Warren Formo
    Participant

    Great questions! I am sure there are many different perspectives; I will offer a few thoughts.

    First, I do believe that the issues we hear about in the news are real, if only in that the concerns expressed are real. I also believe that the extent to which agricultural practices are affecting water quality are often exaggerated.

    Second, my perspective is that it is highly likely that even with all the best management practices we know of today, it is still very likely that just like most human activities,  crop production is negatively affecting the environment. Perhaps a better question would be “am I unduly negatively affecting the environment?” The issue here is tradeoffs. Producing food and feed crops requires nitrogen, and nitrogen cycles in farming systems at less than 100% efficiency. So there will always be losses. In my view, those losses represent an environmental cost that must be weighed against the benefit provided by producing food that people require. By most measures, research and innovation continue to improve the efficiency of nitrogen use relative to crop output and points toward a gradual, but real, reduction in the environmental footprint of agriculture over time.  To me, that is the real story. Those who push the notion that any impact at all is unacceptable have yet to offer an alternative means to meet human nutritional needs.

  • #915
    Profile photo of Fabian Fernandez
    Fabian Fernandez
    Participant

    Warren, I agree that the discussion has to be on tradeoffs as we continue to do the best possible job in managing N correctly. There is, and will always be, a cost to the environment for food production. The key is to do all we can to minimize the negative impact while recognizing and accepting that despite best efforts there will be always a cost associated with production. Those costs must be weighed in light of the benefits we derive from the food, feed, fuel, and fiber products generated from agricultural fields.

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