Iowan CAFOs may be increasing nitrates in water

The nitrate levels in water could have adverse health effects on Iowans (/img)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | January 23rd, 2019

The fertilizer applied to two Iowa watersheds at double the recommended rate correlates with and is likely causing increasing nitrate levels in the streams just below.

A watershed is an area of land that drains into a body of water, usually a stream, and may be a key element in tracking and preventing floods. The Iowa Watershed Approach is set up to link different organizations–including the University of Iowa–that all aim to improve Iowa’s resilience to flooding.

The University of Iowa recently released research pinpointing some of the adverse effects that over-fertilization of certain watersheds has caused. The recommended amount of fertilizer per acre of corn is about 134 pounds, but going over this amount, especially with commercial fertilizers, can lead to a dangerous amount of nitrate in the streams and other bodies of water. Nitrate exposure has been linked to multiple health issues, including blue baby syndrome, a condition that impacts an infant’s ability to carry oxygen through blood vessels.

Overall, the solution seems to be finding alternative and safe replacements for commercial fertilizers, in order to keep the steadily increasing nitrate levels from ramping up further.



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