An organization of ag suppliers in Iowa, called Agriculture's Clean Water Alliance, is made up of fertilizer dealers located in the Raccoon River watershed. The watershed stretches from Des Moines up into northwest Iowa. The Raccoon River supplies drinking water for Des Moines and other cities and towns. The ACWA group has been researching agronomic and environmental issues tied to nitrogen application for the past seven years. One thing ACWA has done this year is to establish its "Fall Nitrogen Code of Practice."
The ACWA Fall Nitrogen Code of Practice is a formal agreement among the retailers that they will not distribute anhydrous ammonia for fall application until soil temperatures reach 50 degrees F at a depth of 4 inches. The threshold is 60 degrees F if a nitrification inhibitor is used in the anhydrous ammonia. Also, the weather forecast has to call for a cooling of soil temperatures.
On October 22, soil temperatures across the state ranged from the high to mid-50 degree range. If you want to keep track of soil temperature in your area county-by-county soil temperature maps are available from Iowa State University at extension.agron.iastate.edu/NPKnowledge/.
Other dealers encouraged to follow suit
Their commitment to the Fall Nitrogen Code of Practice has received good reviews from the public, regulators, farmers and dealers alike. ACWA members have held to their commitment in the past, even in the face of unfavorable market conditions, projected equipment shortages in spring, and many other unknowns shared by dealers and their farming customers. The Agribusiness Association of Iowa also adopted the Code of Practice, and ag retailers throughout the state are being encouraged to follow it.
Dave Coppess of Heartland Co-op is president of ACWA. Coppess says the Code of Practice is just one more way the industry is working hard to be environmentally proactive. "To be a viable enterprise in the long-term, we are going to have to demonstrate that we operate to the highest environmental performance standards possible," he says. "With ACWA, we're on our way to reaching that goal."
ACWA invests in and supports water quality monitoring and nutrient management on farms. Coppess says the goal is to let data determine what management practices are most effective for both farmers and the environment. "Just as research data has always been at the foundation of proving agronomic performance, so will it be the foundation of proving environmental performance," he adds.
Good environmental practices pay off
Coppess says ACWA and its research partners - organizations like the Des Moines Water Works and the National Soil Tilth Laboratory at Ames - are making significant findings in their monitoring program. "We're seeing that the more we study water quality in Iowa, the more we understand that it is the result of a very complex system. Examining fall fertilization guidelines is just part of an ongoing evolution in agronomy practices in Iowa. And the more we learn, the more we find that good agronomic performance can be linked with good environmental practices."
ACWA membership consists of leading ag retailers in the Raccoon River watershed. The ACWA mission is: to reduce the nutrient loss - specifically nitrate - from farm fields and to keep the nutrients from entering the Raccoon River and its tributaries.
Iowa State University agronomists' observations show soil temperatures below 50 F on varying dates during the past few years:
• 2006 - Nov. 29th
• 2005 - Nov. 14th
• 2004 - Nov. 21st
• 2003 - Oct. 28th (with periods of warming until Nov. 21st)
• 2002 - Oct. 22nd
• 2001 - Nov. 21st
• 2000 - Nov. 3rd
Local ACWA Member Contacts:
Albert City - Ag Partners, LLC - Troy Upah | 712-843-2291
Cherokee - First Coop Association - Jim Carlson | 712-225-5400
Dedham - Dedham Cooperative Association - Roger Shaw | 712-683-5515
Farnhamville - Farmers Cooperative - Roger Koppen | phone: 515-544-3213
Fort Dodge - New Coop, Inc. - Brent Bunte | 515-955-2040
Gilmore City - Pro Coop - Jim Day | 515-373-6532
Kasota, Minnesota - UAP - Dave Jenkins | 507-931-6660
Ralston - West Central - Harry Ahrenholtz | 712-667-3323
Webster City - Van Diest Supply - John Van Diest | 800-779-2424
West Des Moines - Heartland Coop - Dave Coppess | 515-225-1334