Food for Thought – When You Have to Correct NPR

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NPR recently published an article as part of their food blog, The Salt, entitled “Why Your Hamburger Might Be Leading To Nitrogen Pollution.”  As you would expect from the title, this article talks about the application of nitrogen and it’s effects on the environment.

Unfortunately, as farmers, we found several things wrong about their article.



First off the picture at the top is totally inaccurate (reproduced here).  That is a field of CORN, not SOYBEANS.  Nitrogen fertilizer is not applied to soybeans because they are legumes.  Also you cannot apply liquid fertilizer over the top of plants because it will burn the leaves.

…but only about half of that nitrogen is taken up by plants.  The rest can leak out into the environment. And because cows, pigs and poultry gobble up heaps of corn and soy feed, more nitrogen fertilizer is applied — and emitted — in the process of producing meat and dairy than other foods.

Yes nitrogen can leak, or leach as most would say; into the environment, but not at a half rate.  Most nitrogen used today uses a stabilizer to prevent this.  We as food producers do not go around spreading nitrogen like it is water.  It is the most expensive input, we do not want it to go to waste.  I would suggest you research products like Agrotain and ESN.

 …researchers invented a way to produce virtually unlimited supplies of nitrogen fertilizer, sowing the seeds of the Green Revolution. This synthetic fertilizer helped feed the world, but it also unleashed an environmental disaster,

It would be impossible to feed the world in 2016 using agricultural practices from 1916.  Great men like Norman Borlaug, father of the “green revolution” and winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, understood this.

Do not forget that farmers are not going to poison, or waste their most valuable resource, the land. Why would we as farmers want to harm our own living environment?  I would like to see an NPR story on the use of fertilizers and chemicals in subdivisions and golf courses.  You might be surprised at the results you find.


  1. Andrea on February 26, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for letting me share your letter to the lovely people at NPR with everyone on the blog. It’s nice to be able to share something about farming again.

    Of course, I’ll be able to do a lot more of that once we get everything set up at home.

  2. anna on February 26, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Ahhhh, yes, media “experts.” You should try living in Europe. The media (particularly from the UK) don’t seem to mind whatever science-FICTION they float, as long as they can slap a “horror headline” on it and create a “scare.”

    Having grown up in Iowa, my reaction to that top photo was much the same as yours–???? (“What kind of soy is that, Daddy?”) 😉

    It’s like people who say that beekeepers kill their bees!! A few may die when honey is harvested, but responsible beekeepers value their bees!

  3. Luann Fischer on August 12, 2018 at 7:23 am

    I just found this blog, and I must say I’d love to copy the whole thing, including Anna’s comment. I think we have a problem with some of our more educated people that want to tell us about what we should be doing, and they aren’t very good at what they are doing. Reporting truth is what we would all enjoy seeing again.
    Wouldn’t it be surprising for most to see what the golf courses and developments get away with using on their lawns, because it’s their professional grade and it needs to get the job done,,,, just what job actually gets done though is in question .
    Loved seeing this.

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