The Gulf of Mexico
Where the Mississippi meets the Gulf: a clearly demarcated interface between the blue, oxygenated waters and the silt-and nutrient-laden Mississippi River.
2015 Gulf of Mexico dead zone ‘above average’
Heavy June rains, high July nutrient runoff levels likely cause for increased
Read the article here:
We Are One of the "I" States
Illinois isn't the only "I" state with nitrates making their way into drinking water and down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, but their experience can help us understand the problem and the solutions.
At Issue #2608 "Nitrates - Part 1"
Don Roseboom of the Geological Survey; Marcia Willhite, the Illinois EPA Deputy Director; Jean Payne, the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association President; and Dan Schaefer of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices will discuss the problem of nitrate levels in Illinois waterways. A recent study of farm runoff in Bloomington revealed there was more nitrate content than expected in stream ways. (November 2013)
At Issue #2609 "Nitrates - Part 2"
Don Roseboom of the Geological Survey, University of Illinois Extension Director Doug Gucker, Dan Schaefer of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices and Warrensburg, Illinois, farmers David and Chase Brown will discuss methods to reduce nitrate levels in waterways. A recent study of farm runoff in Bloomington revealed there was more nitrate content than expected in stream ways. Nitrates result from nutrients like nitrogen that farmers apply to crops. The panelists will look at ways to reduce nitrogen application to farm fields, including alternative farming techniques and the use of cover crops.
Soil Health's Effects
Beyond the Farm
The GRN advocates for reduction in the size of the Dead Zone through a number of strategies.
- As states develop limits for how much nitrogen and phosphorus pollution is allowed in water bodies, we are working to ensure that these limits will protect aquatic life and decrease pollution entering the Gulf.
- Working with activists along the entire Mississippi River, we push for reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution being dumped into the entire river.
- We monitor and push for enforcement of permits to polluters who are putting nitrogen and phosphorus into the water.
- We advocate for changes in the way farm subsidies are distributed so that farmers who are demonstrating conservation practices that reduce nitrogen runoff recieve proper funding and taxpayers are not subsidizing pollution.
An introduction to the Gulf Restoration Network:
GRN (including Matt Rota, with whom we met in New Orleans in January), Iowa, and the Dead Zone:
Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force
The Task Force includes federal and state agencies (including Bill Northey, Task Force Co-Chair) and the tribes. Federal agencies include those with responsibilities over activities in the Mississippi River and its basin, and in the Gulf of Mexico. The role of the Task Force is to provide executive level direction and support for coordinating the actions of participating organizations working on nutrient management within the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed. The Task Force has designated members of a Coordinating Committee, and solicits information from interested stakeholders.
A classic example of why grassroots efforts to address issues like the hypoxic zone are so vital can be found in the article linked below. Politics and action so often do not go hand in hand.
Louisiana Lawmakers Put Corn Belt Farms Before Gulf Shrimpers
(August 18, 2014) ISU's Professor Cathy Kling and Drs. Eugene Turner and Nancy Rabalais discuss Gulf’s ‘Dead Zone' on New Orleans Public Radio.
Farmers and Fisherman: No Gulf between Us, is a project Cedar Basin is developing to increase understanding on both ends of the Mississippi. The project will facilitate learning what's at stake for all involved, how we can work together to everyone's benefit, and what we can all do to alleviate the dead zone in the Gulf while continuing to provide a livelihood for our families and food for the world. (More information on the initiative can be found in our Winter 2015 newsletter.)
Dr. Nancy Rabalais, is a Marine Ecologist focused on hypoxic zones. She received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2012.
Our Downriver Impact
When our soils aren't healthy, they can't hold nutrients, which then run off or leach into area waterways, eventually winding up in the Gulf of Mexico, where they lead to the formation of the hypoxic zone, which diminishes habitat, affecting fish reproduction.
The vastly agricultural Mississippi drainage sends tons of nutrients down the river each year.
For a better understanding of the Gulf of Mexico's dead (or hypoxic) zone, click the link below.
or watch the video below:
Corn Belt Pollution: Louisiana Shrimp and Oysters Pay the Price
Shrimp boat, Empire Louisiana. Shrimp are one of the commercial species most harmed by nutrient pollution originating from farming in the Mississippi River basin. The Gulf’s shrimp fishery has been on the decline for a variety of reasons. Thirty years ago, 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. originated in the Gulf. Today it’s just 30 percent. The rest is imported
Read the article here:
Ceres's Mission: Mobilizing investor and business leadership to build a thriving, sustainable global economy.
And learn about Iowa's role in the health of the Gulf of Mexico here:
Iowa's Response to the Problem:
Read more on the strategy and related issues here:
Methods to Help Iowa Achieve Success with the Strategy
Farm Field Bioreactor Installation
Nabbing Nitrates Before Water Leaves the Farm: Bioreactors
Saturated Buffer Zones
Saturated Stream Buffer Test
Farmers divert tile water into streamside grass buffers to remove nitrates.Jan 30, 2014
Liz Morrison | Corn+Soybean Digest