Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus and other nutrient runoff from their fields — a key to helping address the state’s complex algae issues, particularly in the western Lake Erie basin.

“We have invested more than $3.5 million in water quality research and education in recent years, most before the Toledo water crisis. That research is now validating just how effective our response and hard work has been on this issue,” said Terry McClure of Grover Hill, a grain farmer and board chairman of the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC), who spoke at a news conference sponsored by OSC, the Ohio Soybean Association and Ohio Corn & Wheat (OCW) this morning at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo.

“We care very deeply about this issue and have stepped up and are doing our part. We encourage other stakeholders to join us in addressing this complex problem,” said Keith Truckor, a grain farmer from Metamora and the Ohio Corn Checkoff Chair, citing other sources of pollutants including industrial pollution, municipal sewer systems, urban storm runoff and naturally occurring nitrogen and phosphorus in soil.

During the news conference, Dr. Elizabeth Dayton from The Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences provided progress observations and presented on-field data spanning 29 farm fields, 2,000 water samples and 42,000 data analyses since 2012. Among the key findings:

  • Agricultural soil phosphorus levels are holding steady or trending downward in at least 80 percent of Ohio counties from 1993 through 2015.
  • Soil nutrient testing is vital to determining the right amount and type of fertilizer needed for crops.
  • Incorporating fertilizer into the soil through banding or injecting has the potential to reduce the concentration risk of phosphorus in runoff up to 90 percent under certain conditions.
  • Tile drainage is an effective filtration system that can reduce soil erosion and prevent the loss of nutrients. In general, phosphorus concentration from tile runoff is less than in surface runoff.
  • Current guidelines for phosphorus levels in soil established by Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations appear to be on the right track.
  • Nearly 3/4 of phosphorus in surface runoff is attached to and travels with eroded soil sediment, making erosion control a key to phosphorus runoff control.

“There has been concern that phosphorus concentration in agricultural runoff water has been on the increase, but our findings indicate the opposite. Ohio farmers are doing a good job of managing soil phosphorus levels. The trend lines are in the right direction,” said Dayton.

In addition to today’s news conference, the grain farmers announced a public education initiative to highlight the progress they’ve made on water quality and their commitment to doing more. The initiative will include newspapers ads, billboards in the Toledo area and digital content, including a video for social platforms.

Editor’s Note: The “Doing Their Part: Ohio Grain Farmers are Protecting Ohio’s Water” progress report is available at http://www.ohiowaterquality.org/wp/doing-their-part/.