News Feature | November 19, 2014

Mineral May Help Fight Phosphorus Runoff At Farms

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Gypsum, a mineral sometimes used to treat soil on farms, may be able to help protect water resources.

"Warren Dick, a scientist in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, is two years into a three-year study of gypsum’s benefits on farms, including to soil quality, crop yields and reducing phosphorus runoff," according to Ohio Ag Net.

Fields treated with gypsum appear to have 55 percent less soluble phosphorus runoff in the trials up to this point, according to the report. The researchers are taking water samples from field drainage tiles.

What is gypsum? The Gypsum Association explains: "Natural gypsum occurs in sedimentary rock formations and is found in over 85 countries. The United States, Canada and Mexico have some of the largest reserves of high-quality gypsum. Gypsum is mined in 17 states. Iowa, Texas, Utah, and New Mexico are particularly important producers."

Dick noted the challenges involved in reducing phosphorus runoff.

“There’s no one technology that’s going to solve the issue of phosphorus runoff,” he said, per the report. “But I think gypsum is going to become one of the tools in the toolbox, something farmers will use with other approaches as part of their total management package.”

At the same time, Gypsum deposits have also been questioned as a source of water pollution. In India, a government board is planning to "conduct an impact assessment study in Paradip area to ascertain whether gypsum, which is primarily used to produce fertilizers, is causing water pollution in the area," the Times of India reported.

One government official noted that "gypsum contains phosphoric acid and chloride, which are responsible for water pollution," according to the report.

"Although we don't have the data regarding the extent of water pollution due to deposits of gypsum, the impact assessment will help us know the level of pollution," the official said.