More corn for biofuels would contaminate water with fertilizers and pesticides

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Washington, September 29 (ANI): A new study by researchers at Purdue University, US, has determined that more of the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow corn would find their way into nearby water sources if ethanol demands lead to planting more acres in corn.

The study of Indiana water sources found that those near fields that practice continuous-corn rotations had higher levels of nitrogen, fungicides and phosphorous than corn-soybean rotations.

It was conducted by Indrajeet Chaubey, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, and Bernard Engel, a professor and head of agricultural and biological engineering.

"When you move from corn-soybean rotations to continuous corn, the sediment losses will be much greater," Chaubey said.

"Increased sediment losses allow more fungicide and phosphorous to get into the water because they move with sediment," he added.itrogen and fungicides are more heavily used in corn crops than soybeans, increasing the amounts found in the soil of continuous-corn fields.

Sediment losses become more prevalent because tilling is often required in continuous-corn fields, whereas corn-soybean rotations can more easily be no-till fields, according to Engel.

"The common practice is there is a lot of tillage to put corn back on top of corn," Engel said. "Any time we see changes in the landscape, there is a potential to see changes in water quality," he added.

Chaubey said that there was no significant change in the amount of atrazine detected in water near fields that changed to continuous-corn rotations.

The commonly used pesticide sticks to plant material and degrades in sunlight, keeping it from reaching water through runoff or sediment.

US Department of Agriculture data has shown that corn acreage has increased with the demand for ethanol, with 93 million acres in 2007, an increase of 12.1 million acres that year.

"As we look forward here, if corn stover is going to be a preferred bio-feedstock, we would see more corn acreage being lanted," Engel said. "We need to know how that will affect water quality," he added. (ANI)

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