12 Jul 2017

Progress in Reducing Nutrient Loss in the Mississippi River Basin – But Effects on Gulf Hypoxia Still Lag

Dr. Cliff Snyder, July 2017

Nutrient losses from farm fields remain major economic and environmental concerns in the Mississippi River Basin (MRB). Current loss rates of nitrogen (N) can represent a substantial profit loss to many growers. Losses of both N and phosphorus (P) can negatively affect water quality in the streams and rivers within the Basin, and in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This report identifies trends in N and P use from 1987 to 2012, MRB and sub-Basin partial N and P balances, hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, and highlights progress toward reductions in nutrient losses. These results: 1) underscore the need for expanded implementation of beneficial 4R nutrient management, and complementary soil and water conservation practices; 2) help emphasize the importance of conducting long-term, systems-level 4R nutrient management research; and 3) point to the need for N and P performance monitoring and tracking at field, farm, and watershed scales.