Last year the hypoxia zone measured 8,500 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts. Broz says the committee is looking at Missouri's contribution to the nutrient load and trying to figure out ways to reduce that load.
Saving the farmer money
"From the agriculturalist point of view, if we have that kind of nitrogen and phosphorus going down the river, it means we've wasted money and we're not making effective use of our fertilizer," Broz said. "If we can reduce the loads, in the long run it will save producers money to produce their crop and increase their profitability."
The committee has been tasked with finding where the most intense loads are coming from, what kind of strategies would help reduce that load, and look for ways to pay for putting those strategies into practice.
"Several things are going to have to work hand-in-hand in order for this to be successful," Broz said. "One of them is getting word out to the people and asking them what strategies they are willing to do. Second is finding potential funding sources to implement practices that would reduce the load. Variable-rate application of nutrients could be one of them. Cover crops may be another one that can actually reduce the commercial fertilizer load."
EPA is asking each group that received one of these grants to come up with a 45% reduction. Broz questions whether that is realistic or even attainable, but he says that steps need to be taken to reduce nutrient loading from both the environmental and economic side, and striking a balance between the two is important.
"If it is not cost-effective, it is going to be very hard to sell this to the average producer," Broz said. "If it is cost-effective, then the chances of them implementing something and continuing it for long-term water quality is considerably better, especially if we can do it without hurting profitability or production numbers."
Source: University of Missouri Extension