OSU Offers Ways Farmers Can Reduce Lake Erie Runoff

Ohio crop growers can find ways to continue to help reduce excess agricultural nutrients from affecting or entering the western basin of Lake Erie using best management practices recommended by Ohio State University Extension experts.

Published on: Apr 5, 2012

Members of the OSU Extension Agronomic Crop Team have posted several resources for farmers to guide them in ways to help mitigate agricultural nutrients runoff, according to Greg LaBarge, Extension educator and one of the leaders of the Agronomic Crops Team.

They include:

Reducing excess agricultural nutrients from affecting or entering the western basin of Lake Erie has been the focus of attention for the past two years of a working group of industry professionals including OSU Extension experts, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

OSU Offers Ways Farmers Can Reduce Lake Erie Runoff
OSU Offers Ways Farmers Can Reduce Lake Erie Runoff

The group released recommendations and a report last week on how agriculture could have a positive role in improving water quality across the state. The report also encourages farmers to adopt production guidelines known as "4R Nutrient Management."

The 4R concept refers to the idea of using the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time, with the right placement. LaBarge says using the 4Rs as a basic stewardship guideline is a good place for farmers to start.

"Ohio State's involvement was advisory and helps bring research and information to the group to understand the things we can do immediately to lessen nutrients going into Ohio waters," he says. "Ohio State from both an Extension and research standpoint will continue to study this issue and provide best practices to recommend to the agriculture community to minimize the loss of nutrient."

A group of 17 Ohio State University Extension experts lent their expertise as part of the diverse working group of Lake Erie stakeholders and agriculture professionals who worked over a six month period to come up with the recommendations.

"Ohio farmers that read the CORN newsletter reported increased yields and were applying phosphorus at crop removal rates thus protecting the environment and improving water quality," says Keith Smith, associate vice president, agricultural administration and director of OSU Extension.

The complete report can be found at:

http://dnr.ohio.gov/portals/12/docs/waterqualityreport.pdf

Some of the recent work OSU Extension has done regarding water conservation includes:     

  • Richard Moore's work with conservation practices and nutrient-trading to achieve water quality. The Alpine cheese factory in Holmes County partnered with the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center and local conservation agencies to draft a nutrient-trading program that would allow it to expand its business while improving water quality in the Sugar Creek watershed. The Sugar Creek method is also being applied to the Upper Scioto watershed north of Columbus and the Muskingum watershed in eastern Ohio.
  • A new research project at Ohio State that integrates biological, physical and social sciences to develop a complete picture of what drives decision-making processes and environmental conditions in the Maumee River watershed. The four-year, $1.5 million project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will combine decision-making models with hydrological modeling and future climate change scenarios to examine how people's actions in the watershed affect water quality in Lake Erie. Researchers from six different departments at two universities - Ohio State and Case Western Reserve University - are working together to examine how watershed management practices like the application of agricultural fertilizers impact water quality in Lake Erie, how public perception of the health of the lake may influence those practices, and how these relationships are likely to change under climate change scenarios. 
  • Ohio State's Ohio Sea Grant program is part of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant, a network of 32 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. 
  • The OSU Climate Change Outreach Team is a partnership among multiple departments within Ohio State, including OSU Extension, Ohio Sea Grant, the Department of Agricultural, Environmental & Development Economics, and the School of Environment & Natural Resources, to help localize the climate change issue by bringing research and resources to Ohioans and Great Lakes residents. 
  • Jon Witter, an assistant professor in Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and Rafiq Islam, who holds joint appointments with OSU Extension and OARDC, have done research to promote innovative approaches to ditch management that could save Ohio crop growers time and money while at the same time reducing the flow of phosphorus and nitrogen through ditches that eventually end up in stream water, rivers, in Lake Erie and beyond. 

Jim Hoorman, an assistant professor studying cover crops and water quality issues, researches how Ohio crop growers could switch to ECO Farming, which stands for Ecological Farming. The technique includes using eternal no-till, continuous living cover and other best management practices to more efficiently use the inputs farmers add to their soil, which reduces the amount of nutrients they may need and results in less runoff.