Series: Phosphorus In Wisconsin's Land And Water

Phosphorus is an essential building block of life, but it's also one of the world's most common and troublesome pollutants. Intensive agriculture unleashes excess levels of phosphorus in the form of manure and other fertilizers. What plants don't consume of this essential nutrient lingers on the ground or makes its way down into soil. Rain pushes this phosphorus into streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. When too much enters a body of water, it can fuel blooms of noxious and sometimes toxic microorganisms — a frequent problem in lakes around Wisconsin and in the Great Lakes. Farmers, scientists, environmentalists, and state and local officials are struggling to reach a consensus about how to manage this nutrient pollution while maintaining a robust agricultural industry.
There may be a way to prevent harmful blooms of algae in some lakes or reservoirs, according to a new study.
The state of Wisconsin is betting on manure digesters in rural northeastern Wisconsin to curb water pollution and other environmental problems linked to the spreading of manure on dairy farms.
Joe Stapleton owns a farm near Spring Green, Wisconsin. He's a conventional farmer, so he does use some chemical herbicides and fertilizers on the fields where he grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
One organism, exploding in population, thrives at the expense of others in its ecosystem. That's essentially what happens when a toxic algal bloom spreads a slimy, stinky trail across a body of water.
The year 2070 may sound like an impossibly distant date from the vantage point of 2016, but it's as near into the future as John Glenn's first orbit of the Earth is in the past.