What innovations are improving pesticide use?
Several innovations in recent years have improved the efficiency of using herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Here are a few examples:
Buffer strips and trees between crops and waterways can filter nitrogen and prevent it from seeping into groundwater or rivers and streams.
Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies allow farmers to vary the rate of fertilizer application across a given field precisely, tailoring the amount applied to a particular portion of a field to the amount needed by the plants growing there. Most growers involved have learned ways to reduce nitrogen use by 50 lbs. per acre or more without reducing profits.
Dairy farmers in California’s Central Valley are using a new tool that helps them improve groundwater quality and reduce chemical fertilizer use. The project includes installing flow meters in dairy lagoons to allow the controlled application of nitrogen-rich wastewater at beneficial levels, and using an in-field nitrogen test that tells farmers how much of this key nutrient they are applying to avoid water quality impacts. They then time applications to maximize crop uptake of nitrogen and prevent nitrate and salt migration into surface water or groundwater.
The use of seed treatments protects a plant during its germination and formative weeks from the damaging impact of pests and diseases without having to use pesticide sprays. (NCGA)
Fertilizer application rates and timing, as well as conservation practices such as cover crops, are also utilized to allow farmers to conserve nitrogen.