Research Shows Crop Selection Can Contribute to Water Quality

Researchers at Penn State University modeled the water-quality effects of relocating corn and soybean production away from the steepest land in the watershed of a Susquehanna River tributary. They found that moving hay crops onto landscapes most vulnerable to erosion and nutrient loss resulted in a 15% reduction in total nitrogen losses, a 14% reduction in total phosphorus losses, and a 39% reduction in sediment losses at an average annual scale across the watershed. The scientists say that replacing existing crops with alternatives in vulnerable areas could be the key to improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, though they caution that more research is needed, as well as consideration of how such a program could be implemented.