Every summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measures and releases information about the size of the hypoxia zone* in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the drought in 2012, because all the nutrients that were applied went unused as the crops failed to grow, and because of the massive rainfall some of the Midwest experienced this spring, NOAA predicted the zone to be at least 20 percent larger in 2013.
We were all surprised to hear that the zone is not nearly that large. In fact, the zone is very nearly the average size.
This means that although some would like to believe that we have nutrient runoff and the causes of hypoxia zones down to an exact science, the fact that we can’t accurately predict a significant increase or decrease means that there’s a lot we still don’t know.
That is exactly why the Council on Best Management Practices, of which IL Corn and several other agri-business and associations are members, is working to build more science and more data regarding hypoxia and nutrient runoff. Very little scientific data about agriculture’s contribution to the problem exists.
Plan to tune in every Tuesday this month on Corn Corps as we explore more about the water quality issues facing Illinois farmers and how farmers really are trying their best to manage and solve the problems facing those of us that drink water.
ICGA/ICMB Value Added Director
*Hypoxia zones are “dead zones” which are devoid of life. This occurs because nutrients make their way into the water system, encourage the increasing growth of small microorganisms, and then deoxygenate the water as all these small organisms die and decompose. As large sections of water become oxygen-free, fish and other wildlife can’t live causing fish die-offs and serious impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries.
Many environmentalists would like to believe that agriculture is a substantial contributor to nutrient runoff and hypoxia zones. However, to date, no solid research has been done on what agriculture’s contribution to this problem really is. If agriculture has a significant impact, farmers are already poised to change their practices and do their best to minimize runoff. If other industries are more at fault than currently assumed, everyone must step up to the plate to minimize nutrient runoff problems.
The drought of 2012 might seem to be over, but take a closer look. The sub-soil moisture is still drastically low in many areas. Also, the Mississippi River is illustrating what a lack of rain can do. The River is so low in the Mid-Mississippi area that barge traffic may be halted due to low water levels.
That won’t be the case if Illinois Corn Growers Association has anything to say about it. IL Corn is working with an industry group called Waterways Council, Inc., to find ways to keep the river moving. You see, more than 50% of Illinois’ corn crop leaves the state, with a good portion finding its ride down the river on barges. Also, fertilizer moves into the state via northbound river traffic, so in this case, a low-water issue can get us coming and going.
Earlier this week IL Corn representatives met with IL Senator Dick Durbin and other stakeholders to discuss the best ways to keep the Mississippi River open to commerce and other traffic. Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon attended the meeting, as well, and was kind enough to go on the record with us about her thoughts on the issue. Watch below for her statement.
ICGA/ICMB Communications Director
This is a drainage ditch in a drainage district near the Mississippi River bottoms. The operator of this excavator is assisting in the “pump dredge” process of the drainage ditch. The ditch’s role is to drain excess water from more than 15,000 acres of crop land in this particular drainage district. In the last few years due to excessive flooding, the ditch has filled with silt. In anticipation of high waters again this spring, the drainage district and farmers in the area are preparing for the advent of new flood waters.
Thanks to Joe Zumwalt for sharing this photo!
Now that you’ve celebrated Merry Christmas and are happily staying warm until Happy New Year, I invite you to join us for VIDEO WEEK!
Yes, this week, Corn Corps will celebrate the holiday by bringing you interesting, informative, and intriguing videos from YouTube that address agriculture.
Today, we share an oldie but a goodie to keep this, our top priority, in the forefront of your minds. Improvements in our river transportation system are imparative if Illinois farmers are to compete in a global marketplace.
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