Farms in Blanchard River watershed showcase new ways to limit nutrient runoff

Farms in Blanchard River watershed showcase new ways to limit nutrient runoff

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The agricultural community has been taking a lot of the blame in recent years over the water quality of Lake Erie. But they have been working for years to do their part to fix the problem, and on May 11, they invited some media to see their progress and how it could protect our water.

A lot of the worry with the agricultural community right now is fertilizer runoff and how it affects our water quality. But a new piece of equipment makes it far more efficient in placing fertilizer and should help keep our water safe.

This fertilizer system uses Variable Rate Application, meaning it only lays down fertilizer where needed.

Shane Kellogg at Kellogg farms in Hardin County first uses a soil test to see where fertilizer is needed. Then the machine simultaneously tills the soil and applies the fertilizer with much better precision than previous system.

"Your fertilizer is where you need it, it's underneath the surface and attached to the soil and it shouldn't leave the field. So, it's good for the environment, it's good for the watershed, and it's good us here on the farm." said Kellogg.

This new system is a part of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms network.

The network is using three farms in the area to perform multiple tests over the next 4 years to collect data from the state on what the best practices can be to make sure the expensive fertilizer is feeding crops and not algae.

"The location of the farms really doesn't make a difference in what we're trying to accomplish. So, it is the broader western Lake Erie basin, it is across the state, being able to showcase practices that are going to be making an impact on every farmer across the state." said Aaron Heilers, program director for the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms network.

Another nearby farm in Dunkirk is working with the network to keep an eye on nutrient runoff.

Kurt Farms in Hardin County is one of 20 locations that is part of a study that is actively monitoring runoff levels from fields into drainage ditches.

Chris Kurt lived in Whitehouse during the Toledo Water crisis, and knows first hand how the algal bloom can impact the region. For this reason, Kurt has partnered his farm with the Blanchard Demonstration Farms to study the chemical composition of the water that leaves his field.

He also installed phosphorous removal beds, where the water will stop long enough for the nutrients to leach out of the water before entering the drainage ditch.

"I want to find better ways to keep my fertilizer in the field, because it is doing me more good in the field, than it's doing in the watershed where it's causing damage." said Kurt.

The edge field monitoring collects the samples, and are studied after rain falls.

The hope is these studies will not only spread awareness of the various ways farmers can help in water conservation, but prove it is a viable option.

"And know with scientific data backing it up that it is actually improving water quality leaving their farm. But also that it is economical for them to install these practices." said Heilers.

The network studies have been going on for a year, and have four more years until they are complete.

More information can be found here.

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