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Field Notes

Year-round crops could reduce farm pollution in the Mississippi River

In a new article, the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper covers perennial crops, including Kernza® perennial grain.

“Falling rain easily washes nutrients out of fallow fields and into nearby waterways. Phosphorus that flows with eroding farm soils feeds algae in Minnesota’s lakes; nitrogen seeps down into groundwater, fouling rural water wells…

Nitrogen also travels farther down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, where it helps fuel an annual algae explosion and die-off that saps oxygen from the water, causing a massive “dead zone.” This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that the dead zone would be 5,364 square miles or nearly the size of Connecticut.

The latest action plan to shrink this dead zone, from 2008, recommended each state along the river basin reduce its nitrogen and phosphorus pollution by 45%. But the levels remain high…

One solution is to keep plant roots in the ground longer, where they will stabilize the soil and suck up nitrogen before it escapes.”