How youth can dive into science of water

Two Ohio 4-H projects — one available now, the other in 2016, both based on hands-on learning — focus on water’s importance. (Photo: Digital Vision.)

Two Ohio 4-H projects — one available now, the other in 2016, both based on hands-on learning — focus on water’s importance. (Photo: Digital Vision.)

Meera Nadathur, 15, wants to work in environmental sciences.

As a step toward that goal, the student at Cincinnati’s Sycamore High School last year completed Ohio 4-H’s Ways of Knowing Water project. It and some 200 other projects for Ohio 4-H members stress science and hands-on learning.

“One of my favorite experiences was visiting the Greater Cincinnati Water Works treatment plant to learn the entire drinking water purification process,” she said. “I was able to view every step of the process firsthand and gain knowledge about it from the very experts who ran the plant.”

A member of the Gorman Farm 4-H Club, Nadathur was one of the more than 200,000 youth ages 5-19 who participated in Ohio 4-H in 2014. Some 18,000 other Ohioans, including Nadathur’s club’s adviser, Cindy Capannari, helped as volunteers.

The organization, which is Ohio State University Extension’s youth development program, celebrated Ohio 4-H Week March 8-14. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Exploring water is especially timely given last year’s crisis in Toledo, said Joe Bonnell, OSU Extension’s program director for watershed management and one of the project’s developers. Last August, toxins from a Lake Erie algal bloom led that city to ban tap water use for three days.

Changes in climate, weather and land use, among other things, are more and more affecting Ohio’s rivers, lakes and streams, he said.

“I think the youth who complete this project will gain a greater appreciation for the value of water in their lives and communities, which hopefully will lead them to taking an active role in protecting their local water resources,” he said.

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Kale! Kale! The gang’s all here … in an Ohio State greenhouse growing veggies for students

Lesa Holford, right, corporate executive chef with Ohio State University's Student Life Dining Services department, and Courtney George, a sophomore food science major, tend plants they’ve helped grow in a university greenhouse. (Photo: K.D. Chamberlain, CFAES  Communications.)

Lesa Holford, right, corporate executive chef with Ohio State University’s Student Life Dining Services department, and Courtney George, a sophomore food science major, tend kale and basil plants in a university greenhouse. (Photo: K.D. Chamberlain, CFAES Communications.)

There’s a new spin to eating on campus.

Ohio State’s Student Life Dining Services department and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences have teamed to grow some of the produce served in the university’s dining halls.

In a greenhouse run by the college’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, plant experts from the department, food experts with Dining Services and student volunteers oversee hundreds of robust kale, basil and romaine lettuce plants.

After harvest, the crops go into such dishes as Caesar salads, caprese sandwiches, and kale and bacon tarts (recipe here), all served in campus eateries.

Systems like this one are part of the growing “farm-to-table” movement. Farm-to-table systems aim to shorten the distance as much as possible between where a food is produced and where it’s consumed.

Fresh from the Buckeyes’ backyard

  • Horticulture and Crop Science staff “have taught us so much,” said Lesa Holford, corporate executive chef with Student Life Dining Services. She said she’s more than pleased with the project’s first fruits: more than 230 pounds of greens and herbs in the first three months.
  • Zia Ahmed, senior director of Student Life Dining Services, said, “One day (the project) may lead to a significant amount of production coming out of our own backyard to feed our students. … It’s a great privilege to have the opportunity to grow our own food.”
  • To contact the sources: Lesa Holford at; Zia Ahmed at

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Ohio State’s Agricultural Fertilizer Program Helps Farmers Keep Phosphorus on Fields, Improve Water Quality

water quality farm2COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences is ramping up its efforts to improve Ohio’s water quality through a new fertilizer applicator certification training program that’s designed to help growers increase crop yields using less fertilizer more efficiently, thus reducing the potential for phosphorus runoff into the state’s watersheds.

Introduced last fall as part of Ohio’s new agricultural fertilization law, the program has already trained 3,211 Ohio growers who farm more than a million acres of farmland statewide, said Greg LaBarge, an Ohio State University Extension field specialist and one of the leaders of Ohio State’s Agronomic Crops Team. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

Offering the certification training program is part of the college’s goal to improve the state’s water quality by informing growers how to lessen the use of phosphorus and keep more of it on the field, while increasing crop yields and boosting farm profits, LaBarge said.

“The training covers water quality and crop production best management practices, including encouraging growers to adhere to the principles of applying the right fertilizer at the right rate at the right time and in the right place,” he said. “By advocating the continued improvement in nutrient use and efficiencies, the training can help growers boost farm profits by using just enough nutrients to maximize yield, which reduces the potential for water quality impact offsite.

“The training benefits farmers and Ohioans by reducing the water quality issues that we have in the state.”

Experts say soluble phosphorus runoff from farms is an important source of harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other lakes in recent years. In August, a toxic bloom in western Lake Erie led to a two-day drinking water ban in Toledo.

The training, which is offered by OSU Extension agronomists in partnership with the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), fulfills the education requirements of the state’s new agricultural nutrients law, which requires farmers who apply fertilizer to more than 50 acres of farmland to become certified with ODA.

According to the new law, the deadline for growers and chemical nutrient applicators to complete the certification process is Sept. 30, 2017. The certification is valid for three years, at which point the applicator will require recertification.

The training offers guidance on:

  • Nutrient Management Certification Program.
  • The Link between Phosphorus, Harmful Algal Blooms and Agriculture.
  • Soil Testing for Confidence and Adaptive Management.
  • Best Management Practices for Phosphorus.
  • Yield and Water Quality Impacts.
  • Best Management Practices for Nitrogen, Yield and Water Quality Impacts.

An overwhelming majority of participants who have completed the OSU Extension program, 89 percent, say the training improved their knowledge about nutrient management, LaBarge said.

Additionally, 77 percent of farmers in attendance agreed that “Farm field phosphorus loss is a significant problem to Ohio water resources,” he said.

A majority of those participating in the first training classes, which were held in Fulton, Hancock and Paulding counties last month, farm in the Maumee River watershed area that drains into Lake Erie.

In fact, most farmers in that area are willing to take at least one additional action to reduce nutrient loss on their farm if they feel like the action will both benefit their farms as well as water quality, according to new research from Robyn Wilson, a CFAES associate professor of risk analysis and decision science.

“Most farmers are willing to adopt a new conservation practice if they believe that nutrient loss from their fields will have a negative financial impact on their crop production and if they believe that if they put best management practices in place on their farms, the techniques will work,” Wilson said.

More training dates for farmers and nutrient applicators to obtain the educational requirement for the Agricultural Fertilizer Applicator Certification will be offered by OSU Extension, with sessions likely to be offered in December and in the early months of 2015, LaBarge said.

As sessions are scheduled, details will be posted online at

Participants will be required to preregister for these meetings.

For more information, contact LaBarge at 740-223-4040 or

New Research Finds Some U.S. Soybean Yield Losses Caused by Weather Variations

soybeans2COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers have determined that precipitation and temperature variations over the past 20 years have suppressed the U.S. average soybean yield gain — how much it improves every year — by around 30 percent, contributing to an industry loss of $11 billion nationwide.

In Ohio alone, that soybean yield suppression is estimated to have cost some $2.9 billion during the past 20 years, according to a new study co-authored by a field crops expert in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Global annual temperatures have increased by 0.4 C (0.72 F) since 1980, with several regions exhibiting even greater increases, said Laura Lindsey, a soybean and small grains specialist with Ohio State University Extension and a co-author of the study. OSU Extension is the college’s outreach arm.

And for every 1 C (1.8 F) rise in temperature during the growing season, soybean yields fell by about 2.4 percent, the study found.

In Ohio, that translates into about a third of a bushel per acre per year yield loss, Lindsey said.

“During the past 20 years, temperature and precipitation have been changing, and that change is associated with yield reductions and economic loss that is region-specific,” she said. “States including Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and North Dakota have experienced negative impacts on yield due to weather variables.

“Missouri suffered the most negative impact with an estimated loss of $5 billion during the past 20 years, while Ohio had the next highest loss, at $2.9 billion.”

The study, which appears in the February 2015 journal Nature Plants, was co-authored by James E. Specht, researcher with the University of Nebraska; and Spyridon Mourtzinis, Francisco J. Arriaga and Shawn P. Conley, all researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study is based on data gleaned from 12 states, including data from Ohio State researchers’ Ohio Soybean Performance Trials, which document temperatures, changes in cultural practices, soybean varieties and technology in soybean production from 1970 to the present, Lindsey said.

The U.S. is one of the world’s largest soybean exporters, with some 80 percent of its soybeans being grown in the upper Midwest. Since most of that production is not irrigated, soybean production in the region is highly affected by weather conditions during the growing season, according to the study.

While more state-specific research is needed to help mitigate some of the weather variability, according to the study, some crop management strategies could help limit the potential negative impacts of weather variations on crop yields.

“Strategies include the development of new cultivars and hybrids, the use of altered maturity groups, changes in planting dates, the use of cover crops, and greater management of crop residues from the previous year,” Lindsey said. “If we don’t develop strategies to mitigate weather variability, it could have a long-term impact on soybean farmers, the soybean industry, trade policy, consumer food prices, food security and the economy.”

The study’s other contributors and co-authors include William J. Wiebold, University of Missouri; Jeremy Ross, University of Arkansas; Emerson D. Nafziger, University of Illinois; Herman J. Kandel, North Dakota State University; Nathan Mueller, South Dakota State University; and Philip L. Devillez, with Purdue University.

Collegiate 4-H Group Puts ‘Heart’ in 4-H

IMG_4901COLUMBUS, Ohio — The heart of 4-H is loyalty. Literally.

In the second line of the 4-H Pledge, members vow to pledge “My Heart to greater loyalty.” And as Valentine’s Day approaches, Danielle Coleman, president of Collegiate 4-H at The Ohio State University, reflected on what that means to her.

“I joined in third grade, when someone from 4-H came to our school and talked about it,” Coleman said. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. My mom was in 4-H when she was growing up, and so were a bunch of other family members, so I got involved and was a member for 10 years.”

Coleman, a senior majoring in animal science in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), grew up near Tiffin in rural Seneca County. Although her uncles are in agriculture, her immediate family isn’t.

“I wanted to take a cow project, but my parents wouldn’t let me because we didn’t have a farm. So, I settled on rabbits and really developed a love for them. I showed rabbits all 10 years I was in 4-H.”

Coleman also attended 4-H camp, became a camp counselor, and participated in junior fair board and other leadership activities.

“I’ve always loved 4-H and the sense of community that it creates,” Coleman said. “You get to know a bunch of people who have similar interests. Coming down here to Ohio State, I knew I wanted to stay involved somehow.”

Ohio 4-H is the youth development program of Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of CFAES. In 2014, more than 216,000 young Ohioans participated in traditional 4-H clubs, camps and school enrichment programs, and in other Extension youth groups and educational activities.

At the collegiate level, 4-H focuses on service and outreach, said Coleman.

Ohio State’s group sponsors “Carving New Ideas,” a team-building camp for younger 4-H leaders, and hosts “Plowboy Prom,” a square dance after the annual Ohio 4-H leadership conference in Columbus each year. The collegiate members, numbering about three dozen, have also been involved in Habitat for Humanity, 4-H counselor training, and the university’s BuckeyeThon, a dance marathon that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Coleman says the values that 4-H promotes, starting with its motto “To make the best better,” inspires loyalty that often lasts far beyond the final day of 4-H camp.

“Four-H offers so many opportunities with projects to get involved in. It’s a lot of fun. You develop leadership skills, life skills, responsibility, and it instills good values. And it’s a great way to meet new people — you create some lifelong friends.”

For more about Ohio 4-H, see