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New focus on nitrogen – Audio

New Focus on Nitrogen

Ken Genskow, Associate Professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Phone: (608) 262-8756

Registration is now open for the March 28 Nitrogen Summit. The Wisconsin Nitrogen Science Summit and Roundtable Series are intended to discuss the state of knowledge regarding nitrogen’s presence and pathways in Wisconsin’s environment.


3:02 – Total Time

0:17 – The issues with nitrogen
0:50 – Nitrogen summit and roundtables to ensue
1:30 – Who is interested and affected
2:04 – Better understanding possible
2:39 – Hope to manage nitrogen
2:51 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: Start out by describing the problem we have with nitrogen.

Ken Genskow: I’d say that the two biggest concerns with water quality, with nitrogen water quality, first is nitrogen that gets into drinking water, and if there’s too much than it can cause problems for human health. And there’s also a potential impact on fish and wildlife, especially in the Gulf of Mexico where you might have heard of the toxic zone, or the dead zone, and now Green Bay here is Wisconsin also has its own toxic zone, also from nitrogen.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you tell us what’s about to happen in terms of understanding more aobut what to do here with nitrogen?

Ken Genskow: What we’re doing is hosting a Nitrogen Science Summit which will be a kickoff for about a year and a half of roundtable discussions around Wisconsin, focused on nitrogen and the environment, specially the connection between agricultural nitrogen and water quality. We know that there’s a lot that we don’t understand about nitrogen and there’s a lot that we do. So this summit, and the following roundtable series is really an opportunity for us to take a measure of what to we know, and what do we, what kinds of uncertainties are associated with that, and what we really need to do going forward to get a better handle on nitrogen.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you give us an idea who’s participating in the roundtables?

Ken Genskow: We expect to appeal to a pretty broad audience. So people who are in agriculture or resource management, students, engineers and consultants, a whole host of people who might be interested in water resource issues or agriculture or nutrients. The roundtable series will be I think a more focused set of discussions focused on agricultural interest groups, the state resource management agencies, country land conservation departments, and researchers here at the university and elsewhere.

Sevie Kenyon: What would Ken like to see at the end of the year?

Ken Genskow: At the end of this roundtable series frankly I’d like to see a clear understanding about how we’re going to be moving forward to address the remaining nitrogen challenges and how we can build those inter management plans that people working at a local level can understand. So that a farmer, for example, can understand the implications of different levels of nitrogen use on an operation, and so a resource manger can work effectively with agricultural and other partners to really address that at a regional or a water shed level.

Sevie Kenyon: Is there a hope Ken to manage this nitrogen situation?

Ken Genskow: Absolutely. I think focusing our attention on this and thinking about how to address it over the next ten, twenty, fifty years, we’re taking an important step with the summit and the roundtable series to follow.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Ken Genskow, Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin, now celebrating 125 years, and I am Sevie Kenyon.