Conference offers hopeful look at nutrient management
With snow on the ground and weather-related cancellations galore, about 140 people still came out to the Nutrient Management Conference on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. The conference focused on both the success of the Nutrient Management Program, started after the Nutrient Management Law – now 10 years old – was signed in 1999, and the new challenges facing the inland bays and its watershed as development has continued to affect the natural habitat.
Cooperation between farmers, industry, educational institutions and government has allowed remarkable quantifiable reductions in nutrients and nutrient runoff into the watershed.
Chris Bason, science and technical advisor for the Center for Inland Bays, said one of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by Tom Simms, who looked at nutrient surpluses both statewide and by county. In both Kent and New Castle counties, there has been a reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus surplus runoff, almost to the point of being balanced. In Sussex, there is still a surplus but it is less than in previous years.
“It showed that the Nutrient Management Program is really working,” said Bason. “With reducing the amount of phosphorus that comes out of the bird,” he pointed out, noting how farmers are using animal science and different poultry feed to bring about a reduction, “to nutrient relocation management, there has been state-wide decreases of 30 percent for nitrogen and 60 percent for phosphorus, looking at the time from 2004 to 2006, compared to 1996 to 1998. That’s very substantial.”
Bason said that they also learned that climate has a bit of an effect on nutrient surpluses and crops that don’t grow have less ability to take up the nutrients around them, prompting more runoff into the inland bays and the surrounding watershed. He said there needs to be more effort on getting an agricultural irrigation system in place to keep farms profitable and nutrients manageable.
Fenwick Island resident Buzz Henifin went to the conference to learn more about atmospheric deposition of nitrogen in the area.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “There were a lot of good presentations. You have to be somewhat interested in what they are talking about,” he added with a laugh. “A lot of good things can come out of it.”
Bason also remarked about the presentation given on the long-term health of the bays.
“Nutrient levels have stabilized, but at a very high level,” he explained.
“We still don’t have sea grass. Fish kills are very common, as are low levels of oxygen in the water. At least they are not going up, but we still have a long way to go.”
For more information or to view the technical presentations from the conference, visit www.inlandbays.org.