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CLEAR LAKE, IA - This spring has proven to be one of the wettest seasons on record for north Iowa and its not just affecting the farmers, it’s effecting the chemicals in the soil too.
“Nitrogen is a major comments that we use in growing corn and it contributes a fair amount to the cost of growing corn as well as seed and the use of the land,” said Chuck Grove, Clear Lake farmer.
Nitrogen is commonly used to help rebuild soil and produce high quality corn.
Unfortunately with heavy rainfall flooding area crops, nitrates runoff into nearby waters leaving farmers like Chuck, far behind.
Although, it’s not as simple as getting rid of the chemical all together.
“If we eliminated the use of Nitrogen in corn fields completely, it definitely would raise the cost. I would guess by 50 to 100 percent of what the cost for food now,” said Grove.
For some, the big concern is runoff reaching drinking water, although according to one area scientist, it’s not a likely concern.
“It’s not gonna get down in our drinking waters, so we don’t have to worry about that yet. It’s a bigger concern for producers, farmers that spend money on fertilizers,” said Rich Finstead of Frontier Labs.
At Frontier Labs, Rich studies nitrogen levels in soil to help decide what are safe amounts.
According to Rich, most municipalities in Iowa draw water from wells as opposed to the surface.
One way he says limits the risk of contamination.
For farmers like Chuck, he understands any potential issues and says he already has options to limit the risk.
“We have something that you put it into the mix before the nitrogen gets applied to the field. It doesn’t allow it to break down here as quickly so it’s not near as suspect to excess water,” said Grove.
“It’s definitely a concern but most farmers are watching that nitrogen application rate because of the cost of it. They’re not gonna apply too much more than they need,” said Finstead.