Consider this dilemma: In this bag is something we need to feed the world. But when we have
too much, it contaminates drinking water, pollutes the air, and kills millions of fish.
Hi, I’m Suzy Friedman, and I work on Environmental Defense Fund’s partnerships with farmers
to protect the environment.
I’m talking about nitrogen fertilizer. Farmers need it to grow healthy crops – the problem
is it’s hard to know how much to use. Plants use nitrogen for fuel, sort of like
a tractor uses gas. Now, no farmer would leave the gas pumping without an automatic shutoff
– think of the waste and damage if the tank overflows.
But with nitrogen there’s no automatic shutoff. Plants can only absorb so much, and it’s
hard to get the right amount to just the right place when they need it.
The excess runs off, contaminating drinking water, causing algae blooms that kill fish,
and even polluting the air and affecting the climate.
But with too little fertilizer, we couldn’t grow all the food the world needs.
What’s a farmer to do?
We put our minds to it at Environmental Defense Fund, and here’s what we’re recommending:
First, low-cost soil and plant tests give farmers much better information about how
much nitrogen their crops need.
And second, by putting grasses, and trees and wetlands in the right spots, farmers can
prevent nitrogen from becoming a big problem.
Just listen to what one farmer has to say.
Todd Hesterman: Working with Suzy to use just the right amount of fertilizer to feed my
crops has been good for my business and good for the environment, too.
So, farmers save money on fertilizer while reducing pollution and feeding the world.
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