Bruce McPheron, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, sees the glass as half full. But he's also concerned about the quality of the water in that glass.
McPheron says water quality research will be one of the priorities of the college he began leading just last year.
"Water is really a global issue," says McPheron, who addressed particpants at the Farm science Review. "It's part of the conversation everywhere in the world."
In the United States, he said, people west of the Mississippi River are generally worried about how much water is available to them, while to the east, people are more concerned about the quality of their water.
"In Ohio, water quality is an issue of great importance both to the public and to agricultural producers," McPheron says. "It's also an issue for food processors, all of whom rely on pristine water quality. And it's an issue for the fishing and recreation industry in Lake Erie, which contributes millions of dollars to the state's economy."
One of the key challenges regarding water quality is that it is a complicated issue, according to McPheron.
"That's why we need new science to address the complexity of water quality concerns today," he says. "And that's exactly what scientists in our college are doing: coming up with innovative ways to address this issue."
For example, McPheron says research by Warren Dick, a soil biochemist in the college's School of Environment and Natural Resources has determined that applying gypsum from coal-fired power plants on farm fields can keep soluble phosphorus, the main nutrient feeding harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, from getting washed from the soil by heavy rains, then running off into streams and rivers and eventually into the lake
Long used as a soil amendment and fertilizer, gypsum can also improve soil quality and crop productivity, providing both environmental and agronomic benefits.
"Our innovative research needs to translate into effective practices that agricultural producers can implement," McPheron says. "And then our job in the college is to get that information to farmers and to folks like crop consultants who work with producers so that we can maximize the impact of our research."