Monday’s release of a federal government action plan highlights the need for more information into root causes of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, in the Gulf of Mexico, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said, praising farmers for using nutrients in a more efficient and sustainable fashion.

“As stewards of land, air and water, corn growers have been working hard to be more efficient in the use of nutrients and to reduce their runoff into waterways,” said David Ward, chairman of NCGA’s Production and Stewardship Action Team and a grower from Mapleton, MN. “We think it’s important to get more information about all the causes of hypoxia and to develop a clear sense of where the problem lies.”

Ward said that the contribution of urban and suburban sources, such as lawns and industrial discharges, has been underestimated and remains overlooked as another source for controlling hypoxia.
Midwestern farmers have continued to conserve land, restore and enhance wetlands, practice better nutrient management and apply conservation farming techniques to more acreage. Aggregate nutrient use in corn production has decreased 10% between 1980 and 2005, according to the Fertilizer Institute.

Among the signs of progress outlined in the report, conservation tillage/residue management practices were voluntarily applied by farmers to 20.8 million acres and nutrient management applied to 18.3 million acres in the basin during fiscal years 2000–2006. A total of 42.8 million acres of conservation tillage, nutrient management, wetland, and conservation tillage practices were applied, not counting additional areas impacted by wetland and buffer practices.