Published Jun 17, 2009

Green Lands Blue Waters

By Sarah Carlson

On Tuesday, June 16th I attended a meeting of the Green Lands, Blue Waters (GLBW) consortium in St. Paul, MN. GLBW is a group of representatives of non-profits, researchers, organizers, watershed groups and farmers whose charge is to capitalize on its individual strengths in organizing, research, outreach and advocacy to increase the amount of “continuous living cover” on the landscape of the Mississippi River Basin. Their focus is to increase cover through programs in 5 areas:

  • Agroforestry
  • Biomass
  • Cover Crops
  • Grazing
  • Perennial Grain Crops

They are driven with the charge of decreasing the externalities of our current agricultural system through increased use of cover crops and perennials on the landscape.

At the same time I attended this meeting I noticed a report which questioned the scientific evidence that nitrogen is leaving the Midwest and traveling to the Gulf of Mexico and creating a hypoxic zone–an area of low oxygen which makes it difficult for marine life to survive. It seemed ironic that at the same time rigourous scientific research, farmer outreach and policy advocacy is happening to work to decrease this problem, “new” research is disproving the problem entirely.

So what are we to believe? For me I guess I think about some of the water monitoring PFI has done this past year. One site monitored the water leaving a tile drain where nitrogen is exclusively side-dressed. Even with this improved method for nitrogen application, which should be the most effective method to put N in the root zone of growing corn, N still left the system. In addition on an ag press website was a description of N losses, the reasons and ways to correct deficiencies. Hopefully attention to the loss of this expensive input will continue to be front and center and practical methods to reduce its loss and thereby decreasing a farmer’s costs of inputs will continue to be tested and researched by all those in agriculture.

Check out for more information about PFI’s water monitoring results from last year.