Study: Less fertilizer in Illinois River, good news for Gulf

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) – A new study from the University of Illinois says the level of nitrates from farm fertilizer and other sources that add to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone has dropped in recent years.

Professor Greg McIsaac and other researchers say one likely factor, the use of different corn strains, could make the drop a long-lasting one.

The researchers believe the 15 percent decrease between 2010 and 2015 could be largely due to better varieties of corn that leave less nitrogen fertilizer behind in fields to wash away.

Fertilizer is the primary culprit behind the huge, low-oxygen dead zone that kills marine life.

Nancy Rabalais, director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, says the study provides good news about the stubborn problem of the dead zone.