This could be the No. 1 way to keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie

The cheapest, most cost-effective way to reduce the phosphorus getting into Lake Erie is by taxing farmers on their purchase of the nutrient or by paying them not to use it on their fields. That’s according to a study by Shaohui Tang and Brent Sohngen, both of CFAES’s Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.

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Good for both farming, Lake Erie

“We’re trying to find solutions to move the health of Lake Erie in the right direction, but at the same time, keep the ag industry vibrant,” said Chris Winslow, director of Ohio State’s Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory programs, quoted in a March 16 story in the Port Clinton News Herald. He was speaking at the Ottawa Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual Agricultural Community Breakfast on March 15, and was referring to the issue of agricultural phosphorus runoff, a cause of the harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other water bodies. Scientists with Ohio Sea Grant, CFAES, and other agencies and institutions are working to find ways to reduce that runoff.

Reduce Lake Erie’s phosphorus load by 40 percent? Yes, we can. This could be a big part of it

Injecting farm fertilizer below the ground instead of spreading it on the surface could help achieve most of Lake Erie’s 40 percent phosphorus reduction goal, said CFAES scientist Margaret Kalcic in a Dec. 3 story in the Toledo Blade. The practice also would allow farmers to maintain their productivity, she said.

The reduction goal is aimed at preventing the harmful algal blooms plaguing the lake. Agricultural phosphorus runoff is considered the blooms’ main cause.

Kalcic joined the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering this summer as an assistant professor. Her research area is watershed hydrology, especially water quality in agricultural regions.

‘Tide turning’ in bloom battle?

Image of Lake Erie algal bloomA recent Columbus Dispatch article said there’s reason to be optimistic in the battle against Lake Erie’s algal blooms. Robyn Wilson, who studies risk analysis and decision science as an associate professor in CFAES’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, was one of the experts quoted. “I don’t think we need regulation,” she said in the article. “I think farmers have gotten a bad rap. They are highly motivated to fix the problem under their own terms.” Read the article. (Photo: Lake Erie algal bloom by Tom Archer, Michigan Sea Grant.)

Science could help identify and track where Lake Erie’s phosphorus comes from

Satellite image of Lake Erie algal bloomOhio State scientists are developing ways to identify the many kinds of phosphorus getting into Lake Erie. To do it, they’re determining the compounds’ chemical signatures. The goal is to be able to link the compounds back to their sources — whether farm field, livestock facility, wastewater treatment plant or otherwise — and so better target efforts aimed at keeping phosphorus out of Lake Erie. Excess phosphorus is one of the causes of the harmful algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie and other lakes. CFAES’s Field to Faucet initiative is a co-funder of the research. Read Ohio Sea Grant’s press release on the work. (Photo: Western Lake Erie algal bloom, NOAA.)

What’s known about Lake Erie’s algal blooms

algal bloom conference

Learn the latest on Lake Erie’s blue-green befoulers at Understanding Algal Blooms: State of the Science, a Sept. 15 conference in Toledo. The event, according to its website, will “highlight current scientific knowledge about algal blooms: model predictions, updated best management practices and water treatment methods to remove toxins.” Co-hosts are Chris Winslow, interim director of the Ohio State-based Ohio Sea Grant program, and CFAES’s Jay Martin (head of the Field to Faucet initiative), Greg LaBarge and Kevin King. Find out more.

How to boost crop yields, protect water quality

CornfieldTwo field days on the best ways to use nutrients on farms are set for late July in northwest and western Ohio.

Both events aim to help farmers maximize their crop yields while minimizing nutrient runoff risk, says co-organizer Greg LaBarge, a field specialist with CFAES’s outreach arm, OSU Extension.

Doing that, he says, can lower input costs, raise profits and limit water quality threats such as harmful algal blooms. Read about both events. (Photo: Nelson A Ishikawa, iStock.)

Watch: How Ohio farmers, with CFAES’s help, are doing even more to protect water

CFAES experts recently posted videos of the commercial fertilizer training they’re providing. Completing this training in person is required of anyone who applies fertilizer on more than 50 acres in Ohio. Watching by video can give you an idea of what the training is about if you haven’t taken it yet, can be a refresher if you’ve already taken it, or simply can show you, if you’re interested, some of the research-based, forward-moving steps being taken to keep Ohio’s water clean. You can watch an example above.