Farmers employ conservation practices to prevent fertilizer—particularly nitrogen and phosphorus—from getting into groundwater or surface water. Nutrients can leach out of the crop’s root zone and deeper into the soil, eventually finding their way into groundwater. Surface waters such as streams, rivers, ponds and lakes must be protected from runoff that might follow a hard rain.
Farmers use a number of techniques and practices to minimize nutrient leaching and runoff. Buffer zones along the banks of streams and ponds can trap soil particles and any accompanying nutrients before runoff reaches the water. Farmers have successfully used these practices for years to dramatically reduce the amounts of nutrients reaching groundwater and surface water. The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and the Soil and Water Conservation Society offer additional information regarding these practices.