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New Tool for Farmers to Protect Groundwater and the Long Island Sound


Saratoga Springs, N.Y., July 11, 2012 —Farmers producing sweet corn in Suffolk County have an opportunity this growing season to use a new type of fertilizer to protect groundwater and the Long Island Sound. The farmers will be part of a collaborative partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE), American Farmland Trust (AFT) and Agflex, Inc.

Participating farmers will be demonstrating an innovative fertilizer technology on their crops called Controlled-Release Nitrogen Fertilizer (CRNF). This fertilizer is designed to break down over time according to the plant’s need for nutrients, unlike conventional fertilizer which is water-soluble and will dissolve in heavy rain.SuffolkCounty’s sandy soils are susceptible to leaching of nitrogen from conventional nitrogen fertilizer, especially during spring rains.

“Although many people think of Long Island as urban,SuffolkCountyis home to nearly 600 farms that manage more than 34,000 acres of farmland,” said Becky Wiseman, coordinator of the Agricultural Stewardship Program for Cornell Cooperative Extension. “According to the 2010 U.S. Census of Agriculture,SuffolkCountyfarms sold over $300 million in farm products, more than any other county inNew YorkState. We are excited to be working with American Farmland Trust and engaging local farmers in more fully adopting nutrient conservation practices to improve water quality.”

SuffolkCountyaccounts for approximately 1.3 percent of the Long Island Sound’s total watershed area, contributing harmful nitrogen levels from both point and nonpoint sources into the Sound. Using the Long Island Sound Study Nitrogen Influx Reduction model developed by the County, with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was estimated that nonpoint sources account for 72 percent to 82 percent of the total nitrogen fromSuffolkCountyinto the Sound. Nonpoint sources of nitrogen include septic systems and fertilizer application from farms and lawns.

David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust said, “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County to helpLong Island’s sweet corn growers improve local water quality by encouraging conservation practices that have proven successful in other parts of the country and in other agricultural sectors. This project will help demonstrate that it is possible to reduce fertilizer use while maintaining profitability.”

Farmers are often cautious about adopting new conservation practices, as they are unsure of what a reduction’s effect will be on their crop production. Financial risk is a particular concern forSuffolkCountyfarmers producing high value specialty crops such as sweet corn. Farmers risk losing thousands of dollars if crop yield and quality drops due to a change in their management practices. Farmers participating in this collaborative project will be part of the Best Management Practices (BMP) Challenge system, which reimburses farmers who experience any reduction in their harvest after utilizing approved conservation practices.

“Farmers invest substantial time, effort and dollars in getting their crops to harvest,” said Dr. Tom Green, president of Agflex. “The BMP Challenge protects that investment for farmers so they don’t have to ‘bet the farm’ on new techniques. It’s a win for the farmer and for water quality.”

Participating farmers will apply controlled release nitrogen fertilizer and conventional fertilizer in large field demonstration projects so that a direct side-by-side comparison can be made. Each project will be at least 8-planted rows wide running the full length of the field to allow for adequate harvest for yield/quality assessment. If there is a loss in yield and /or quality due to nutrient insufficiency of the CRNF, the farmer will be reimbursed for the difference. Due to CCE’s extensive research trials using CRNF in sweet corn production, it is anticipated the farmers will not experience substantial losses due to adoption of CRNF and that cost savings from reduced use of equipment and fuel will offset increased costs for CRNF.

Cornell Cooperative Extension is participating in this project as part of its Agricultural Stewardship Program. Legislation was adopted in 2004 for CCE to develop and coordinate the Suffolk County Agricultural Stewardship Program with funding made available throughSuffolkCounty’s Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program. The program’s staff works cooperatively with CCE and Cornell University specialists to implement large-scale on-farm demonstration projects that promote efficient and environmentally responsible crop production. The Agricultural Stewardship Program’s goal is to protectSuffolkCounty’s sole source aquifer, surrounding waters and wetlands by engaging the commercial agricultural industry in implementing new technology and best management practices to reduce potential leaching of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides into groundwater.

The joint project of American Farmland Trust, CCE and Agflex has received financial support from the Long Island Sound Study, with funding from the EPA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service as well as the Long Island Community Foundation, Rauch Foundation and William E. & Maude S. Pritchard Charitable Trust.

SuffolkCountyfarmers interested in learning more about controlled release nitrogen fertilizer are encouraged to contact Becky Wiseman at 631-727-7850 or



American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more. For more information, visit 

112 Spring Street, Suite 207
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
518-581- 0078
Fax: 518-581-0079 


The mission of the Cornell Cooperative Extension educational system is to help individuals, families, and communities use knowledge to enhance the environment, strengthen families and communities, and increase economic development. This is achieved through school and community programs, publications, new technologies, media coverage and other means. The educational system of the Extension enables people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work. 

423 Griffing Avenue, Suite 100
Riverhead, NY 11901-3071
Fax: 631-852-3205 


Agflex exists to protect farmers and their advisors from the economic risks associated with

Best Management Practices (BMPs). Agflex provides consulting, research and implementation services to government and non-governmental agencies, crop insurers, agchem retailers and others working to reduce environmental impacts of agriculture and improve ag-sector income. 

4510 Regent St.
Madison WI 53705
608 232-1425
Fax 608 232-1440

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