Maryland is proposing to become the first state in the Chesapeake region to prohibit most farmers from applying fertilizer on their fields in the fall and winter to reduce the amount of pollution in the Bay.
Banning the application of fertilizer from the harvest of summer crops until March 1 would prevent about 600,000 pounds of nitrogen a year from being washed by rain into the nation’s largest estuary, said Royden N. Powell, Assistant Secretary for Resource Conservation at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
“In the fall, if there are residual nutrients in the soil that the plants can utilize, the farmer is better served both economically and environmentally to not apply additional fertilizer,” Powell said.
Affected by the new regulations will be farmers across Maryland who plant about 100,000 acres of wheat, barley and rye in the fall and then harvest and sell these grains in the spring, Powell said. The proposed rules will be introduced this winter, take effect in the fall of 2011, and carry a fine of $250 for violations, he said.
Russell Brinsfield, executive director of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology at the University of Maryland, praised Governor Martin O’Malley's administration for taking a significant step that will help the Bay without hurting farmers.