Long after Toledo’s water supply was cut for days in August 2014, researchers such as Jay Martin have continued to work to improve water quality throughout Ohio. (Photo: Ken Chamberlain, CFAES.)
Field to Faucet was conceived by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The college invested $1 million toward the effort after dangerous microcystin levels in Lake Erie shut down Toledo’s water supply for two days in August 2014.
Headed by Jay Martin, an ecological engineer in the college, Field to Faucet seeks to ensure safe drinking water while maintaining an economically productive agricultural sector. The goal is to reduce nutrient runoff and protect downstream ecosystems and water quality, helping farmers increase crop yields at the same time.
The initiative involves researchers from multiple colleges within Ohio State, as well as from other Ohio universities. Current research projects supported by Field to Faucet include a tri-state, cost-share program to help protect water quality in Ohio’s Western Lake Erie Basin, as well as the development of a weather-risk-management tool to warn farmers of impending storms to help lessen the risk of runoff from nutrient application.
“There continues to be pressure on farmers to be good stewards of our water resources,” said Scott Beck, president of Beck’s Hybrids, a partner on Field to Faucet. “Beck’s and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences are conducting joint research to monitor water quality in different cropping scenarios over time. We are also looking at other agronomic studies such as fertilizer utilization and tile spacing.”
Field to Faucet projects currently underway include:
- Developing an app for farmers to record nutrient application rates and methods.
- Developing a controlled-access, geospatial-data warehouse that allows producers and researchers to secure and share publicly available data.
- Finding ways to best remove phosphorus and nitrogen from manure and anaerobic digester discharge before the materials are applied to fields. This effort will especially benefit the watershed around Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio.
- Using unmanned aerial vehicles to provide real-time data on concentrations of microcystin created by harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie; and developing a sensor to detect real-time concentrations of microcystin in the lake.
Learn more about Field to Faucet here.
Adam Sharp’s boots are firmly on the ground when it comes to farming and protecting water: He is also a farmer in Fairfield County.
In summer 2014, Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys, among others, again suffered harmful algal blooms. An ongoing problem in recent years, the blooms are mainly caused by excess phosphorus runoff, including fertilizer and manure from farms. And Ohio State University Extension — teaming with state agencies and Ohio farmers — is delivering crucial science-based educational programs to put new solutions to work.
As a latest example, OSU Extension specialists, tapping into ongoing research by their college, are developing and will provide the fertilizer certification training required by Ohio’s new nutrient management law, Senate Bill 150. Other efforts include teaching nutrient management sessions at Ohio’s yearly Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference, and updating nutrient recommendations — also based on college research — for growers of the state’s major crops.
In these and other programs, “Extension takes the scientific view,” said Greg LaBarge, OSU Extension agronomy field specialist. “We take the emotion out and develop solutions that meet both environmental and economic needs.”
- Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that can sicken people and animals. Beach closings, expensive-to-treat or unsafe drinking water (as happened in summer 2014 in Toledo) and lost tour-ism revenue all can result.
- The drinking water for more than half the people in Ohio comes from lakes and other surface water at risk from harmful algal blooms.
- OSU Extension teams up on its water quality efforts with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
- OSU Extension specialists, for example, taught water-protecting practices to 900 participants — including 400 Certified Crop Advisers responsible for more than 3 million acres — at last year’s Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference. That acreage is equal to nearly a quarter of all the cropland in Ohio.
“Farmers are committed to protecting and improving our waters,” said Adam Sharp, vice president of public policy, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “But they need help through information-sharing, learning opportunities and education on the latest research and best nutrient management practices.
“OSU Extension is a key partner in providing these valuable services.”