Leaders from Ohio's largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus (P) 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," says 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,” says 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 (N) and P in soil.

During the news conference, Ohio State University research scientist Elizabeth Dayton  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 P levels are holding steady or trending downward in at least 80% of Ohio counties from 1993-2015.
  • 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 P in runoff up to 90% under certain conditions.
  • Tile drainage is an effective filtration system that can reduce soil erosion and prevent the loss of nutrients. In general, P concentration from tile runoff is less than in surface runoff. 
  • Current guidelines for P levels in soil established by Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations appear to be on the right track.
  • Nearly 3/4 of P 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 P 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 P levels. The trend lines are in the right direction," Dayton says. 

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. 

For more information, 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/.