Nitrates stored in rocks ‘nail in coffin’ for artificial fertilizers

The Manawatu gorge. Photo: 123rf

A new report showing nitrates can accumulate in rocks then leach into waterways — leading to long-term pollution — is another nail in the coffin for artificial nitrate fertilisers, an academic says.

A paper published by researchers at the British Geological Survey has found vast quantities of nitrate across the globe stored in rocks above drinking water resources. The authors estimated up to 180 million tonnes of nitrates are stored in rocks worldwide, perhaps twice the amount stored in soils.

Massey University ecology and environmental science senior lecturer Mike Joy said the impacts were already being seen in New Zealand. "What we’re seeing in rivers for short periods is big masses of algal growths. It drives fluctuations in oxygen and a couple of measurements in the Manawatū Gorge show such extremes nothing can live in these rivers," he said. Dr Joy said the report was another nail in the coffin for artificial nitrate fertilizers.

"It’s another facet that I hadn’t really thought about before, I mean we knew there was enough problems without adding that to it." "It’s just another nail in the coffin for artificial nitrogen." Hydrologist and lead author of the report Matthew Ascott […]

More about nitrate contamination of the U.S. water supplies:

Elevated Nitrate Levels Found in Millions of Americans’ Drinking Water

Report Spotlights Nitrate Contamination in Drinking Water Across the USA

USDA: study finds no-till farming alone not sufficient to prevent water pollution from nitrate

In the Heart of the Corn Belt, an Uphill Battle for Clean Water

‘Fecal Soup’: Wisconsin Well Water Would Horrify You

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Nitrates stored in rocks 'nail in coffin' for artificial fertilizers
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Nitrates stored in rocks 'nail in coffin' for artificial fertilizers
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British Geological Survey global study: "vast amounts" of artificial fertilizers (nitrates) in rocks above drinking water sources: up to 2x that in soils.
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Radio New Zealand
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