Innovation in Agriculture
I referred recently to farmers as the first conservationists. This does not mean, however, that farming practices do not have negative environmental consequences. For that matter, depending on your perspective, all actions have negative environmental consequences. For example, the USEPA would have you believe that the carbon dioxide you exhale as a by-product of the cellular respiration that keeps you alive should be regulated as a pollutant.
Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (64,000 square miles), agriculture covers 23 percent of the land area (14,720 square miles). Government and academic scientists estimate that in 2009, agriculture was the largest source of nitrogen loading (45 percent or 110.6 million pounds per year) to the Bay. It was also the largest source of phosphorus loading (44 percent or 7.2 million pounds per year), as well as sediment (65 percent or 5.3 billion pounds per year). Many programs are in place at the federal, state, and local government levels to provide cost-sharing for agricultural practices to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is now subject to a Total Maximum Daily Load, a water regulatory program of the USEPA.
Many bureaucrats and environmental advocacy groups would prefer that the public believe that the only way to correct environmental degradation is implementation of top-down governmental regulatory programs. This view intentionally ignores the power of innovation and free market economics.
Fortunately, there are inventors like Ronald D. Salestrom of Tucson, AZ. Salestrom has provided an “Agricultural water retention and flow enhancement mixture”; his intellectual property is protected by Patent Number 5,868,087, issued on February 9, 1999. The US Patent and Trademark Office classifies his invention as 111/132. This classification, found in a class covering planting inventions, pertains to broadcasting (think of your Scott’s rotary fertilizer spreader), specifically dispensing material ahead of a powered tiller.
Salestrom summarizes his invention in claim 1:
“1. A technique for treating agricultural land to increase water retention capabilities of the soil comprising a broadcaster and involving the steps of:
a) distributing a substantially even spread of water absorbent polymer particles by said broadcaster over a soil surface;
b) blending the water absorbent polymer particles into an upper level of said soil; and,
- applying a linear polymer to said soil surface during irrigation of said soil surface.”
Inventor Salestrom envisions that his technique of applying selected chemicals will increase agricultural water retention and minimize erosion. The technique applies water absorbent polymers into the top layer of a field, creating a water barrier within the soil. Subsequently, a linear polymer such as polyacrylamide is applied to the soil's surface to minimize erosion during irrigation and precipitation. The water absorbent polymers assist in the thorough application of the linear polymer as the linear polymer is maintained at the surface area and prevented from leaching away. The combination of these techniques will serve to reduce nutrient and sediment losses from agricultural fields.
Has Salestrom’s invention (or others in the patentECO Agricultural Index) been added to the list of best management practices (BMPs) recommended by Chesapeake Bay governments?