Ethanol production could harm water quality

A Purdue University agricultural economist is worried that the push to raise more corn to feed the expanding number of ethanol plants will harm soil and water quality.

Otto Doering said during a recent conference that farmers lured by higher corn prices will feel compelled to bring highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land out of the federal Conservation Reserve Program and put it into production, according to The Star Press of Muncie.

If growers don’t increase the amount of land in corn production, they’ll have to produce more corn from the same amount of acreage, Doering said. That means they would have to use much more nitrogen fertilizer.

Excess nitrogen washes off the land and is carried by the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, where it causes an oxygen-starved “dead zone.”

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