BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - We've all heard of the ever expanding dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, an area almost devoid of oxygen where almost nothing lives. A new experiment being conducted by researchers at Mississippi State could reduce the size of the dead zone in the future. And it's being done with something as simple as rocks.
In fact, Wiers could be the key to saving the Gulf of Mexico from fertilizer runoff from inland farms. That runoff depletes the oxygen in the Gulf.
"Water holds all these nutrients, the microbes, the plants, the soils," said Robbie Kroger, who heads up the research project for Mississippi State. "If we slow that water down, it helps interact with those nutrients and pulls those nutrients out of the solution and reduces the amount of nutrients going downstream."
So far, 54 Weirs have been installed in the Mississippi Delta, protecting more than 5,000 acres of farmland. The results are promising, according to Kroger.
"We're showing very good reductions of nitrogen, very good reductions of sediment, very good reductions of phosphorus. It's just a matter of educating people," Kroger said.
If this experimental, low grade Weir program is successful, and by all indications it appears to be that way, it's something that could put Mississippi State, and indeed, the entire state of Mississippi on the national map.
Patricia Knight is with the MSU Extension Center.
"The fact that Mississippi is being proactive with this puts us in a wonderful position nationally to look proactive, to be dealing with these issues before we have to," Knight said.
Students taking part in the project, like Beth Poganski, know they are doing something to protect the planet.
"I just want to keep making a difference and making the farming as productive as it possibly can. And at the same time making it sustainable and making sure that we preserve the environment," Poganski said.
This research project is being funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the first time the agency has funded a program away from the immediate coast.
By the way, the term "weir" is from Australia, and means "small dam."