'Fertilizer Forecast' Under Development

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say reducing runoff of plant nutrients that eventually wash into local water sources could someday be as easy as checking a weather forecast.

U.S. farmers often manage manure from their livestock by applying it to crop fields to increase soil levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture say, but when it rains the nitrogen and phosphorus in freshly applied manure is much more likely to run off and pollute nearby water sources.

Researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are working on the development of a Web-based “fertilizer forecast,” a USDA release said Wednesday.

The scientists want to create a tool that produces 24-hour and five-day runoff forecasts that are as user-friendly as weather forecasts, they say.

The researchers are using National Weather Service predictions of precipitation, soil moisture and other data to design a simple hydrologic model that indicates the probability of field runoff.

When their “forecast” tool is ready, they say, it will give farmers a way to optimize fertilizer runoff management and enhance water quality.

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