For Immediate Release
March 25, 2005
Kerry Chippo, PA Dept. of Environmental Protection
Phone: (717) 787-1323
David Ward, The Rodale Institute
Phone: (610) 683-1410, Cell: (202) 997-1112
Advanced Methods Enhance Water Quality by Locking up Nutrients in Soils
HARRISBURG, PA (March 25, 2005) Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today awarded a $138,531 Growing Greener grant to the Rodale Institute to develop advanced soil management methods that lock up nutrients before they pollute local waterways.
“Rodale recognizes the potential that innovative, affordable and environmentally safe techniques offer in helping us realize significant improvements in the health of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams, and this grant will help the institute develop and understand these methods better,” Secretary McGinty said.
The runoff of nitrogen, phosphate and other nutrients from animal manure and fertilizers is a major source of water pollution in Pennsylvania. Nutrients build up in local streams and stimulate excessive algae growth that depletes oxygen levels in the water and disrupts aquatic ecosystems. Rodale will use its grant to study organic agricultural methods that limit the need for nitrogen fertilizer and improve the productivity of the soil itself.
Part of the study includes the use of an advanced composting mix of carbon-rich materials such as leaves, yard waste, sawdust and wood. The compost will be laid down in a row of hay left to dry with manure and other organic material before being mixed.
When manure and the compost material are mixed, bacteria from the compost alters the nitrogen and other nutrients in the manure and “locks it up” as soil matter, keeping it from running off and polluting local waterways. Soils with sufficient levels of organic materials naturally provide a means of intercepting water-soluble nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus and holding them in place for uptake by plants. In addition, these mixtures hold and retain water in soil, helping plants to better resist drought.
Research conducted by Rodale over a 22-year period demonstrates that organic methods increase soil carbon by 28 percent and soil nitrogen by 15 percent. Rodale has demonstrated that increased soil carbon can raise corn yields by 28 to 34 percent in drought years when compared to conventional soil management methods. The methods also produce increased yields in years with heavy rainfall, and yields similar to conventional methods in years with average rainfall.
“If we can utilize these advanced soil management techniques to reverse current conditions, we can enhance crop yields when farmers are in their most difficult and vulnerable condition: in the throes of a drought,” Secretary McGinty said.
Over the years, Rodale has produced strong evidence that there is an overabundance of carbon in the atmosphere and a deficiency of carbon in the soil.
In addition to locking-up nutrients to improve water quality, the institute will use its grant to determine the ability of organic management methods to sequester carbon in soil, preventing the buildup of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas pollutant that captures heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
This carbon sequestration has the potential to create a new and dynamic relationship between agriculture and global climate change initiatives.
For more information on Growing Greener, visit DEP’s Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us, Keyword: “Growing Greener.”
For more information on The Rodale Institute, visit www.StrausCom.com/rodale and www.NewFarm.org.
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