AgriLife Saves Money, Protects Water

A highly successful soil testing program has helped Rio Grande Valley, TX, growers save almost $2 million dollars in fertilizer expenses while protecting a body of water critical to the ecology of South Texas, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service officials.

The AgriLife Extension educational program has helped growers significantly reduce the amount of crop fertilizer that might otherwise have ended up in the watershed of the Arroyo Colorado, says Brad Cowan, an AgriLife Extension agent in Hidalgo County.

Since its inception in 2002, this program — Nutrient Management Education in the Rio Grande Valley — has helped growers save an estimated 3.3 million pounds of nitrogen and 3.8 million pounds of phosphorus, says Cowan. At a time when increasing fertilizer prices have become a major concern for agricultural producers, the program has taken on a new importance.

Soil testing has become a critical step in reducing costs to growers and in reducing runoff to the environment. “Depending on a grower’s crop and management history, they could save from $7.50 to $27.50 per acre on fertilizer costs by using the soil test results,” says Dr. Enrique Perez, an AgriLife Extension agent in Cameron County. “That puts the total economic impact from this project at an estimated $1.9 million, based on an average cost per pound of nitrogen and phosphorus. In addition to helping the growers’ bottom line, the reduction in fertilizer use helps protect the Arroyo Colorado, which runs 90 miles from Mission to the Lower Laguna Madre and is on the state’s list of impaired waters.”

“By reducing the amount of fertilizer applied to the fields, the nutrient management program basically translates into better water quality for the Arroyo watershed,” says Cecilia Wagner, who manages five water quality projects in the Arroyo Colorado for the Texas Water Resources Institute. “It has helped the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership move toward its goal of restoring the quality of waters in the area.”

More information on the partnership and projects in the Arroyo is available at www.arroyocolorado.org.

(Source: Texas A&M University)

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