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Agriculture and Chemical Application

America’s farmers consistently produce enough crops and livestock to feed not only our nation, but also to send food to nations around the world. To maximize their production and maintain their world leadership role, farmers depend on a wide variety of "tools" including chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Unless these chemicals are carefully controlled they can seriously impair water quality.

Costly Chemicals

Farmers must strike a delicate balance, figuring out exactly the right amount of chemicals to do the desired job. If they apply too little, they won’t get bigger yields or kill pests. If they apply too much, they literally watch their money wash away (those chemicals cost money) as the chemicals run off the fields.


What alternatives do farmers have?

  • Analyzing the land and applying best management practices (BMPs) either reduces the amount of chemicals that run off the fields or "captures " them before they reach the water.
  • Planting crops that are genetically engineered to resist pests or herbicides is an option that can reduce chemical application.
  • Some farmers choose not to use any chemicals, eliminating potential chemical threats to water quality. This organic approach requires an entirely different set of tools, and targets a much different market than the typical farmer aims for.



Explore More: Water Quality
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.