Farmers in the Lake Erie Basin have a number of special programs to help reduce phosphorous flow to Lake Erie. Crawford County farmers are doing their part to combat the algae problems in the lake, reports Mike Hall, program administrator with the Crawford Soil and Water Conservation District.
Hall points to several grants and federal programs as “great opportunities” for Crawford County farmers. “Crawford County has very innovative and conscientious agricultural producers who want to do what is right for our lake. And they are taking advantage of new programs and practices that help reduce runoff from their farms.”
One of these programs is a grant received through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for the Loss Creek watershed east of Bucyrus. “This grant allows producers to experiment with new management practices that reduce nutrient runoff from their farms, practices like cover crops and drainage water management have been implemented on a number of farms through this grant.” Drainage Water Management involves installing a water level control device on field tile to manipulate the amount and timing of water leaving the field.
“Controlling when and how much of drainage leaves a field can be an important step in reducing the amount of runoff leaving a farm field”, Hall says. “We are not flooding fields or blocking tile, just managing flows at key times for maximum crop benefit.” If nutrients are associated with this water, and studies indicate this may be the case, keeping this water in the field also keeps the nutrients in the field where they will be used by the growing crop. “Managing tile flows also increases soil moisture levels which may prove to be a benefit to the crop during the growing season,” adds Hall.
Another helpful practice being implemented throughout the county is cover cropping. Cover crops are planted in the fall of the year into crop field s and remain their over winter until spring when the next crop is planted.