The researchers found that only 61-65% of the nitrogen fertilizer was absorbed by plants when it was applied in 1982. 32-37% of it remained three years later and 12-15% was still found in 2012. The team estimated that 8-12% of the fertilizer had moved toward groundwater tables in the form of nitrate over the past 30 years and will continue to leak slowly toward water sources for at least another 50 years.
While little doubt remains that the fertilizer will eventually contaminate underground water sources as it leaches, how severe and long-lasting the effects will be are unknown.
"Nitrate contamination of aquatic ecosystems can be reduced by farmers following the four Rs of nutrient stewardship," said Science Daily in response to the findings. "Applying the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time, and the right place."
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Friday, 25 October 2013