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Ag suppliers agree to fall nitrogen 'code of practice'

Agriculture.com Staff 10/23/2007 @ 6:51am

An organization of farm retailers in the Raccoon River watershed called Agriculture's Clean Water Alliance (ACWA) has been researching agronomic and environmental issues tied to nitrogen application for the past seven years. One of the things ACWA has done was establish its Fall Nitrogen Code of Practice.

The ACWA Fall Nitrogen Code of Practice, according to an ACWA report, is a formal agreement among the retailers that they will not distribute anhydrous ammonia for fall application until soil temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit at a depth of four inches (60 degrees with use of a nitrification inhibitor) with a forecast of cooling soil temperatures.

On October 22, soil temperatures across the state ranged from the high to mid-50s. Click here for a county-by-county soil temperature map from Iowa State University.

Their commitment to the Fall Nitrogen Code of Practice has received good reviews from the public, regulators, farmers and dealers alike. ACWA members have held to their commitment in the past, even in the face of unfavorable market conditions, projected equipment shortages in spring, and many other unknowns shared by dealers and their farming customers. The Agribusiness Association of Iowa (AAI) also adopted the Code of Practice, and ag retailers throughout the state are being encouraged to follow it.

Dave Coppess from Heartland Cooperative is president of ACWA. Coppess says that the Code of Practice is just one more way the industry is working hard to be environmentally proactive. "To be a viable enterprise in the long-term, we are going to have to demonstrate that we operate to the highest environmental performance standards possible. With ACWA, we're on our way to reaching that goal."

ACWA invests in and supports water quality monitoring and nutrient management on farms. Coppess says that the goal is to let data determine what management practices are most effective for both farmers and the environment. "Just as data has always been at the foundation of proving agronomic performance, so will it be the foundation of proving environmental performance."

Coppess says that ACWA and its research partners -- organizations like the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) and the National Soil Tilth Laboratory -- are making significant findings in their monitoring program. "We're seeing that, the more we study water quality in Iowa, the more we understand that it is the result of a very complex system," he says. "Examining fall fertilization guidelines is just part of an ongoing evolution in agronomy practices in Iowa. And the more we learn, the more we find that good agronomic performance can be linked with good environmental practices."

ACWA membership consists of leading ag retailers in the Raccoon River watershed. The ACWA mission is to reduce the nutrient loss -- specifically nitrate -- from farm fields and to keep the nutrients from entering the Raccoon River and its tributaries.

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