Monday, May 05, 2008

Ions - not just for warp drives...

Gosh, the last time I talked about ions was a a hundred years ago in college, or when the water softener broke down. But good news! Ions are back, baby. Specifically, NH+ ions.

I can sense your excitement.

The Gulf Dead Zone has prompted increased scrutiny of fertilizer like ammonia in water. An article in the Des Moines Register about how high levels from ag runoff (manure, fertilizer, etc.) alleges they threaten water quality. (Here is the link, but the archives didn't work for me.)

The suggestion was refuted by slightly dense but carefully explained articles from John Sawyer at Iowa State.
The implications were that manure and fertilizer application to cropland, and subsequent snowmelt and runoff, had resulted in higher than normal “ammonia” levels in surface waters. In the article there was a comparison of the reported levels to an ammonia reading of 0.10 parts per million considered harmful to aquatic life. Unfortunately, measured surface water concentrations (and as reported in the article) are not ammonia-N. Instead they are ammonium-N plus ammonia-N. Therefore, a comparison of the reported values to a concentration of ammonia toxic to aquatic life is inaccurate. [More required reading for ammonia users for defense puposes]
The problem is the format for news is now routinely not "inform the readers" - it's "scare the bejabbers outa the readers so they keep buying newspapers". It's not working, but papers keep trying.

Still, kudos to ISU and Sawyer for needed light without heat, and my strong recommendation to brush up on your inorganic chemistry.

How exciting is that!

1 comment:

From Virginia said...

I will never forget my first job interview after quitting farming...I was interviewing for a position as a nutrient management specialist and I was able to recall a discussion at an Extension Service twilight meeting where I learned some basic priciples about the cation exchange capacities of soils. I am convinced that I got the job because I had a rudimentery understanding of the concept. Thank you Rutgers Extension Service! Would that more of us (and the general public) understood basic science. It would help our public policy debates enormously.