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So where’s the Mississippi’s P come from anyway?

May 9, 2011

A new, county-by-county, analysis of the sources of P entering the Mississippi River drainage indicates that understanding where the P comes from isn’t as simple as asking where the fertilizer gets dumped or the manure spread (Story link).  It turns out that often the largest P runoff losses in the Mississippi River drainage came from areas where net farm P balance was negative (i.e. where farmers removed more P in crops than they applied in fertilizer).  This likely reflects the fact that such areas are the most intensively farmed and therefore subjected to the most intensive tilling practices, leading, in turn, to the most soil loss (with its P).  Not good.

The study also identified major cities as hot spots of P inputs to the drainage, as not all municipalities have advanced wastewater treatment to remove P.

The study was led by U Illinois biogeochemist Mark David.

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