Fertilizer adds more emissions than scientists thought

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by Sarah Barwacz

MUKWONAGO -- Researchers now say it's not just the power plants and cars contributing to global warming, but something you find in most farm fields.

New research with the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found excess fertilizers releases 20-50% more emissions than scientists first thought. The gas nitrous oxide is 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide and bad for the air we breathe.

Rob Schuett is like any other farmer who needs fertilizer in his dirt to feed the soil and ultimately his plants.

"Without fertilizer you don't get the yield, without the yield you don't get the money for all the time you spent on the crop."

While Schuett uses his fertilizer responsibly, he was surprised to learn that the same fertilizer could create air quality issues if farmers over use it.

Schuett says, "As far as it emitting gas, I'm personally not familiar with it."

Easter Wisconsin has been battling to improve its air quality. In the last three and a half years, the DNR issued 61 air quality advisories. The DNR tells us Kenosha and Sheboygan still don't meet the nation's ozone air quality minimum.

Lindsey drought, a local agronomist says how fertilizer is applied is what causes the problem.

Drought says, "You spread it onto the ground, and on a sunny day like today it could volitalize, but if you work it into the ground, it turns into a different form and stays in the soil."

She says there are also products to reduce the fertilizer from becoming a gas. It's something the farmer and concerned citizen is eager to learn more about.

Schuett says, "We hope it's not emitting into the air, that's not a good thing for anybody."

Farmers can only apply fertilizer to certain areas, it's called targeted fertilizing, another study finds the yields are just as good with that technique.

 

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